Gunman at Seattle protest charged with first-degree assault
Nikolas Fernandez, a Seattle man who shot a protester in the arm as he sped into a crowd on Capitol Hill on Sunday, was charged on Wednesday afternoon with first-degree assault.
In Washington state, this class A felony is punishable by prison sentences up to life, and fines up to $50,000.
"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," said a spokesperson with the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
Fernandez, 31, made his first court appearance on Monday, the night after he drove a black Honda Civic at seemingly high speed into protesters.
He did not ram into protesters, however, because he was slowed down by a 27-year-old man named Daniel Gregory. Gregory dropped his hot dog, launched himself into driver's side window, his legs hanging out, and attempted to grip the steering wheel.
It was then that Fernandez took a gun from the passenger side seat and shot Gregory in the upper arm, and fractured his shoulder. The Glock 26 he used had an extended magazine. He had another magazine taped to that extended magazine.
Fernandez then got out of the car, pointed the Glock 26 at protesters, and ran toward the large police presence outside of the East Precinct and turned himself in with his hands up.
"I just had to shoot someone; they tried to jack my car," he said as he ran to police.
Fernandez told police investigators that he works security at Nike Town, and his shift started between 8 and 9 p.m. He said he wanted to "see how bad it was" during the protest, and said he accidentally drove on a street with protesters.
Fernandez told police he did not have an opportunity to turn around, before Gregory climbed through his window and Fernandez shot him. Then his car stalled.
In court on Monday, Fernandez’s defense argued that he got caught in the crowd after making a wrong turn. In the “chaos” he panicked, said attorney Jesse Dubow.
“I don't have any indication based on his statement that he did intentionally have a purpose other than what he told the officer — ‘that they tried to jack my car,’” Dubow said.
Gregory, interviewed by an officer on Sunday from a hospital bed, painted a different picture.
Fernandez’s driving was “insane,” Gregory said. He estimated the car was traveling at a speed of 40-50 miles per hour. He said he had aimed to stop the vehicle from slamming into the crowd.
A judge set Fernandez's bail at $150,000 on Monday. He is currently still held in the King County Jail in lieu of that bail amount.