Note: This is a developing story about a chaotic, traumatic and emotionally charged incident. Witness statements differ in some details, and we are reporting only those details that are most credible and verifiable. Madison365 will continue to gather witness statements and update the story as we are able. Witnesses who can confirm, dispute or add to any witness statements in this story are encouraged to email email@example.com or message us through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Witnesses say Madison police pepper-sprayed the brother and friends of a Black hit-and-run victim early Sunday morning.
Videos posted to social media show dozens of people gathered in the street after bars closed early Sunday morning. Witnesses say people out for the evening were congregated on University Avenue, some jumping onto cars and blocking traffic.
“Yes, there were people that were on top of cars,” said S, a friend of the hit-and-run victim who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, speaking through a family member. “But, with all of that happening, they were having fun. No one was fighting. No one was arguing.”
Videos and accounts posted to social media Sunday depict a pickup truck, whose driver witnesses said was white, barrelling through a crowd that had gathered on University Avenue after bars closed at 2:00 am. Madison police and several witnesses say the truck struck one woman, who sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
One witness said someone was pulling at or punching at the driver of the pickup as it was stopped at a traffic light, which is what prompted the driver to speed forward into a crowd that was crossing the street. Other witnesses said they did not see anyone fighting with the driver.
Whatever prompted the driver to speed through the crowd, the truck struck one woman and sped away.
S said she immediately called the woman’s mother while other witnesses flagged down an ambulance that happened to be nearby. EMTs in that ambulance told witnesses to call 911, as the ambulance was en route to another call.
S said police arrived some time later without an ambulance, and immediately began pushing people back away from the victim — including S and the victim’s brother.
“When police arrived, they came up to us and instantly started pushing us back after I repeatedly told them that I was with (the victim) and I was her ride and had been downtown with her and obviously felt obligated to stay with her,” S said. “After telling him that I was on the phone with (the victim’s) mom he kept pushing me back. Then (the victim’s brother) said that it was his sister and he wasn’t about to move because he wanted to be with his sister. At the time she couldn’t move and couldn’t feel anything from her waist down. When (the victim’s brother) wouldn’t move, they sprayed them with pepper spray which hit the entire crowd that was around.”
A Madison police incident report says the police “dealt with several uncooperative individuals while attending to the victim.” The report makes no mention of pepper spray.
Videos posted to social media show people suffering with burning eyes, and others tending to them.
S said police did not, in fact, attend to the victim — at least not right away.
“When the police first arrived they weren’t even worried about her. Not one officer went to her,” she said. “Even when they were pushing us back, not one went to her.”
A Madison police spokesperson did not return an email message from Madison365 Sunday afternoon, but a spokesperson told our news partner News 3 Now that officers tried to render aid but were immediately surrounded by a “highly agitated and aggressive group.” MPD says it did use pepper spray to create space for Madison Fire Department paramedics to enter the scene and treat the victim.
One other witness told Madison365 that it seemed pepper spray was deployed to disperse the crowd and allow access to the victim.
An ambulance transported the victim to a hospital. Photos identified on social media as the victim show a woman with significant bruising and “road rash.”
A protest of about 150 people convened downtown Madison Sunday afternoon and continued to block traffic and demand attention to the incident into the evening.
A Madison police incident report says the department is “working promising leads” to identify the driver.
A Madison police spokesperson did not respond to an email message Sunday seeking an update.
Madison365 has reached out to other witnesses and will update this story as more information becomes available.