BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Black Lives Matter protester was struck by a car June 3 and later died from his injuries. Police questioned the driver who hit him at the scene but declined to detain or arrest him pending an investigation.
Now, some are growing impatient as they await word from BPD. At least two online petitions demanding an arrest have gained traction — and combined they have nearly a quarter-million signatures.
Robert Forbes was hit and killed during a protest march on California Avenue just east of Oak. And after six weeks people are starting to wonder, is there ever going to be an arrest in the case?
Did the driver of the car that hit Forbes that night in the middle of that darkened roadway accelerate as he approached — even as other cars ahead of him were clearly breaking?
That driver, who identified himself as Timothy Kieth Moore by way of a social media apology, since deleted, denies intent.. But half of the witnesses interviewed by police say he did in fact increase his speed.
Though he said he was not interviewed by police, one of those witnesses is Noah Pressley, who started a petition via change.org demanding Moore’s arrest. The petition has nearly 190,000 signatures. A second petition has 50,000.
Pressley, a Bakersfield College student, said he’d met Forbes for the first time that night, just 15 minutes before Forbes was fatally injured.
“I shook his hand because there was a guy that came up and tried causing problems with us and Robert just put up his hands, like this, with a peace sign,” Pressley said. “And (Forbes) was just like, ‘I’m just here to bring peace, man, let’s just talk.’ And the guy just shut his door on him and drove off. Robert just walked away.
“He was a really nice guy. I was really impressed by the way he handled that. Because that guy was super irate and was being really rude and saying some pretty crude things.”
Pressley’s petition asks the mayor of Bakersfield, the city manager and the Kern County Sheriff to push for an arrest. But the Bakersfield Police Department, the only agency that can actually recommend charges to the District Attorney, is still not ready to do so.
BPD spokesman Sgt. Robert Pair told KGET this week that all of the witnesses that were in position to see the incident — with the exception of unidentified or uncooperative protesters — have been interviewed.
He said investigators are still processing electronic data, including social media, in an effort to determine any “intent” or activity that would speak to that possibility.
BPD has said it is aware of the driver’s tattoos, some of which have been associated with white supremacist groups, and Chief Greg Terry has said that too is part of the investigation.
BPD is also pursuing reports that the driver had passengers who ran from the scene after the accident. BPD would like to interview them as well.
Car versus marcher incidents have taken place all over the country since the protests began in late May. A report last month from the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Threats concludes right wing extremists were behind at least 50 of those vehicle ramming incidents.
Eighteen were categorized as deliberate and another two dozen were undetermined or still under investigation.
Timothy Kieth Moore’s case is among the latter but that of 31-year-old Michael Tran would fall among the former.
Tran has been charged with assault with a deadly weapon after allegedly driving through a throng of marchers right in front of the Bakersfield police station May 29, striking one marcher who suffered minor injuries.
But Moore walks a free man as of now, six weeks into a personal and legal limbo somewhere between intentional culpability and tragic innocence. A quarter million petition signers have made clear how they feel about it. But they don’t get a vote.