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News / Clark County News

Charges dropped in case against pickup driver accused in 2017 Patriot Prayer rally aftermath

By Jerzy Shedlock, Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published: September 18, 2019, 2:34pm

Clark County prosecutors dropped misdemeanor charges Tuesday against a man accused of nearly hitting protesters after a Patriot Prayer gathering in downtown Vancouver in summer 2017.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor James Smith wrote in a motion and order for dismissal, signed by a Clark County District Court judge, that the charges against William Donald “Billy” Wilson, 33, of Portland, should be dismissed without prejudice due to “the interest of justice and the complaining witness’ desire not to testify.”

Wilson originally faced two counts each of reckless endangerment and reckless driving in connection with an incident that happened after a rally organized by the far-right activist group Patriot Prayer near the Vancouver waterfront on Sept. 10, 2017.

Wilson — driving a lifted, black Chevrolet Silverado pickup adorned with two American flags — exchanged taunts with a crowd of protesters along Columbia Street, near the entrance to the Vancouver Convention Center, according to police reports, video of the event and multiple media outlets at the scene.

Wilson repeatedly sounded his truck’s horn, which played a strain of “Dixie,” and some protesters blocked and struck the vehicle, shouting at Wilson. One hit Wilson with a water bottle, chucked through his open driver’s-side window, as visible in video from the event. Wilson reversed his truck and fled as the crowd scattered.

Shortly after, Wilson turned back around to Sixth Street, where he stopped behind other vehicles waiting at a red light, heading east. Some in the crowd tossed rocks and water bottles at the pickup, according to witnesses, a reporter from The Columbian, other journalists at the scene and police reports.

Wilson then drove around three vehicles waiting in front of him and accelerated through the Washington Street light at Sixth Street. One woman, who was in the empty westbound lane photographing a motorcyclist stopped at the light, had to dive out of the pickup’s way, according to witnesses, video of the event and a freelance photographer there.

The state amended the charges against Wilson in August to two counts of reckless driving following more than a year of motions and hearings.

An attorney representing the photographer who allegedly dodged Wilson’s truck wrote in an email dated Sept. 16 that the woman would not voluntarily provide photos for trial or appear in court. The woman “does not wish to be called as a witness or otherwise participate in these proceedings,” the email says.

Wilson’s attorney, Angus Lee, said the photographer’s desire not to testify amounts to nothing.

“Fortunately for Mr. Wilson, there were a lot of people taking video that day. And when you look at all of the video, not just what was released on social media by political partisans at the outset of the incident … it shows that he did what any reasonable and prudent person would do when attacked by a mob of people,” Lee said.

If the case had gone to trial, Lee said he intended to present 31 videos of the day in question. One such video showed Wilson’s truck was not as close to the photographer as claimed, he said. Further, the defense attorney said he would have argued that Wilson was acting in self-defense.

“We all have the right to defend ourselves, and one way that we do that is by fleeing those who mean to do us harm,” Lee said.

The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter