Man pleads guilty to vehicular homicide in death of Black Lives Matter protester in Seattle

28 July 2023

SEATTLE (AP) — A man who hit two protesters with his car, killing one of them, during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020 in Seattle has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies.

Dawit Kelete, 30, pleaded guilty on Thursday to vehicular homicide in the death of 24-year-old Summer Taylor, The Seattle Times reported. He also pleaded guilty to vehicular assault and reckless driving charges. Attorneys as part of the plea deal have agreed to recommend a sentence of more than six years in prison and 18 months of probation. Kelete is set to be sentenced in September.

On July 4, 2020, the Washington State Patrol said Kelete drove the wrong way onto Interstate 5, around a barricade of parked vehicles, and struck Taylor and Diaz Love.

Taylor later died and Love was hospitalized with multiple injuries.

Kelete was arrested shortly afterward and told police he was withdrawing from the narcotic pain medication Percocet and struggled with an “untreated addiction,” court documents said.

Francisco Duarte, Kelete’s attorney, said Kelete asked about the victims from the beginning and has shown remorse. Duarte also claimed authorities were negligent and failed to protect the public and protesters.

An attorney for Taylor’s family, Karen Koehler, on Thursday lamented the years it’s taken for the case to move through the court system, and said the family is focused on remembering Taylor, KING-TV reported.

“While it was a relief to know they wouldn’t have to go to court, there’s a lot of very sad, grieving people still,” Koehler said. “They are… resigned, that this is the best that can be done.”

Love, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractures, lacerations, and other physical wounds, is suing the state, city and Kelete. A trial date has been scheduled for next February.

The lawsuit says Kelete was driving negligently and that state and city agencies failed to block all access ramps to I-5 and refused to protect vulnerable protesters. The State Patrol had closed the freeway during the demonstration, which was part of a run of nightly protests over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Family described Taylor as someone who was dedicated to justice. She had been demonstrating and rallying in support of Black Lives Matter nearly every day of the protests.

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