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Speaking in defense of his officers on Monday, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that the officers who drove into a crowd of protestors were surrounded by protestors and had reason to believe they were under fire. There were two cars that had been surrounded by protestors.
A video of protestors being plowed into by a Detroit police car went viral on social media, but that video did not show the beginning of the violence, which was "a group of criminals who attacked and surrounded the car," said Chief Craig.
"That group did not represent peace," Craig said.
Craig said that the it was a "quickly evolving situation" and police were concerned for their safety.
"It wasn't until that same police car, someone broke out that rear window... but it took out the entire back window... the officers reported that once they heard the rear window smash they were not certain that they weren't being fired upon... they accelerated to get out of there in the event that they were being fired upon."
He noted that the investigation had not yet determined what kind of object had been used to break the rear window of the car.
Craig said that he has reports from some protestors who had left the scene after becoming aware that their peers were intending to incite violence and to engage with the police.
"I was there and I was leaving because they were plotting to provoke the police. As I was leaving I saw those same guys starting to [attack] the police car for no reason," he quoted from that report.
As the officers were trying to move cautiously through initially there were a number of others who were trying to gain access to the interior of the car, Craig said. The officers were potentially in danger of assault.
"You're in a bad place when you have a large number of protestors around a car that's containing police officers, as we've seen in other cities."
He said that there were not a great deal of officers on hand because protests had been primarily non-violent. This was a different scenario.
Craig said that "if an officer feels he's being shot at he has to do what he needs to survive that." He recounted his own experience at having been shot at while inside a police car, and the desire to get out of the line of fire.
No one was seriously injured in the incident, and police are looking for those who attacked the officers' vehicles.