The Facebook user wrote:
Protesters illegally blocked traffic on an interstate in Colorado. The driver of a Jeep on the highway tried to get past a mob of people banging on his vehicle and trying to stop it. This gentleman who was part of the crowd pulled a pistol and opened fire on the vehicle.
He shot two other protesters by accident instead.
In the News
Reverse image searches led us to several articles in which the image of a young man sitting on the pavement appeared.
On July 27 2020, the Denver Post reported that a weapon was discharged at a protest and noted that a Jeep “was driven into a crowd of protesters on Interstate 225 in Aurora” on July 25 2020. That article did not indicate the protesters were “illegally blocking the road”:
A man suspected of firing shots at a Jeep that was driven into a crowd of protesters on Interstate 225 in Aurora on [July 25 2020] has been arrested, police said.
Police said no one was hit by the Jeep.
Two protesters, however, were hit by the gunfire.
According to that initial reporting, the Jeep was impounded as evidence in the course of “an investigation,” but the article offered no further information about the driver or their actions:
The driver of the Jeep continued north on I-225 and exited the highway at East Sixth Avenue, police said. At Sixth and Billings Street, the driver pulled over and contacted police who were investigating a separate, unrelated crash. The driver, who has not been identified, was questioned and the Jeep was impounded as evidence. An investigation is ongoing.
On July 25 2020, KDVR reported that a blue Jeep “blast[ed] through [assembled] protesters,” and that shots were fired. KVDR also reported the Jeep’s driver and passenger were taken into custody after the incident:
A blue-colored Jeep drove through a crowd of protesters on Interstate 225 in Aurora on [July 25 2020].
“There have been no other reported incidents, to include anyone actually being hit by the Jeep. No arrests or citations,” [Aurora, Colorado Police] said … According to FOX31’s Laura Wilson, Aurora police caught the vehicle and took the driver and a passenger into custody.
KDVR’s Laura Wilson also tweeted that protesters were “clipped” by the Jeep (but not seriously injured):
On July 27 2020, police arrested a protester, Samuel Young, on four counts of attempted homicide.
A July 28 2020 article from ABC News addressed both the shooting and the incident which preceded it:
Police said protesters were walking northbound on Interstate 225 when a turquoise-colored Jeep drove toward the demonstration around 7 p.m.
“While the Jeep was being driven through the crowd, multiple shots were fired by a protester,” police in a statement.
Police said a protester in a car tried to prevent the driver from hitting demonstrators by ramming the side of the Jeep.
The Jeep continued to head north on Interstate 225 and the driver was stopped by police when he exited the freeway, officials said.
“During preliminary interviews with the Jeep driver, he advised officers that while on I-225, his vehicle began to be surrounded by protesters who were yelling and striking his vehicle,” police said in a statement. “He also claims that a white pickup truck struck the front of his vehicle. He claims that the reason that he drove towards the protesters is because he was scared and trying to get away.”
Although the Facebook post claimed that demonstrators “illegally blocked traffic on an interstate” and that the “driver of a Jeep on the highway tried to get past a mob of people banging on his vehicle and trying to stop it,” ABC News reported that the actions of the driver were also under investigation. However, as of July 28 2020 no charges had been filed against him:
Investigators plan to present a case to the local district attorney, who will decide whether criminal charges will be filed against the driver, whose name was not released.
Separate reporting on the same day from KDVR identified the Jeep’s driver and passenger, based on an affidavit:
The Jeep’s two occupants were not injured. According to the affidavit, the Jeep was driven by 27-year-old Kyle Faulkison. Its passenger was 27-year-old Gregory Goodenough.
That affidavit included statements from a protester about the concurrent incidents — the Jeep driving through the crowd and the discharge of a weapon:
Another witness — Raichle Farrelly — told investigators she was standing next to the man who shot at the Jeep, and that he used an “old-school Wild West gun,” the affidavit states.
“The blood drained from his face, he turned totally pale,” Farrelly said in an interview with FOX31 and Channel 2. “His eyes got really big. He started to tremble.”
She says she helped him unload the rest of his gun, fearing he could hurt himself or someone else.
“So I said to the young man, who I now know is Samuel Young, ‘I think you need to get rid of your bullets,’” Farrelly says. “‘Can you empty your chamber and just get rid of your bullets over the edge here,?’ ‘Cause I was worried he would now, realizing what he had done, either inflict harm on himself, or someone would take the gun off him and shoot him.”
“I can’t say I know what his intention was or whether he was trying to shoot the tire or what, but he was definitely on the side of the protesters, reacting from fear and defense,” she says. “I found out the charges against him are four charges of attempted homicide, and I’m not sure that’s fair. He did strike people, and I’m so glad they’re OK, but I know his intention wasn’t to murder four people on the freeway.”
Uptick in Vehicle Attacks on Protesters During and After George Floyd Protests
The incident in Colorado occurred during an active and ongoing rise in vehicle attacks on protesters in mid-2020. On July 9 2020, USA Today reported:
People running, screaming and shouting words of disbelief. Bodies thrown in the air, lifted onto windshields or trapped under cars and semitrucks. It’s become a horrifying and familiar scene in recent weeks.
Amid thousands of protests nationwide against police brutality, dozens of drivers have plowed into crowds of protesters marching in roadways, raising questions about the drivers’ motivations.
Witnesses, law enforcement and terrorism experts said some of the vehicle incidents appear to be targeted and politically motivated; others appear to be situations in which the driver became frightened or enraged by protesters surrounding their vehicle.
As of July 6 2020, cars had driven into protests at least 66 times since the late May 2020 death of George Floyd and subsequent protests within a span of just 40 days, or 1.7 times per day — killing at least two people:
There have been at least 66 incidents of cars driving into protesters from May 27 to July 6 , including 59 by civilians and seven by law enforcement, according to Ari Weil, a terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats. Weil began tracking the incidents as protests sprung up in the wake of George Floyd’s death in police custody.
Many of the incidents were captured in photos or videos shared on social media: Two New York police vehicles plowed into demonstrators as the crowd pushed a barricade against one of them; a woman in a black SUV drove through a crowd in Denver; a Detroit police vehicle accelerated away with a man flailing on the hood.
[In early July 2020], drivers struck protesters in Bloomington, Indiana, and Huntington Station, New York. Similar scenes played out in Los Angeles, Boston, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Tallahassee, Florida, and San Jose, California.
Counterterrorism expert Daniel Bynam described the incidents as “a meme in white supremacy circles,” and the subject of “a lot of kidding-not-kidding sort of humor … which is the modern white supremacist world.” Lorenzo Vidino, director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, told USA Today that deliberately attacking pedestrians with a vehicle rose in popularity among extremists between 2014 and 2017.
In 2018, the death of a protester rammed by a vehicle in Charlottesville served as a tipping point because of widespread coverage and attention:
The vehicular attacks have been “the trademark of the affiliated wannabes that are at times extremely deadly,” he said. The tactic is cheap and doesn’t take much coordination or organizational support. It’s also “camera-friendly,” Vidino said.
“The Charlottesville attack, it killed one person, but it stuck in everybody’s mind because you have the spectacle of bodies flying. It’s catchy. And that’s what a lot of extremists pursue. It terrorized people,” he said.
It is true that a protester was arrested and charged with discharging a gun at Jeep after its driver drove into an active protest; two fellow protesters were shot. The post inaccurately and dangerously described the preceding incident as inherently justified, leaving out the fact the driver was also taken into custody. No charges against the driver have yet been filed. Finally, in the forty days between George Floyd’s death and July 6 2020, there were at least 66 incidents of drivers intentionally driving into crowds of protests, striking and killing at least two people.