‘Running toward us is new’: Officers alerted to crowds rushing patrol cars

VIDEO: Tacoma police crowd incident highlights bigger safety concerns

TACOMA, Wash. — When veteran Tacoma police officer Khanh Phan accelerated his patrol car through a crowd which had surrounded him in a downtown intersection on Jan. 23, his interim chief Michael Ake said the crowd had been pounding on the car, and the officer feared for his life.

Two people were injured when Phan’s patrol car appeared on video to ram through and over the crowd, shoving people to the pavement.

While the incident is being investigated, KIRO-7 learned law enforcement agents across the state have been alerted to be aware of crowds suddenly rushing toward their vehicles and surrounding them, preventing them from moving.

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“Police are used to people running and scattering when we arrive,” said a King County police officer who asked not to be identified. “Running toward us is new.”

A similar incident happened on Sept. 4, 2020 when a crowd shut down State Route 167 near Auburn while gathering on foot to watch cars drift (power skid in circles) and race.

Trooper Rick Johnson said the trooper was responding to 911 calls and was suddenly “surrounded by a crowd.”

Video from nearby WSDOT cams shows the arriving trooper being rushed by the group.

“Now we’re in a situation where this is something new, as far as having one of our cars surrounded,” Johnson said, adding that the trooper managed to back out of the crowd. Johnson said now, people crowding a patrol car is something they have to react to with training and a different response.

“The command staff here, Captain Mead and the lieutenants that help him run the district, are pushing out information making sure troopers are aware,” he said.

Johnson said video will help train officers on safer ways to respond to locations where a number of people are on foot, which they commonly see on calls to street races.

“We learn from everything,” he said.