2 people to be charged in incidents where vehicles drove into groups of protesters

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

A silver SUV approaches protesters and makeshift barricades at North Park and Massachusetts streets on June 29, 2020.

Two people are set to be charged with misdemeanors in incidents where vehicles were recorded driving into groups of protesters on Massachusetts Street, court records show.

As the Journal-World has reported, in an incident on May 31, a woman accelerated a green SUV into protesters occupying the intersection of 11th and Massachusetts streets during a solidarity march against police brutality. On June 29, another woman drove a silver SUV through protesters’ makeshift barricades and into a crowd of people on Massachusetts Street near South Park.

Both incidents were captured on video, as the Journal-World has reported.

Lynda C. Kitsmiller, of Lawrence, is facing two charges — reckless driving, an unclassified misdemeanor, and battery, a class B misdemeanor — in connection with the May 31 incident. She has been issued a summons, and her first appearance in court is set for Nov. 6.

Mary Ellen Rose, of Baldwin City, has been issued a summons in a traffic case in connection with the June 29 incident. She is charged with reckless driving, and she is scheduled for a first appearance in court on Dec. 18.

The reckless driving charge in both cases alleges that the defendants operated a motor vehicle “with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

The Journal-World has also reported that between June and July, at least three other individuals were charged with felonies — aggravated battery or attempted aggravated battery — for allegedly using vehicles to injure someone in incidents that were not related to protests. The alleged victims in those cases suffered injuries ranging from minor scratches and bruising to being rendered unconscious, Dorothy Kliem, trial assistant for the Douglas County district attorney’s office, said via email recently.

photo by: Nick Gerik/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from May 31, 2020, demonstrators marching against police brutality scramble as an SUV, obscured in center background, quickly accelerates through the crowd just south of the intersection at 11th and Massachusetts streets.

At the May 31 march, one person was injured near 11th and Massachusetts streets when a car quickly accelerated through a group of marchers that was attempting to redirect the vehicle, the Journal-World reported. The person did not appear to suffer significant injuries and was able to leave on their own, according to a registered nurse at the scene who helped treat the person’s injuries. Lawrence police said at the time that one person suffered minor injuries in the incident but declined help from medics and did not want to speak with law enforcement at the scene.

Kliem explained via email Tuesday that the charges of battery and aggravated battery are separated by the degrees of harm caused by the physical contact.

“Battery can be as simple as touching done in a rude, angry or insulting manner,” Kliem said. “Aggravated battery requires evidence of injury to the victim (ranging) from great bodily harm, disfigurement or death.”

Kliem said that in Rose’s case, no alleged victims came forward to support any charges other than reckless driving.

Under state statute, a defendant convicted of reckless driving for the first time “shall be sentenced to not less than five days nor more than 90 days imprisonment or fined not less than $25 nor more than $500, or both such fine and imprisonment.”

If convicted of a class B misdemeanor, a defendant could face up to six months in the county jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.

On the other hand, if convicted of aggravated battery as a level-7 felony, a defendant could face anything from two years of probation to just short of three years in prison, depending on their criminal history. The judge could also impose a fine of up to $100,000.

Christopher Joseph of the Topeka-based law firm Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC has entered an appearance in Rose’s case, court documents show. Reached via email Tuesday, Joseph did not immediately comment on his client’s behalf.

Court records on Tuesday did not yet list an attorney who could comment on Kitsmiller’s behalf.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark:

Related coverage

Oct. 1, 2020: Douglas County DA still mulling charges in cases of motorists driving into protests; staff says other charged cases differ

Aug. 5, 2020: Lawrence police submit investigations into banner found at South Park, people driving vehicles into protesters to DA’s office

July 15, 2020: Protesters call for reforms in Douglas County district attorney’s office, review of former prosecutor’s cases

July 14, 2020: Lawrence police: No updates on investigations of people driving into protests

July 2, 2020: Protesters pack up, vacate Massachusetts Street

July 1, 2020: Judge modifies bond to $500K for murder defendant, who is released the same day after 5 years in jail

June 30, 2020: Lawrence police say investigations are ongoing into vehicle incidents at protests, graphic banner

June 30, 2020: Section of Massachusetts Street occupied by protesters will stay closed ‘at least’ through Wednesday; mayor voices support for protesters

June 29, 2020: Vehicles drive through crowd, 6 demonstrators arrested as protest continues on Massachusetts Street; police barricade road

June 28, 2020: Part of Massachusetts Street closed as protesters set up tents, demand investigation into ‘heinous and racist’ banner

June 27, 2020: Protesters gather in Lawrence after graphic, racist banner is found with letter denouncing Black Lives Matter movement

June 5, 2020: Witnesses hesitant to come forward about people driving through crowds at Lawrence march; police investigating

June 1, 2020: Overall, organizer pleased with Lawrence march against police brutality; incident involving vehicle in crowd under investigation

June 1, 2020: Protesters rally in Lawrence for largely peaceful march against police brutality


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