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Deadly hit-and-run driver pleads not guilty on all counts in Seattle protestor fatality

On Wednesday, Dawit Kelete, 27, the suspect in the hit and run death of a protestor on Seattle's I-5 on July 4, plead not guilty to all charges.

Ari Hoffman Seattle, WA
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On Wednesday, Dawit Kelete, 27, the suspect in the hit and run death of a protestor on Seattle's I-5 on July 4, plead not guilty to all charges. Those charges were vehicular assault, vehicular homicide and reckless driving. Kelete remains in King County Jail on $1.2 million bond.

Summer Taylor, 24, was hit by the car while protesting on I-5, which had been closed for the purpose of demonstrations. Taylor was pronounced dead at a local hospita. Diaz Love, 32, was also hit, and retained serious injuries. She remains in serious condition at Harborview Hospital.

In his defense, Kelete’s lawyers said "Dawit Kelete has been part of the BLM protests. This tragic event was not a political act or statement. On behalf of Kelete and his family, we ask each of you to leave room for the fact that we witnessed a tragic accident and not a crime."

Washington State Troopers suspect that Kelete drove onto the closed freeway by going the wrong way on an off ramp, then skirting a barrier.

"Troopers described Kelete as 'reserved and sullen' when they arrested him and that he asked if the injured protesters were doing OK," according to court documents. At the time of his arrest Kelete passed a field sobriety test.

"Very candidly, we don’t know at this point in the investigation what the motive was, what the reasoning was," Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead told Kiro 7 News.

Kelete previously faced charges of assault, trespassing and malicious mischief, though each charge was eventually dismissed, according to Kiro 7. Kelete is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 10.

The fatal hit-and-run of July 4th led many to speculate that Taylor's death was caused by "white supremacists."

BLM protesters took over I-5 for 19 consecutive nights in protest. Washington State patrol had closed I-5 to protect the protesters, despite the traffic delays. Hours after Taylor's death, WA State Patrol discontinued that permission.

Graphic video shows a Jaguar, allegedly driven by Kelete, driving around vehicles that were parked on I-5 before hitting Taylor and Love.

Dozens of people held a rally in memory of Taylor on Wednesday prior to the hearing. Speaking to the crowd via Zoom from her hospital room, Love blamed the police for the incident on the interstate claiming that police were "negligent in blocking the freeway" for protesters. "I’m not going to stop until that’s proven and there’s action from that," she said.

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