Black Lives Matter protesters march through downtown | New
A group of Black Lives Matter protesters marched through downtown Johnson City on Friday night to protest a Washington County grand jury’s decision not to charge a man who ran over a man during a protest of Black Lives Matter in the city last September.
In a cellphone video that went viral after the incident, a white SUV can be seen attempting to make a right turn onto West State of Franklin Road from Spring Street toward Interstate 26, where a small group of protesters were gathered nearby. As the vehicle turns, he runs into Jonathan Bowers, who said he was following the group and taking photos while walking his dog.
Bowers, in an attempt to get the driver’s attention, hits the hood of the car, which then accelerates and knocks Bowers down, breaking both of his legs.
District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said he was unaware of the discussion between the grand jurors – it’s a secret process – which led the panel to refuse to return an indictment against the driver, who has been identified as Jared Benjamin Lafer, 27, Bakersville, NC. .
Lafer’s initial charge of aggravated assault requires the element of intent to cause harm, but a Sessions Court judge narrowed it down to reckless aggravated assault – which does not require intent to harm – after hearing testimony and viewing video of the incident captured on a cell phone and a nearby surveillance camera.
“We went to great lengths to explain to the grand jury what a reckless aggravated assault was,” Baldwin said. “I wanted them to understand that clearly. After we explained the law to them, the evidence was presented and the video was shown (and) we answered questions. “
The covert discussion between the grand jurors led the panel to return a “no real bill” on Monday, meaning the case is dead. Baldwin said if more evidence emerged there could be another review, but that’s unlikely at this point. Lafer’s lawyer Mac Meade continued to say his client was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
According to Meade, when Lafer was turning State of Franklin from Spring Street, he had to bypass a car parked in the right lane and the pedestrians separated, but the victim, Jonathan Bowers, “aggressively” hit the hood of the vehicle. by Lafer. Bowers had testified that he was just trying to get Lafer’s attention because he felt himself pulled under the car.
Meade said Lafer feared for the safety of his family and his client believed he had crashed a bicycle, not a person, and as soon as he heard of what had happened he went to the center County Detention Center. Lafer was taken into custody on September 14, two days after the incident.
“He was trying to protect his family,” and didn’t know what might happen as protesters appeared to surround his vehicle, Meade said.
Protesters marched from Founders Park to City Hall chanting “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter”, among other calls for social justice.