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Felony assault charge for Seattle man accused of shooting protester after driving into crowd

A felony assault charge was filed against 31-year-old Nikolas Fernandez after a shooting during Seattle protests on June 7.

SEATTLE — A felony assault charge was filed against 31-year-old Nikolas Alexander Fernandez after a shooting during Seattle protests on June 7.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed one count of assault in the first degree, a class A felony, against Fernandez for the shooting in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.  

The 31-year-old Seattle man is accused of driving through a crowd and shooting a protester, identified as 27-year-old Daniel Gregory.

The prosecutor's office released the following statement Wednesday: 

"Although Mr. Fernandez claims to have acted in self-defense, our laws distinguish a person protecting himself from an attack from a person who provoked the attack in the first place. Given the evidence uncovered in the past three days, there is probable cause to believe Mr. Fernandez falls in the latter category."

Prosecutors initially requested that Fernandez be held on $350,000 bail. The judge set the bail at $200,000 but lowered it to $150,000 after Fernandez’s family spoke about “his community ties and inability to pay,” according to the prosecutor's office.

The incident occurred around 8:20 p.m. Sunday near 11th Ave. and E. Pine Street where large crowds have been gathering for more than a week to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man killed in Minneapolis police custody.

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According to the statement of probable cause, Fernandez said he was driving in the area of the protests and thought he could get through the crowd. He told police that protesters started kicking his car, yelling at him, and that people were trying to grab him through the open driver’s side window.

Fernandez said the man he shot, identified as 27-year-old Daniel Gregory, grabbed him and the vehicle’s steering wheel through the open window, according to the statement of probable cause. Fernandez told police he was “fearing for his life” when he fired a single shot at Gregory. Fernandez thought he shot Gregory in the chest, according to the statement. 

Gregory was shot in the upper right arm and was treated at Harborview Medical Center. He suffered a broken arm as a result of the gunshot wound.

Video posted on social media shows protesters getting out of the way of a black sedan driving towards the crowd. Gregory told detectives he saw the car turn a corner and drive past him “picking up speed,” according to the statement of probable cause.

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Gregory described the driving as “insane” and yelled at the driver to stop. He told detectives that he grabbed and was going to yank the steering wheel, but said he realized that might cause the car to veer into the crowd. Gregory held onto the steering wheel but let go and punched the driver in the face, then the vehicle came to a stop, the statement said.

"I hear the gunshot go off, in my arm, I move right in time when he reaches out. My whole thing was to protect those people. My whole thing was to protect those people down there,” Gregory said after he was shot.

Video shows a man getting out of a black sedan brandishing what appears to be a gun and walking through the crowd towards officers. “A male aggressively approached the barrier that was keeping people away from the East Precinct building,” the statement of probable cause reads. “He breached the barrier and ran towards officers. He yelled at officers, ‘I just had to shoot somebody, they tried to jack my car.'"

Officers took Fernandez into custody and recovered a handgun from him.

A woman who was at the protest on Sunday told KING 5 that Gregory was shot after he had "so bravely stepped up" to try to stop the car.

“The young black gentlemen that so bravely stepped up to take on the car reached in through the window to try to prevent the car from running over the entire crowd,” the woman said.

Fernandez is scheduled to appear in court again on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the statement of probable cause, Fernandez told officers that his brother worked at the East Precinct and that “he does not want to do anything to shame him.” The statement does not say if Fernandez’s brother is a police officer or if his statement was confirmed to be true by police.