Seattle Man Who Shot A Protester After Aggressively Driving Into Crowd Claims Self Defense

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 08: Demonstrators hold a rally and teach-in outside of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, which has been boarded up and protected by fencing, on June 8, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Ph... SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 08: Demonstrators hold a rally and teach-in outside of the Seattle Police Department's East Precinct, which has been boarded up and protected by fencing, on June 8, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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June 9, 2020 11:47 a.m.

A man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters before shooting one of them in Seattle is claiming that he acted out of fear for his life. 

According to the probable cause statement, Nikolas Fernandez told police that he thought he could get through a crowd of protesters — which officers estimated to be “in excess of 1,000 people” — on Pine Street in Seattle. He said that as he was driving, protesters surrounded the car and started kicking it. 

When one man reached through his window and grabbed his steering wheel, Fernandez grabbed for his unholstered gun on the passenger seat and shot him, according to the statement of probable cause. He said that his car stalled then, so he ran out to the police line where he surrendered himself. He told police that his brother works at the precinct, and that he didn’t want to “shame” him.

“I just had to shoot somebody, they tried to jack my car!” he yelled, according to police. 

Daniel Gregory, the gunshot victim, had a different story to tell a detective while recuperating at Harborview Medical Center. There, per the probable cause statement, he was being treated for a gunshot to his upper right arm.

He told police that he watched Fernandez’s car whip around the corner, estimating that his driving was “insane” at 40 or 50 miles per hour towards the crowd of protesters. Gregory said that he dropped his hotdog and reached into the window to try to veer the car away from the protesters. When he realized that he might harm people by swinging the car in another direction, he told police that he punched Fernandez in the face instead. Fernandez shot him soon after. 

On Monday, after Fernandez’s first court appearance, a judge found probable cause for holding him. King County prosecutors told the Seattle Times that Fernandez’s bail is set at $150,000. Charges are expected to be announced Wednesday.

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best expressed skepticism Monday, when addressing Fernandez’s claims of mortal peril on MSNBC.

“There were a lot of people out there, it is very difficult to say that this person didn’t see the large crowd of people — literally in the thousands — when he drove his vehicle straight into that crowd,” Best said. “There did not appear to be any mechanical issues with the vehicle and then once stopped, the suspect pulled out a gun and fired at the victims.” 

“So, again,” she added, “I haven’t personally interviewed him, but it would not appear this was random or accidental.”

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