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Prosecutor: Driver tried to kill California Trump protesters

Brian Melley
Associated Press

Los Angeles – The organizer of a Southern California rally against racism was charged with attempted murder Tuesdayafter driving her car into a crowd of counterprotesters.

Orange County prosecutors said Tatiana Turner deliberately drove into a crowd of President Donald Trump’s supporters with the intent to kill a woman, whose head she drove over, and seriously injured another man who broke a leg.

An unidentified woman is taken into custody after witnesses said she drove her car into a crowd of protesters in Yorba Linda, Calif., Saturday. Authorities said people were struck by a car and injured during a Black Lives Matter protest and counter-protest about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

A defense lawyer said Turner tried unsuccessfully to get help from deputies after her group protesting police brutality Saturday in Yorba Lindas was overwhelmed by hostile counterprotesters.

Turner feared for her life when she got into her car surrounded by Trump supporters and was trying to drive to safely and didn’t intend to hit anyone, attorney Ludlow Creary II said.

Turner, 40, was supposed to make her first appearance in court later in the day. She is being held on $1 million bail.

Turner, who has a felony record for drug sales and domestic violence, is also charged with six counts of assault with a deadly weapon, including one count for causing great bodily injury, mayhem, and two counts of the use of pepper spray by a felon.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

LOS ANGELES – A woman who drove into counter-protesters after organizing a Southern California rally against racism had asked police for help from a hostile crowd but was ignored, her lawyer said Monday.

Tatiana Turner was fearing for her life and never intended to harm anyone when she drove through a crowd that had surrounded her car Saturday in Yorba Linda, seriously injuring two counter-protesters, attorney Ludlow Creary II said.

“She wasn’t trying to hit anybody,” Creary said. ”She wasn’t trying to hurt anybody.”

The Sheriff’s Department, however, said deputies did not think Turner was in danger when she accelerated into the crowd of people.

“It did not appear from the video we’ve been able to see that there was a direct threat,” spokeswoman Carrie Braun said. “I wasn’t there and wasn’t sitting in the vehicle. I don’t want to say what she could, would or should have done. Clearly any time an incident like this occurs it’s tragic for everybody involved.”

Turner, 40, is being held on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. She faces her first court appearance Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court.

The confrontation that sent a man and woman to the hospital with major injuries occurred on a sunny afternoon when Turner and the Urban Organizers Coalition had planned a march against police brutality and systemic racism outside the Yorba Linda Library, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.

A group of counter-protesters, many of them holding American flags and banners supporting the reelection of President Donald Trump and sporting garb with the president’s name, confronted Turner’s smaller group. The conflict became heated and led to fights.

Turner, who witnessed counter-protesters with firearms, called 911 for help and “got the runaround,” and then appealed to deputies who were patrolling the growing crowd, Creary said.

“Sheriff’s deputies on scene didn’t do anything and the crowd of Trump supporters grew,” he said. “It essentially was a hostile environment.”

Braun said the sheriff’s department would look into those allegations.

“I can’t speak to the validity of those claims,” she said.

Eventually, deputies declared an unlawful assembly and told the groups, estimated at 250 people, to leave.

One video showed Turner getting in her small white sedan as its surrounded mainly by a group of people the sheriff’s office has described as the “Trump supporters.” A voice can be heard saying, “Good luck getting out of here.”

Three seconds later, the car moved forward into the crowd, pushing several people, including someone holding a sign saying “Black Behavior Matters,” and a man wearing a Trump hat and a U.S. flag.

As the car paused for a second, the crowd moved in from the sides. Turner then accelerated and a man shattered her rear window. The car lurched upward at one point as it rolled over someone and then kept going.

The district attorney’s office will review the investigation to decide what, if any, charges should be brought.

Anthony Bryson, who helped Turner organize the march, said her charges and the bail amount are ridiculous.

The group, which has expressed sympathy for those who were injured, postponed a news conference it had planned to hold Monday to point out the inconsistency with charges others faced who have driven into protesters in recent months.

On Thursday, a man driving a pickup truck who struck a woman protesting police brutality in Hollywood was not arrested as Los Angeles police investigate the hit-and-run.

Police said it appeared that driver was surrounded by a crowd of protesters who struck his vehicle with sticks and attempted to open the driver’s door as he passed. He plowed into a woman protester as he fled and she was hospitalized.

Jody Armour, a criminal law professor at the University of Southern California, said the different approach taken by law enforcement in the two counties could suggest different treatment for two people who feared for their safety.

“What you have is bookend cases to compare when two alleged perpetrators can each claim some kind of self defense or duress as an excuse for what they did,” Armour said. “It does seems the officers are giving more deference to the claim of the pickup truck driver and less to her.”