Protester dies after being hit by car during Wednesday’s march

Local News

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man who was hit by a car while protesting Wednesday night has died, Bakersfield Police confirms.

Robert Forbes, 55, was on California Avenue and Oak Street on June 3rd around 10:23 p.m. when he was struck—an incident caught on video and shared widely on social media.

According to his family, Forbes was brought to Kern Medical Center, where he remained in critical condition for three days. He died Saturday morning.

“I think the driver hitting him was intentional,” said Forbes’ sister Espinola Parker.

This is where some witnesses and police have different accounts of what happened.

“When we got to Oak and California, everybody was marching. (Forbes) went to the sidewalk and got on his knees,” recalled Jay G, a witness to the collision. “Next thing you know, we all hear a car, and we all look, it’s a car with its lights off that hits him.”

However, Bakersfield Police sergeant Nathan McCauley, disputes Jay’s account, saying, “(Forbes) was in the roadway at the time he was struck… To address for the rumors, the driver’s headlights are clearly on.”

In Jay’s video, officers ask the driver to put his hands on his head, and he complies. But at no point in the video do officers handcuff him. Jay said officers allowed the driver to smoke a cigarette peacefully while shielding him from protesters.

This has been a point of outrage for many on social media.

“It shouldn’t take that long to get a man who just admitted in front of everybody, even to the cops, ‘I did it. I hit this man. I didn’t see him. Accident or not, I hit him.’ So why wasn’t he detained? Why was he able to smoke a cigarette?” Jay said.

Parker added, “I hope (my brother) gets his justice. I hope an arrest comes because this guy is smirking while he’s smoking his cigarette, not realizing he killed a man here that somebody loved, somebody cared for, somebody’s son.”

“It’s not a practice of the biggest police department, or any law-enforcement agency that I’m aware of, to handcuff and put people in patrol cars that are involved in traffic collisions,” Sergeant McCauley said.

In an intial statement Thursday, BPD said in part quote, “There was no report of the driver accelerating or making movements to indicate he was targeting the pedestrian… At this time, the primary collision factor appears to be the pedestrian walking in the roadway outside of a crosswalk.”

Officers added that they ruled out speed, drugs, and alcohol, so they released the driver the night of the collision.

Sergeant McCauley clarified, “The investigation is open. It has never been closed despite rumors that say that.”

“I just hope everybody that knows anything about this case comes forward with it,” Espinola said, “because if not, just like with George Floyd’s case, it’s going to keep being this way.”

Here is BPD’s full statement from Saturday night, where they answered answer questions on the investigation.

Sergeant McCauley said officers were on scene within minutes of the collision. He said drivers involved in traffic collisions are not placed in handcuffs unless they are trying to flee or if officers believe the collision was intentional. He said it is not common practice in law enforcement to place drivers involved in collisions to be handcuffed.

McCauley said the driver was interviewed, and there was no evidence of impairment at the time of the collision.

Police also released video it received from a witness. The collision happens at around 2:44 in the video below near the center median on the left-hand side of the screen.

Forbes is survived by his mother, two sisters, and two brothers.

A GoFundMe has been set up by a local attorney to help the family with funeral expenses.


UPDATE (June 7, 2020): Bakersfield police released more video from the incident where Forbes was struck by a vehicle.

Bakersfield police shared video of two angles from the intersection at California Avenue and Oak Street showing the Acura that eventually struck Forbes. Police say the video evidence shows the vehicle was going at about 43 mph before the collision.

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