Pictured: Still image from social media video of white truck moving through protestors on Victoria Ave., in Ventura on Sunday, June 7, 2020.
by Kimberly Rivers
Following public outcry on social media, including a petition, the Ventura Police Department has reopened the investigation into an incident involving at least one protestor being struck by a white truck while they were in the roadway on Sunday, June 7, in front of the Ventura County Government Center.
Today, June 11, Commander Sam Arroyo of the VPD confirmed in an email to the VCReporter that the department has “additional information to follow up on and will be submitting our reports to the DA’s [District Attorney’s] office for a filing review. With this being an open investigation we won’t be releasing any additional information at this time.”
The district attorney determines whether or not to file charges.
Commander Tom Higgins of the VPD confirmed on Tuesday, June 9, while speaking to the VCReporter that the department had deemed the incident an “accident” based on conversations with the driver of the truck, one person who sustained minor injuries and “two or three” witnesses at the scene.
“Pedestrians do have the right of way…pedestrians should not be in the roadway…they have to give [the driver] some right of way, you can’t just block a roadway,” said Higgins.
Higgins said the driver reported the incident shortly after it occurred and told police that “he made a point to go slow through the crowd…he was not aware that he had hit anyone.” The driver reported that he left the scene because he was “afraid” for his safety and the safety of the passenger in his truck.
Higgins said at least one woman sustained “minor” injuries to her ankle and that she refused medical care at the scene.
Higgins said he had seen at least one of the videos and “there was no indication that the driver accelerated.” As part of the investigation, police officers arrived on scene within 15 minutes of receiving the report and interviewed “two or three” witnesses. He could not say what time that was as he did not have the report in front of him.
“The individual that was hit by the car didn’t feel it was an intentional act,” said Higgins.
Several videos taken of the incident show the truck waiting at the red light in the northbound lane on Victoria Avenue facing the site where the protestors were in the roadway. With the green light, the truck drives toward the group of people and proceeds slowly into the group, coming into contact with the body of one male protestor who was standing in front of the truck. The truck continues forward, pushing him backwards, causing the man to lean forward onto the hood of the vehicle. At that time, other protestors begin slapping and hitting the sides of the truck, then the truck accelerates, and the man and another person are seen falling away from the vehicle.
“He drove through the people instead of merging, he decided to hit protestors,” said Brittney Voutis, 34, of Ventura. She was sitting at the bus stop on Telephone Road near the corner and saw the truck first at the red light, in the number one northbound lane on Victoria, and watched it then proceed into the group of people.
“The driver watched the protestors for at least two minutes [while stopped at the red light], and still chose to drive through them,” said Voutis. She pointed out that other cars managed to move through the group of people in the nearby lanes “without hitting anyone.”
“This person was just trying to make their way home and there was a large crowd in the roadway where you don’t typically find a large crowd,” said Higgins. “Then having his car, for lack of a better word, attacked — you can’t really attack a car — but start damaging your car, hitting your car. What goes through a person’s mind? I would think there’s some fear in that…this person did nothing intentional.”
If you were a direct witness of this incident, please contact Detective Morales at 805-339-4467.