SEATTLE - The King County Sheriff’s Office said Monday it has placed a detective on leave as it investigates Facebook posts that ridiculed protesters who were struck by a car on a closed freeway, one fatally, over the weekend.
Detective Mike Brown has been with the sheriff’s office for more than four decades and has most recently been assigned to a protection detail for King County Executive Dow Constantine. The King County Sheriff’s Office said it was notified of the posts — including one that reportedly said “All lives splatter” — on Sunday and forwarded the matter to its internal investigations unit for an expedited review.
Brown has been relieved of all police powers during the investigation. It was not immediately clear whether he had obtained a lawyer. The King County Police Officers Guild did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
The sheriff’s office said the investigation would also looking into whether other employees liked or otherwise interacted with the posts.
According to the Washington State Patrol, Dawit Kelete, who is Black, drove his car around vehicles that were parked on Interstate 5 to protect a demonstration of Black Femme March, part of the Black Lives Matter movement, early Saturday. He struck two and then sped away, investigators said. Video showed protesters screaming and scattering as the car approached.
Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old veterinary clinic worker, was killed. Diaz Love, 32, from Portland, Oregon, was in serious condition.
Kelete’s bail was set Monday at $1.2 million. Kelete’s lawyer, John Henry Browne, said the crash was a “horrible, horrible accident” and was not intentional.
The Facebook posts were no longer publicly available Monday afternoon, but screen shots posted to social media showed jokes about the protesters catching COVID-19 from the hood of a car as well as about the shooting death of a man near the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest in Seattle.
“We value all members of our community and are committed to serving everyone equally, with dignity and respect,” Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht said in a news release. “I will take swift action to thoroughly investigate when the conduct of Sheriff’s Office members fails to reflect our core values and violates Sheriff’s Office policy.”