No charges will be filed against TPD officer who drove through crowd

TACOMA, Wash. — The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that it will not file charges against Officer Khanh Phan, who in late January of 2021 drove through a crowd, leaving two people injured.

According to the office of the prosecuting attorney, Tacoma officers were unlawfully restrained and attacked while in their patrol cars by a group of more than 100 people who were blocking the intersection of South Ninth Street and Pacific Avenue.

“We will not file criminal charges against any of the involved officers, nor would we file against anyone, police officer or not, who had been similarly unlawfully restrained and attacked by a violent mob,” prosecutors said.

Officers were called to the area after receiving calls about cars reportedly doing doughnuts and burnouts.

When police arrived using emergency lights and sirens, the group surrounded a patrol vehicle and started banging on its windows. Investigators said the officer drove forward and hit one person and possibly others. Two people were taken to the hospital.

Tacoma police had said that the officer, later identified as Officer Phan, had feared for his safety and tried to back up but was unable to because of the crowd, so he drove forward.

The incident was caught on camera.

>>Destructive demonstrations in Tacoma after police officer drives through crowd

When Phan got to a safe location, he called for medics. The man was taken to the hospital.

Phan was placed on paid administrative leave, per department policy.

Officials said the other officer, Christopher Bain, who was close behind in his patrol vehicle, “was trying to formulate a rescue plan because he was fearful for the safety” of Phan and “fearful for his own safety” as well.

Another officer, who heard Phan report over the radio that his patrol car was being kicked and punched, came to the scene with his lights and sirens activated and saw several men run toward Phan’s patrol car. The men tried to open Phan’s door and were striking the driver’s side while screaming at Phan.

The officer also saw someone lying in the street and thought it might be Phan; but once he got close, he saw it was someone who needed medical attention and used his radio to call for backup, according to the prosecuting attorney’s office.

According to the prosecuting attorney’s office, Phan said he waited for Bain to arrive before he moved forward and tried to disperse the crowd. However, the crowd became hostile and began yelling obscenities. As the crowd pounded on his patrol vehicle, Phan said he feared for his life.

Phan reportedly considered using his firearm or backing up to escape the crowd, but when neither seemed feasible, he drove forward in what he thought was a short gap and slightly accelerated to get through. However, he felt he struck one or more people and then drove westbound on Ninth Street and made a U-turn at Commerce Street with the intention of returning to check for injured people.

Chief Avery Moore summarized the facts: “Phan’s decision to drive forward was not done with the intent of hitting or harming any individual or member of the crowd around his car. He moved his car forward only when he thought he saw a bit of a ‘gap’ in the crowd and tried to escape from the attack. Using his vehicle in this manner, to escape from the immediate threat he was facing, was reasonable under the circumstances.”

“Phan’s actions were reasonable and necessary to protect himself from death or injury and to remove himself from imminent danger. He took a measured response to an unruly, aggressive, and dangerous mob. To the extent moving his vehicle forward into an unruly mob of individuals who intentionally positioned themselves in front of his vehicle constitutes intentional use of force, it is justified under these circumstances,” according to the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office’s conclusion.