Nikolas Fernandez, the man charged with first degree assault after driving into a crowd of protesters at 11th and Pine and shooting a man attempting to disarm him has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
The Wednesday afternoon hearing at the King County Courthouse was a formality in the case over the Sunday, June 7th shooting. Fernandez has claimed self-defense according to the police report on the incident that came as the Black Lives Matter protests were growing on Capitol Hill and just days before SPD decided to abandon the East Precinct.
Fernandez, 31, remains free on bail. On Wednesday, an order was issued barring Fernandez from contact with victim Dan Gregory.
— jseattle (@jseattle) June 9, 2020
CHS reported on the police report and court documents describing the shooting witnessed by dozens and caught on video. In the initial report of the shooting, police say Fernandez passed through the barrier and yelled at officers, “I just had to shoot somebody, they tried to jack my car,” police reported. According to the report, Fernandez told police his vehicle stalled and wouldn’t start after the shooting so he “exited the car with his gun in his hand yelling at people to get back away from him.” Fernandez told police he ran through the line and immediately surrendered. “Fernandez said his brother works here at this precinct, and he does not want to do anything to shame him,” the report noted.
Gregory continues to recover after surgery for his injuries. He is part of a lawsuit brought against the city and the state over the use of force at Seattle’s protests and safety issues the plaintiffs say were caused by police and law enforcement including the Fernandez shooting and the collision on I-5 that killed demonstrator Summer Taylor.
Dawit Kelete, the 27-year-old driver in the crash that killed Taylor and injured another protester, was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, and reckless driving last week but has not yet entered a plea.
The legal fallout from CHOP and Seattle’s weeks of protests continues to play out.
Justice in its highest profile criminal cases, though, is a work in progress. Seattle Police and the FBI have so far not announced any arrests or suspect information in the murder of 19-year-old Lorenzo Anderson on the edges of CHOP early on Saturday, June 20th.
And no suspect information has been announced in the Monday, June 29th shooting that left 16-year-old Antonio Mays, Jr. dead and a 14-year-old critically wounded in an incident involving the two teens and CHOP security that brought the end of the occupied protest. SPD said it has detained a woman in connection with the case last week but she was released without being charged. The Seattle Times reports the woman “appears to have filmed the aftermath” of the Mays, Jr. shooting including video of “people talking about removing evidence from the scene.”
Many protesters arrested by police, meanwhile, will not be charged. City Attorney Pete Holmes and King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg have said they will not charge “non-violent” protesters. In Seattle, that means some protesters arrested for misdemeanor crimes have been referred to diversionary workshops.
Satterberg said his office had filed 15 felony cases related to the protests, including three for actions at CHOP. “The cases that we are filing involve people using illegal guns, people shooting each other, people running over each other, or stealing from businesses that has nothing to do with the protest itself,” Satterberg said.
“We are asking to see video footage – including body-worn video – in all arrest cases referred to our office involving protesters and police officers,” Satterberg said.
One CHOP case moved forward in the legal process Wednesday. The Department of Justice announced that it was bringing federal arson charges against a 35-year-old Tacoma man arrested for allegedly setting fire to the plywood put up on the East Precinct in the middle of the occupied protest camp.
The DOJ says Isaiah Willoughby was recognized following SPD’s post showing video of the incident and tried to scrub his social media “noting his anger at police and his knowledge of the East Precinct building” —
After the Seattle Police Department released pictures of the arson suspect, various people recognized him as WILLOUGHBY and noted that the distinctive sweatshirt came from a clothing line he represents. Relatives of WILLOUGHBY reported to police that he was in Seattle in the Capitol Hill Organized Protest Zone (CHOP) at the time of the fire. Following the fire, WILLOUGHBY took steps to remove posts from his social media accounts that may have linked him to the arson. However, at least some of his FaceBook posts remain, noting his anger at police and his knowledge of the East Precinct building.
CHS reported on the arson incident after campers rushed to extinguish the fire and save the building as part of our ongoing coverage of the camp and growing safety concerns for campers, businesses, and residents in the area.
“Those who worked to turn protests into riots will not escape accountability for their criminal conduct,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in the announcement of the charges.
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