TACOMA, Wash. — A Tacoma police officer is on paid administrative leave and an independent investigation is underway after videos captured him driving his patrol vehicle through a crowd of pedestrians that had gathered around him and were pounding on the vehicle's windows, according to statements from the Tacoma Police Department (TPD).
Two people were taken to the hospital. One was released Sunday morning, and no information has been provided about the second person. However, police said none of the injuries were believed to be life-threatening.
The officer was identified Monday as 58-year-old Khanh Phan, with the department nearly 30 years. He was placed on paid administrative leave per department policy immediately following the incident, TPD said in a statement Sunday.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards issued a statement Sunday saying she is "deeply saddened" by what happened and called on the city manager and police chief to ensure everyone involved is "held accountable." Scroll down to see her full statement.
The Saturday incident happened after police responded to a large crowd in the area of S. 9th and Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma shortly after 6 p.m.
"There were multiple vehicles and approximately 100 people present blocking the intersection when officers arrived on scene," according to a TPD statement Saturday. Witness accounts and video on social media show the group was gathered for street racing.
The Tacoma Fire Department confirmed they issued a dispersal order to the crowd and two people were arrested.
TPD reports some of the crowd surrounded the police SUV.
"People hit the body of the police vehicle and its windows as the officer was stopped in the street. The officer, fearing for his safety, tried to back up, but was unable to do so because of the crowd," a TPD report said.
Video posted on Twitter shows the police SUV briefly backing up, then driving forward, where a crowd was still gathered in the street. It's unclear how many people were impacted by the police vehicle, but at least one individual was struck by the front and rear tires.
The TPD statement said, "The officer stopped at a point of safety and called for medical aid. One person was transported to an area hospital. That person’s condition is, at this time, unknown."
A spokesperson from the Puyallup Police Department addressed the media late Saturday, but did not identify the officer involved, only saying he was a "senior officer." The spokesperson said during a press conference that the investigation could be lengthy as they collect videos and witness accounts, as well as interview the responding officers.
The Pierce County Force Investigation Team is now conducting an independent investigation.
“I am concerned that our department is experiencing another use of deadly force incident,” said Interim Police Chief Mike Ake. “I send my thoughts to anyone who was injured in tonight’s event, and am committed to our Department’s full cooperation in the independent investigation and to assess the actions of the department’s response during the incident.”
TPD announced Sunday that the Community's Police Advisory Board will be meeting Monday via Zoom at 6 p.m. to discuss the incident.
Investigators would like to hear from anyone that witnessed the incident or might have video. They are asking witnesses to contact Puyallup Police Department through the Tip Line at 253-770-3343 or by email at email@example.com.
Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards full statement:
"For those who woke up this morning feeling outrage, frustration, grief, heartbreak, or confusion, I understand and honor your feelings. I, too, am deeply saddened by what we saw last night.
"As a use of deadly force, this incident is being taken very seriously and the scene has appropriately been turned over to the Pierce County Force Investigation Team for independent investigation. As we learn the facts of the case, I have called on the City Manager and Police Chief to ensure that everyone involved is held accountable.
"While we await more information, I want the community to know that I am deeply concerned and praying for everyone who was impacted by last night’s events.
"I continue to be proud of Tacoma’s long-standing reputation as a place of strong, non-violent advocacy and activism. I continue to support your right to use your voice to advocate and demonstrate peacefully during this time of heightened tension. I know our community’s resiliency continues to be tested. I also know that we are strong and that we will get through this together."