Nurse punched after protesters say she drove into crowd

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — Police in Northern California say a nurse driving home from her shift at a hospital was punched in the face and her vehicle was vandalized after she encountered a group of protesters who say she intentionally drove into the crowd.

Officers continue to investigate but say video evidence does not show that the woman purposely drove into about 100 people marching Saturday night, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Summer Gloeckner said Sunday in a statement.

Officers responded to a call from the woman who told them she had been assaulted after she drove away from a crowd on Sonoma Avenue. She said she was scared due to a “swarm” of people blocking the street and her vehicle and that she drove away after someone threw a skateboard and a bicycle at her vehicle and broke her windshield. She told the officers she didn’t know how fast she drove trying to get away from the group, Gloeckner said.

At the same time the department received the nurse’s call, calls came in from several people who marched in the Santa Rosa 24-hour Protest for Peace and Justice, saying a white SUV had been driven recklessly through a crowd of protesters near the Santa Rosa Police Department, he said.

“There is no indication from the videos that the driver was trying to run over protesters on purpose,” Gloeckner said.

Caitlin Childs of Santa Rosa told the Press Democrat she was was at the front of the march riding her bicycle and captured cellphone video of the vehicle. It first stopped, then passed her before swerving toward the center of the road and accelerating through the crowd.

“I witnessed cars pass peacefully, and I witnessed the way she drove,” Childs said. “There’s no question she was intending to hit somebody.”

Video obtained by KTVU-TV shows people screaming “watch out!” as a white SUV drives by the crowd. Protesters initially said a teenager on a bicycle had been injured but Gloeckner said no victims have come forward to say they were struck by the woman’s vehicle.

The nurse said a man — described as white, bald, in his 20s and with face and arm tattoos — followed her on his bicycle and punched her in the face after she stopped away from the crowd.

Gloeckner said no arrests have been made and encouraged anyone with information about the incident involving the SUV and the assault suspect to come forward.

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