The driver of a truck who sped through a crowd of protesters in downtown Vancouver on Sunday said that he was trying to leave the situation and had no intention of harming anyone.
Bill Wilson, 31, of Portland said that he was in the area because a friend had told him that the event was a flag rally meant to raise money for those affected by fires in Oregon and Washington.
The rally, called the Peaceful Vancouver Freedom March, was put on by local conservative activist Joey Gibson and his Patriot Prayer group.
In a video posted to his Facebook page, where Gibson announced the rally would move from Portland to Vancouver, he asked eventgoers to bring donations for fire victims.
Wilson said that he was running late when he arrived in Vancouver, but said he never made it to the rally. He was only in town for about 15 minutes and never got out of his pickup, he said.
Immediately after taking the City Center exit from Interstate 5, Wilson said he ran into antifa protesters, who were among the counterprotesters that converged on the rally.
“I ran right into the crowd of people,” Wilson said. “They’re throwing whatever they can throw, water bottles, sticks, anything … it scared the crap out of me.”
In a video taken at the scene, Wilson’s black, lifted Chevrolet Silverado with two American flags flying from its hood is seen reversing down Columbia Street, which was crowded with demonstrators.
“I tried to go back in the direction I came in at,” he said. “I was very much afraid for my safety.”
Wilson said he exchanged some words with some protesters, and called one a little boy. He then sped down Sixth Street, a move Wilson said was an attempt to get out of the altercation. His vehicle was damaged by the incident, Wilson said.
“I waited for the right opportunity to remove myself from the situation,” he said. “I had no intention to hurt anybody.”
A Vancouver police officer stopped Wilson at the corner of Sixth and Washington streets. He was detained but later released without being arrested.
Vancouver police officers are completing their investigation and once they do, they will forward their reports to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review of charges.
More than 1,500 people have signed an online petition to have Wilson face a charge of attempted vehicular homicide.
Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik said that the petitions don’t have any effect on the charging decision.
“We make our decision based on the facts and the law, and that’s what we’ll do in this case once we get a completed investigation,” Golik said.
Wilson said that fact makes him nervous. He has a wife and kids and is the sole provider for his household.
He said he can see how those who watch the video of the incident may equate the situation to what happened in Charlottesville, Va., last month where a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters and killed a woman.
“I get it, but it’s nowhere near the same,” Wilson said. “I had no intention of harming anybody. I would never harm anybody. … I couldn’t disagree with somebody enough to hurt them.”