Tacoma leaders search for answers after street racing leads to police incident

A growing outcry from Tacoma city leaders continued into Monday, after an incident involving a Tacoma Police Officer running over a bystander during a reported illegal street race on Saurday night. 

On Monday, Tacoma Police released the name of the officer involved in the incident as Officer Khanh Phan, a 58-year-old man who has been a member of the Tacoma Police Department for more than 29 years.

According to Tacoma Police, Officer Phan has been place on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation from the Pierce County Force Investigation Team (PCFIT). Investigators with PCFIT in regards to this case include one captain, and five detectives with the Puyallup Police Department, two detectives with the Bonney Lake Police Department and one detective with the Milton Police Department. There are also two people who are non- law enforcement citizen representatives who are also part of PCFIT.

Also on Monday, two seperate meetings in Tacoma were held specifically for the weekend's incident and subsequent demonstration's on Saturday and Sunday. 

During the special meeting with the Tacoma City Council, Interim Tacoma Police Chief Mike Ake provided city leaders an update on the weekend incident. 

According to Ake, TPD initially responded to 911 calls regarding a street race in the vicinity of 9th and Pacific Avenue. Officer Khan drove through the scene. 

"Individuals began hitting the window and the body of the vehicle as it was stopped in the street," said Ake. "The officer that was involved, put the car in reverse, believed that he couldn't move back any further, put the car in drive and moved forward." 

RELATED: At least 2 people injured after Tacoma police car runs through crowd gathered for street racing

According to TPD, it caused two people to be taken to the hospital. Both victims had non-life threatening injuries. 

"I know I got hit, I got scrapes, I went to the hospital. I know I got hit," said Tavon Williams.

Williams would end up on the pavement after the TPD cruiser pushed through the crowd.

"I don’t know what transpired but, I know I was on the ground worrying about the fellow man that was right beside me that was under the car, and they proceeded to run over the guy," Williams said. 

According to Interim Chief Ake, the officer involved feared for his safety. 

"The officer that was involved eventually stopped. So, the incident happened at 9th and Pacific Avenue, and eventually stopped at the 700 block of Pacific Avenue and he called for medical aid," said Ake. 

During the meeting however, city leaders were divided on the incident. Some showed concern over the increase in street racing incidents throughout King and Pierce County.

"Time is of the essence before we have other several episodes of it and it becomes an issue where Tacoma is known where you can come do this thing and there's no repercussions for it. The onset of this, facilitated a number of really heinous actions afterwards that could've totally been avoided if we had a handle on the street racing for it," said Tacoma city councilmember Lillian Hunter.

Others voiced concern that the focus of the meeting should be more on policing. 

"A human being was run over by an officer. That's what the conversation should be centered on," said Tacoma Deputy Mayor Keith Blocker. "We can talk about street racing ordinances. None of that matters if we can't get policing right." 

Blocker also said that he felt uncomfortable with other members of the council more concerned about the law.

"It made me really uncomfortable t ohear how this conversation shifted. I'm sure it made community members uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable to know that community orgranizers were arrested," said Blocker. 

According to TPD, no arrests were made from the actual reported street racing incident because it was "chaotic," according to Ake.

"It wasn't a safe place, nor did they have the capacities or the capabilities to make any arrests of the people that were involved," he said. 

During the demonstrations however, police did arrest three people who they said were armed with body armor, edge weapons and one person had a firearm, Ake said. 

"That was part of the anarchist group who planned on creating chaos within our city," said Ake. 

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards also expressed concern over the Saturday incident.

"What happened in our city is a tragedy. It didn't show the kind of place that we want Tacoma to be," said Mayor Woodards. "No, there shouldn't have been street races on our streets. That's illegal. An no, somebody should not have been run over because of it. It's all wrong." 

In a meeting of the Tacoma Community's Police Advisory Committee (CPAC), members voiced concern from overall accountability to the use of body-worn cameras.

According to CPAC's Chairman, Stephen Hagberg, Saturday night's incident was the first "real world" test of the body-worn cameras that TPD got the green light to use at the start of the year.

According to Ake, body worn cameras were on during some instances, like the arrests made during the demonstrations.

"The good, fortunate thing about body cams being implemented is that we were able to capture that complete arrest to include the warnings prior to leading to the obstruction," said Ake. 

However, when CPAC members asked if body worn cameras were used during the actual incident involving the officer, Ake said this group of officers were not scheduled to get their cameras until next month. 

"It's unfortunate that this incident happened on the crew that was scheduled to get body worn cameras on February 4th," he said. 

Some CPAC members expressed frustration that there hasn't been accountability up to this point. 

"The lack of transparancy, it's completely unacceptable and we have to figure out a way to deal with this," said Kiara Daniels, CPAC member.

Interim Chief Ake urged patience while the investigation is completed by PCFIT.

"I know it’s going to take a while, we have to be patient. I know that people don’t want to hear that, but that’s the process that’s going to have to take place," he said.