Detroit Police Say Officer Drove Through Crowd Because 'They Believed They Could Be Shot At'

The Detroit Police Department is defending one of its officers after a now-viral video showed a police cruiser driving through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters. Just a day after the June 28 incident, in which several of the protesters were carried on the hood of the vehicle as it sped down the street, Police Chief James Craig told reporters Monday that the officers "believed they could be shot at."

Speaking during a news conference, Craig explained that tensions escalated after officers heard a "loud crash or bang to the rear of the police car," according to TMZ. Although the noise was allegedly the result of a protester busting out the back window, he said that their investigation into the incident found that the officers "believed they could be shot at, or were being fired upon." As a result, "they had to take quick, evasive action." Craig defended the scene of the police cruiser speeding through the crowd by citing training, stating that "when you run into an ambush situation, the proper course is to get out for your safety and that is exactly what these officers opted to do."

Craig also said that "there was information that officers reported several of the protesters were armed with hammers" and stated that the cruiser only reached a top speed of about 25 miles per hour. Craig confirmed that the incident is still under investigation and said that officers are looking for a woman on a scooter who blocked a second police cruiser and hit the driver’s side tire. He said that the officers involved with the incident remain on duty. He said that he was unaware of any injuries, though previous reports suggested that at least some protesters had suffered injuries to their arms.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Police Department has since released dashboard video of the incident. That video shows at least one protester sitting on the hood of the police cruiser before it accelerated. One protester involved in the incident had previously told the outlet that they had been attempting to block the police cruiser from moving to allow the group to safely return to Patton Park.

In the wake of the incident, at least two groups – Detroit Will Breathe and BAMN – are calling for Craig to resign and for the officers involved to be fired and charged. Detroit Will Breathe said the call was based on Craig’s "failure to address incidents of police brutality against protestors(sic)." More than 200 people marched Monday night with chants for Craig's resignation as well as Mayor Mike Duggan's resignation.