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Driver pushes into protesters in St. Louis street; 3 people sustain minor injuries

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UPDATED at 10 a.m. Thursday with comments from additional witness at the vigil

ST. LOUIS • Police and a witness gave differing versions of how protesters were injured when a driver pulled into a group that had blocked an intersection on Wednesday night.

The witness, Keith Rose, said the driver had his middle fingers raised before he accelerated through the group of people who were blocking Manchester Avenue and Sarah Street in the Grove neighborhood.

But St. Louis police said the driver stopped, honked and attempted to drive around the protesters before some of them surrounded his car and began hitting it with their hands and a flag pole.

The police statement, from spokeswoman Schron Jackson, said that three protesters were injured after they jumped onto the car and fell off when the driver pulled away.

Jackson said the driver was taken into custody about a block from the intersection after initially refusing to stop for officers. She said the incident was captured on video.

A video taken by Heather De Mian, a vigil attendee at the scene, also captured the incident. 

Both police and Rose characterized the injuries as minor.

Rose, who was among the protesters, said he could see the driver of the car as it made its way down Manchester Avenue.

He said the driver at one point stopped the car for a few seconds before accelerating gradually and driving into the group. Rose said that a protester was thrown over the hood of the car by the impact and others were hit by the car.

The people in the street had begun a march after a vigil that had been held nearby. They were holding candles in the intersection when the car approached.

Rose said other drivers had turned off onto side streets rather than driving through the group.

Police later closed off the intersection. The march ended shortly after the incident.

The vigil that preceded the march was set up to honor Kenny “Kiwi” Herring, who was fatally shot by St. Louis police officers a day earlier after police say Herring stabbed two people.

Police said Herring stabbed a man, then used the knife to attack officers who had responded to a report of a stabbing. One officer was wounded. The officers fatally shot Herring in a two-family flat on Ridge Avenue after the officer was cut.

Friends and family say Herring was a transgender woman who, along with her partner, felt threatened by neighbors.

Elizabeth Gombos, 30, of Pocahontas, called the Post-Dispatch on Thursday, claiming to be among those who saw the car hit people at the vigil Wednesday night. Gombos was in the intersection for about seven minutes, holding a candle as part of the vigil; "we were marching down the street peacefully, stopping in front of some gay bars," Gombos said.

As they stood in front of Attitudes bar, Gombos saw headlights coming down the middle of the road toward the vigil participants. Gombos identified the driver as a man.

"When he came at us really fast we kind of stood our ground," Gombos said. "He was blaring the horn ... a half a block back. The first time that he stopped he didn't hit anybody. But there were people in front of his car only. He still had the opportunity to back up and leave.

"Then, I'll be completely honest with you, I can't tell you if he flipped us off before or after he hit people," Gombos said.

"After we were already in front of the car, he made a point to stop, flip us off with both hands and then he accelerated," Gombos said. "Once he hit people, that's when people lost it. Once people realized he was going to hurt people, they started to hit his car. I'm not going to deny they hit his car. They hit it with whatever they had ... fist, feet. They were trying to make him stop.

"With the bumper of his car, he hit the shins of the people in front of me," Gombos added. "I had about two seconds to take two steps to the right. I stepped to the side and I was going to his driver's door to tell him he needed to turn around, but ... his car was already going past me. I had a candle in my hand and a sign, and the candle was knocked out of my hand by a body."

Kim Bell of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.


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Reporter covering St. Louis County politics. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi, and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.

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