How a woman's vehicle ended up on fire in Lansing during police brutality protest
LANSING — The majority of the violence and destruction in downtown Lansing Sunday night began with the smashing and burning of a woman's vehicle.
What led to the vehicle being left empty in downtown Lansing, just south of the roundabout on Michigan Avenue and Washington Square, is not clear, even to police.
Although 16 people were arrested Sunday night by Michigan State Police and Lansing police, the woman in the vehicle was not one of them, MSP Lt. Brian Oleksyk said.
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Police have received conflicting stories about what happened, and they're still trying to piece together the truth, Oleksyk said.
The woman, who the State Journal is not naming because she has not been charged with a crime, reached out Sunday on Facebook messenger to share her side of the story. She was not able to be reached Monday.
Here's what we know so far:
Did the woman run over protesters?
It's unclear. Both MSP and LPD said they have not received reports of anyone being struck by a vehicle during or after the protest.
Witness Britton Collier caught part of the incident on camera. The video shows the driver of a vehicle honking repeatedly as the car moves through a group of protesters. It does not appear that anyone was hit. Several people were shown jumping to the side as the vehicle passed.
The driver backed up several feet, then went forward again and continued honking.
It is not shown in the video, but Collier said the woman nearly struck him and a friend at one point
A group of protesters tried to form a blockade in front of the woman's vehicle before she drove in reverse, Collier said. After that, she "accelerated rather quickly" and drove forward.
Protesters were punching and kicking the vehicle, and were throwing water bottles at it, Collier said.
Another witness, Michigan State University student Evan Morton, said he and a friend were almost hit by the woman's vehicle. Morton said he pulled his friend out of the way once he saw people scattering toward the sidewalks.
He said the vehicle was right next to them, "about to hit us." The woman kept driving, he said, and she was surrounded by a group of protesters on Washington Square, just south of Michigan Avenue.
Morton said he was not hurt, just shaken up. He said he does not believe anyone was hit.
A journalist at Michigan Advance, Anna Liz Nichols, who Monday joined the Associated Press, tweeted a video that showed MSP troopers surrounding the woman's car, keeping protesters away from it. Nichols wrote she was almost run over by the vehicle.
Was she arrested?
No. Both Oleksyk and Lansing Police Department Public Information Director Robert Merritt said the woman was not arrested.
Merritt said a group of protesters tried to assault the driver and when MSP bicycle troopers surrounded her vehicle, protesters threw bottles and rocks at them.
Troopers pulled the woman from her car because they feared if they left her, she would be attacked, Oleksyk said.
Although photos show the woman being walked away from her vehicle with her hands behind her back, she was not under arrest at that time, Oleksyk said. She was not handcuffed.
"This woman was escorted from the scene in this manner due to nature of the incident at hand and the trooper did not know what he was dealing with initially," Oleksyk said in an email. "We received reports that (the) woman may have had a gun and to get her out the of area quickly and in a safe manner he is holding onto her hands behind her back for safety as she was escorted to a safe place."
The woman did not end up having a gun.
Oleksyk said without witnesses or victims coming to the police, they are not able to complete a report or an investigation. A report has been made and troopers are waiting for further contact with the driver.
What led to the car catching fire?
Once the woman was taken out of the vehicle, protesters began to kick and smash and beat on it.
They broke the windows out, smashed the windshield, picked through the glove compartment and flipped the vehicle over before setting it on fire.
Contact reporter Kara Berg at 517-377-1113 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @karaberg95.