TACOMA, Wash. (NewsNation Now) — Officials in Tacoma, Washington are looking into an episode over the weekend when a police officer responded to a report of a street race and drove his cruiser into a crowd that had gathered.
The weekend incident remains the talk of Tacoma and the community is divided on the police response.
City leaders have another round of meetings to discuss what happened, as many agree it is fortunate no lives were lost.
Tire marks from hours of a so-called “slide show” mark the intersection of Pacific and South 9th in the heart of downtown Tacoma.
That is where police were called on Saturday night as illegal activity shut down the streets. It led to controversy.
“There was better action to be taken that night than just plowing through everybody like that,” said witness Kodie Hamilton.
Hamilton was right next to the police squad car which ran over a spectator and then hit another.
His footage is among numerous videos shared on social media and viewed by millions around the world.
Incredibly, the man who was run over survived, but Hamilton is haunted by the moment.
“Soon as that back tire hit his back, went over him, he looked at me, he looked at me and it was like, wow. You could tell he was fearing for his life, you could tell he was really scared,” he said.
58-year-old veteran officer Khahn Phan was behind the wheel and has said he drove off because he feared for his life.
He’s now on paid administrative leave.
Protesters took to the streets on Sunday to demand his firing and during the demonstration, fires were set and at least nine buildings were vandalized.
In a virtual meeting on Monday, city leaders spent hours discussing the incident.
While Tacoma Police stress an independent investigation, one community leader questioned whether the office felt threatened.
“Every time an officer use ‘I fear for my life,’ that vindicates. That vindicates the officer and says that the person in front of him was guilty automatically,” said community police advisory committee member Louis Cooper.
On the streets Tuesday, there was no shortage of opinion on the Tacoma Police response on Saturday, and in particular, the actions of Officer Phan.
“I feel for him. He made a tough decision that had to be made for himself, I feel. In that respect, it’s a tough, tough time to be an officer right now,” said Patrick Fastaband, who works in Tacoma.
“Feared for his life, I don’t know. But scared, maybe hit the gas a little harder than he wanted to but I didn’t see any weapons, no one beating his car. Seems a little excessive to me,” said Tacoma attorney Tom Veretis.
While police have some body camera footage from Saturday night, not all officers were equipped with the devices.
The department has been phasing in the cameras, and Officer Phan’s group wasn’t due to start until next month.