5th UPDATE, Monday 12:30 PM: Lt. Marshall White, who is in charge of special events for the San Diego Police Department, has shed new light on Saturday’s incident, saying that while there were people dressed as zombies in the intersection where the woman was hit, they were not part of the initial group of ZombieWalkers, which were about four to six blocks ahead of that intersection at the time. The Walk has gone on for seven years previously without incident. This was the 8th year.
The October ZombieWalk that was to take place in the same place in San Diego is now cancelled, according to the group’s FB page, and Lt. White said the organizers told him that they would not be holding a ZombieWalk next year at Comic-Con but would plan a different event instead. That has not yet been addressed on their FB page, and we are awaiting a confirmation from the organizers now, but it appears that no official decision will be made until the investigation is completed. A 64-year-old woman was seriously injured in the incident as a deaf man with his family (also all deaf), drove forward, hitting the woman as they tried to drive through the congested intersection.
Deadline was told by ZombieWalk’s FB page administrator: “No ZombieWalkers were directly involved in the incident, except to help her. We are not making any statements or decisions until the investigation is complete.”
ZombieWalk organizers did not have a permit, but according to White, they didn’t need one because it was a small group that was about one block long and they obeyed traffic signals. Those instructions also were given to the crowd by organizers before the walkers left the park. According to the ZombieWalk FB page, 849 people had RSVP’d; the organizers also posted in advance safety guidelines for the walk, which included warnings “do not block foot or auto traffic.” 849 people is quite a crowd for an intersection, but White said the group wasn’t that large. “I don’t believe that there were that many people dressed as zombies as part of the walk. That’s my observation.”
He added: “I did hear an organizer on the bullhorn saying that everyone was to obey traffic laws and listen to all instructions from police. So that particular intersection at the time of the incident had people dressed as zombies, but they were not part of that walk. It was just on the path where they walked. It may have been part of the residual crowd.”
Therefore, there were no police officers present at that intersection, which was regulated by stop signs. “On any given weekend, there are accidents because of congestion,” White said. “We try to do the best we can to make the city safe. This just happened to occur during Comic-Con at a congested intersection, but it does occur throughout the year.”
For the ZombieWalk, in particular, the SDPD made sure that motorcycle cops were ahead of the walk itself to ensure that walkers had clearance before they arrived. “With events that take place, whether it’s a bicycle ride or other event, they give us the path of the event so we can shoot ahead of where they are going [to] make it as safe as possible for everyone involved and that was the case during this one,” White said.
Although his department is not charged with investigating this incident – that’s being done by the Traffic Division – White emphasized that “the pedestrians that were crossing the street legally have the right of way. For vehicle code and common sense, you cannot use a car to move people out of the way. Never ever can you use a deadly weapon to make a path across a crowd of people. When you are in a busy congested area, you must wait. I do not want to condone people’s impatience in justifying a car to go through a crowd of people.”
Whether marchers need a permit is decided on a case-by-case basis, White said. For instance, for larger crowds — protests and such — when the group is expected to be very large and wouldn’t be able to fit on width of the sidewalk and the current conditions at that point in time, they would have to obtain a permit. In other words, common sense would prevail.
4TH UPDATE, 10:15 AM: Another video has surfaced of the incident, this one heavily annotated and showing much more than any of the previous videos. The creator of this video points out where people were in relation to the car, and a number of people who appear to be standing in the middle of the street and declining to move. About 22 seconds in, someone jumps on the hood of the car. Others cluster around the windows (it’s important to note that many of these people do not appear to be wearing zombie outfits). Here it is:
3RD UPDATE, 2:45 PM SUNDAY: We’ve added at the end of this story several snippets of video posted on YouTube during and just after the incident. They provide some additional sense of the chaos around the event, and give a somewhat better idea of what happened. They are far from definitive, however, and the rest will await the police investigation.
