- Protesters Clash With Traffic, Demand Justice as They March Through Eureka, Demonstrating Against Racism and Police Brutality
UPDATE, 1:57 p.m.: According to the DA’s office, the red jeep driver was Michael Piekarski, 24 years old of Fortuna.
NOTE: The District Attorney did not identify the driver charged in connection with this incident. We’ve written to ask for that information, and will update when we receive a response.
Press release from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office:
The District Attorney’s Office has completed review of the reports, witness statements and videos provided August 26th and September 30th by the Eureka Police Department concerning the “red jeep” incident during protests in Eureka on May 30, 2020.
The incident occurred at about 4:30 pm on Fourth Street as many people were walking in the road outside of a crosswalk and failing to give the right of way to passing vehicles (thereby violating Vehicle Code section 21954).
As the driver of the red jeep progressed through a group of people in the road, one person approached and banged on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The person then leapt onto the hood of the jeep and the driver accelerated and swerved his vehicle in response. Another person walking in the road was then struck by the departing jeep. The person hit suffered a concussion and significant bruising.
The driver has been charged with reckless driving on a highway (Vehicle Code section 23103). The charge stems from the driver progressing through the protesters in an unsafe manner — before the driver responded to the person jumping onto the car. Because of the critical role of the person who jumped on the vehicle in causing someone to be hit, it is not reasonable to anticipate that a jury would convict the driver of additional charges.
The person who dangerously intensified the situation by leaping on the vehicle quickly left the scene and has not been identified. Vehicle Code 23103 carries a possible sentence of jail and/or probation, along with fines and fees. It may also affect the maintenance of the driver’s insurance and license. The District Attorney’s Office has attempted to inform the person hit of this charging decision.
District Attorney (DA) Maggie Fleming commented, “This incident exemplifies how actions that facilitate, initiate or intensify physical conflicts can contribute to unpredictable, harmful outcomes. I think protests against ongoing injustice in society provide a particularly fitting opportunity - for both protestors and anyone who interacts with them - to behave with concern for everyone’s safety. Video related to this incident showed just such behavior by the Eureka Police Department: I greatly appreciate the professionalism and calm demeanor they demonstrated in their efforts to maintain safety.”