MEDFORD, Ore. — An incident during a "Black Lives Matter" protest in Medford last month involving the Mayor of Phoenix will not result in any criminal charges, according to the Jackson County District Attorney's office.
Following a demonstration in downtown Medford on June 1 where a large group gathered to call for justice following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some participants began marching through downtown Medford to the area near Main Street and Central Avenue. In most areas, traffic had not been halted by Medford Police as demonstrators moved through the streets.
In a video that was later posted to YouTube, a driver identified by protesters as Phoenix Mayor Chris Luz is seen in a yellow car heading down Central Avenue before being blocked, eventually resulting in a confrontation with a small group of people in the street.
At a Phoenix City Council meeting on June 15, a young woman who identified herself as Mikala Johnston stood during the public comment period and accused Phoenix Mayor Chris Luz of striking her with his vehicle. Luz later told NewsWatch 12 that he categorically denied hitting anyone with his car.
Medford Police confirmed that both Johnston and Luz had reported aspects of the incident — Luz on June 1, and Johnston on June 16.
On Friday, District Attorney Beth Heckert issued a statement summarizing the subsequent investigation, referencing the YouTube video that appeared to show the incident in question.
"On the video you can clearly see Ms. Johnston is obstructing traffic, along with many other protesters. The video clearly shows the vehicles front quarter panel brushes past her hip and the driver's side mirror also brushes past her hip; however, you are unable to tell if any actual contact occurs," the DA's office said. "Ms. Johnston does not appear to react in any way to indicate she is injured."
A detective who interviewed Luz about his own report, which complained of a protester jumping on the hood of his car, concluded that Luz had been focused on the crowds and the person who jumped on his car, and "was not aware that his car brushed [Johnston]."
"Oregon law states a driver commits the crime of failure to perform duties of driver to injured persons if they have been in an accident that results in injury and failed to remain at the scene of the accident until they have exchanged information," the DA's office said. "In this case, due to the limited, if any, contact between Ms. Johnston and the vehicle, Oregon law would not require the driver to stop."
There was no evidence indicating that Luz knew or should have known that he injured anyone, the DA's office concluded.
Meanwhile, Medford Police submitted reports for possible charges against Johnston — including Disorderly Conduct II, Riot, and Criminal Mischief III.
"Although the evidence supports a charge of disorderly conduct against Mikala Johnston, many people during the protest were obstructing traffic," the DA's office concluded. "To isolate and charge only Mikala Johnston, or others who were identified through this investigation, is not appropriate."
The DA's office praised Medford Police for its handling of the June 1 protest. Several people have been charged for allegedly brandishing weapons at this and other local protests.
Mayor Luz released a statement on Friday afternoon, thanking the DA's office for its "thorough and independent review" of the incident.
"While it’s been difficult to sit on the sidelines during the review process, ultimately, I believed the facts and supporting video would clear me from any wrongdoing as I was returning to work after getting an oil change on June 1st," Luz said. "I also would like to thank everyone who has reached out to me with their support. It has been very appreciated.
"Peaceful protests are essential for our democracy and I fully support residents speaking out against racism and hatred. It’s time to put this situation behind us and work together to build a stronger community for all our citizens."