Judge sets $1.2 million bail for driver accused of hitting 2 Seattle protesters

A judge on Monday set a $1.2 million bail for the man accused of driving a Jaguar on to a closed Seattle freeway and hitting two protesters, killing one.

Authorities say Dawit Kelete, who is black, drove the car around vehicles that were parked on Interstate 5 to protect a group of Black Femme March demonstrators, part of the Black Lives Matter movement protesting racial inequality and police violence. The car hit two people and sped away at about 1:40 a.m. Saturday, police said.

Over the weekend, a judge found probable cause to hold Kelete on an investigation of vehicular assault but the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has yet to file charges against Kelete.

“A charging decision is expected by Wednesday afternoon,” said spokesman Casey McNerthney.

RELATED: One dead and one still hospitalized after car crashes into protesters on I-5

The King County public defender’s office said Kelete has not yet been assigned a lawyer because he hasn’t been charged. Efforts to reach Kelete’s family were unsuccessful.

The Seattle man was the owner of the Jaguar XJL and was alone in the car, according to a Washington State Patrol report submitted to the court late Saturday.

The protesters screamed and scattered as the car approached. A graphic video shows the vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed. It appeared to swerve slightly as it came toward two people still in the road. The car slid sideways as it hit the two protesters, sending them into the air. The driver turned on his flashers just after impact and drove away.

Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old veterinary clinic worker, suffered critical injuries and died Saturday night. Diaz Love, 32, from Portland, Oregon, was in serious condition.

"By showing compassion to each other, to people—you don’t know what they’re going through, to animals, to civil rights. Those are all things Summer did in their on-time and off-time," said Molly Spurgeon at a memorial site for Taylor. 

Spurgeon and Jessica Trimble shared their memories of Taylor, who they said was passionate about civil and animal rights. A memorial continues to grow now at the Urban Animal veternary clinic where Taylor used to work. 

"Summer was always smiling, always happy, always happy to talk to anyone. Summer was just like the brightest person,"  said Trimble. 

Support continues as the team at Urban Animal said Taylor's mission in life will not be forgotten. 

"Summer was a pillar in our community and I can’t imagine where their hearts are at right now. I hope they know or take some comfort in knowing how much the rest of the community is mourning this loss," said Spurgeon. 

On Sunday, Love posted on Facebook an update of their condition prior to the incident over the weekend.

“I’m alive and stable,” Love said. “In a lot of pain. I cannot believe Summer was murdered. If they thought this murder would make us back down, they are very wrong. Very wrong.

“My FB is filled with death threats, that and only being able to use one hand has me going slow. I deeply appreciate and feel all the love y’all are sending me," Love added. 

After the driver of the vehicle Kelete, 27, was stopped by state troopers, he agreed to take a field sobriety test for drugs and alcohol. The tests showed he was not impaired, the state patrol said.

“The driver was reserved and appeared sullen throughout his time in custody,” Trooper James McGuire wrote in the arrest report. “At one point he asked if the injured pedestrians were okay.”

Kelete was booked into the King County Correctional Facility on Saturday morning on two counts of vehicular assault.

Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests. Dozens of people were arrested last week in connection with protests as demonstrations continued after authorities cleared the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone in downtown Seattle.

The state patrol had closed a section of I-5 for 19 days in a row due to the protesters, troopers said. It had been closed to traffic for more than an hour before the crash.

The state patrol said going forward it won’t allow protesters to enter I-5 and would arrest pedestrians on the freeway.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.