Madison police said Thursday night they have arrested a man in a hit-and-run Downtown early Sunday morning that an activist group called a "hate crime."
Police said they arrested Brendan J Oneil on a tentative charge of hit-and-run causing injury.
Oneil was no longer in the Dane County Jail on Friday morning and police released no further details.
Oneil allegedly drove his pickup truck into a crowd in the area of North Frances Street and University Avenue about 2:25 a.m. Sunday, injuring one person.
Video of the immediate aftermath of the hit-and-run showed police briefly deploying pepper spray as a crowd of people milled about and at least one person moved aggressively toward an officer trying to clear the area so emergency responders could attend to the victim.
A group active in organizing protests in Madison in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last month called the Sunday morning incident a “hate crime” on its Facebook page. Urban Triage alleged “a white supremacist intentionally hit” the woman.
Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said police had no information that the crowd at Frances and University was “an organized protest, and this is an area where we can see larger bar-time crowds during this time frame.”
On Monday, as word of the incident circulated online and some questioned the police’s response, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway released a statement asking police “to release any video of the incident, and to share a timeline of events.”
“I fully support hate crime charges when they are warranted,” she said. “My thoughts are with the victim and their family, as well as my wishes for a speedy recovery.”
Acting Police Chief Vic Wahl said one officer used pepper spray on one person after that person made physical contact with another officer. Throughout the incident — which comes amid local and national protests against what demonstrators see as police brutality and systemic racism — Wahl said many in the crowd refused to give police room and lobbed verbal abuse at officers.
“It was a remarkably difficult situation,” he said. “The officers did a good job of being able to de-escalate and engage people in the crowd.”
He said he’s heard reports that just prior to the truck driving into the crowd, people were threatening the driver, although the investigation is not completed. He said police did not release video of the truck striking the woman because the investigation is ongoing.
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