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Driver charged for hitting, killing protester on I-5 pleads not guilty

Dawit Kelete, 27, was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving after hitting two protesters during a Black Lives Matter demonstration.

The man accused of hitting two protesters, killing one of them, with his car during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on Interstate 5 in Seattle pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Dawit Kelete, 27, was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and reckless driving, according to the King County Prosecutor's Office. His bail was set at $1.2 million.  

The Washington State Patrol said Kelete drove the wrong way onto I-5, around a closure, and struck two people around 1:40 a.m. on July 4. 

Summer Taylor, a 24-year-old veterinary clinic worker, suffered critical injuries and died Saturday night. 

The second protester, 32-year-old Diaz Love, of Portland, Oregon, was hospitalized in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center. On July 13, Love released a statement saying they were in "stable, satisfactory condition " and focusing on recovery.

RELATED: Protester hit by car on I-5 in Seattle focusing on recovery

While Kelete appeared in court Wednesday morning, a rally was held outside the courthouse in support of Taylor and Love. 

Love appeared via video conference at the rally and said as soon as they are well enough, they intend to be back out at the protests. 

A motive for the deadly incident was not revealed in previously released court documents.

At one point during Kelete's arrest and jail booking process he asked if the protesters were OK, court documents said.

On Wednesday morning, the following statement was released by Kelete's attorneys:

"No words can express or make up for the suffering that Diaz Love, Summer Taylor’s family, and their loved ones and friends are enduring at this moment. We recognize the pain is profound, raw and unbearable. It is always gut wrenching to lose one’s child at a young age, but it is more hurtful under these circumstances. To Summer Taylor’s parents, family and friends, we sincerely say we are very sorry for the agony you are going through and pray that Summer is in a peaceful state. RIP Summer. To Diaz Love we are hoping and praying for a speedy and full recovery,” said Dawit Kelete’s family. 

“Summer Taylor’s and Diaz Love’s role in the nation-wide protests in support of Black Lives Matter should be admired, supported, and desired. If historic change is to happen in our country, which is absolutely necessary, it will be because of people like Summer Taylor and Diaz Love,” said Kelete’s attorney Megan M. Dunn. 

Dawit Kelete has been part of the BLM protests. 

“This tragic event was not a political act or statement. On behalf of Kelete and his family, we ask each of you to leave room for the fact that we witnessed a tragic accident and not a crime. We are at the beginning of our investigation and will produce a truthful and trustworthy defense,” said Kelete’s attorney Francisco A. Duarte. 

Dawit Kelete is a kind, compassionate young man. 

“As the legal process works its way through the court system, we ask that people refrain from posting hurtful comments by taking advantage of the anonymity of the internet. The families of the deceased and injured deserve compassion and love at this difficult and agonizing time,” said Eritrean Association Chairman Isaac Araya. 

Kelete's next court date - a case setting hearing - is scheduled for Aug. 10.

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