2ND UPDATE, 1:15 PM SUNDAY: And a little more. The organizers of the ZombieWalk officially declined comment regarding the Saturday evening incident, as the event was breaking up, between the costumed crowd of participants and a car filled with a deaf family, an incident that left a 64-year-old woman hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries including a possible broken arm. We’ll continue to update as we get more.
1ST UPDATE, NOON SUNDAY: A little more information, very little, and a lot of heated reaction, are coming out this morning after last night’s incident at the end of the annual San Diego ZombieWalk, when a car with a deaf family in it hit and possibly broke the arm of a woman at the end of the event and a crowd of other ZombieWalkers in costume began beating on the car, panicking the family
A San Diego Comic-Con executive said the event was not directly affiliated with the convention, declined further comment and directed inquiries to the San Diego Police Department. The SDPD watch commander said the department was continuing to investigate, and would have no further comment until Monday. The commander reiterated that the driver of the car was NOT arrested, contrary to reports from some media outlets.
The office of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who had ziplined in the Comic-Con opening ceremonies to help kick off the annual confab, could not be reached in initial calls, and city permitting offices were also closed for the weekend. Meanwhile, the organizers of the ZombieWalk itself posted a series of tweets on the Twitter feed @sdzombiewalk, including several saying they would have no further comment to media, and then to say they wouldn’t comment to anyone else either. Regardless, the incident created the one scary and potentially tragic blemish on what has otherwise been an extremely well run Comic-Con that has attracted tens of thousands of fans.
PREVIOUSLY, July 26: Forget fiction, there was a truly terrifying incident outside Comic-Con this evening. A 64-year-old woman was hospitalized with a possible broken arm after being hit by a car during the annual ZombieWalk, in which people dress as the undead — complete with blood and gore — and stagger down a street. San Diego Police say the driver was a 48-year-old deaf man who had his small children with him. “The entire family in the car was deaf, and they were scared,” SDPD officer David Stafford told Deadline.
At about 5:30PM, the car was stopped at the intersection of 2nd and Island avenues, about a half-mile from the Convention Center, waiting for the marchers to lurch by. The driver told police that his children were frightened by the throng, so after several minutes, he began rolling forward trying to get out of the area. At that point, police said, several people surrounded the car and began beating on it.
“The crowd started punching the windows,” Stafford said. “They even jumped on the hood of the car. They smashed the windshield.” Police say the father drove forward again trying to get away from the angry crowd, and that’s when he struck the woman with the side of his car.
Some in the crowd then chased the car on foot as the family drove toward a policeman down the street, stopping when they reached the officer. Stafford said it was unclear whether the injured woman was a marcher or spectator, or whether she was among those attacking the car. “The crowd was giving the officers a hard time too,” he said. No arrests were made, but Stafford said police are investigating and hope to look at video of the incident. “I’m sure there is video out there about this, and that will be investigated by the traffic division,” he said.
The woman suffered serious but non-life-threatening arm injuries when she fell under the car, Stafford said. She was transferred to an area hospital for treatment.
The ZombieWalk has been a Comic-Con tradition since 2007. More than 500 people took part last year, and a huge number were dressed up for Saturday’s edition, which began at 5PM at 1st and Island. The Walking Dead Zombie Experience is going on at nearby Petco Park, where fans can sign up to be chased by the living dead or be done up in professional-level zombie makeup themselves.
The sheer number of Con attendees is staggering: Crowds in the hundreds of thousands fill the streets over the course of the weekend, and authorities increasingly are guarding crosswalks and monitoring heavy traffic areas. Two years ago at Comic-Con, a woman was hit and killed by a car outside the convention center while heading to line up for a Twilight Saga panel.
The videos from the scene. The first of the YouTube videos below from the scene of the incident is the longest, about 45 seconds, and with somewhat better perspective on the overall scene. It shows a fair amount (and commenters on YouTube have added their own observations of what they think they see in it). But it doesn’t show what was happening at the front of the vehicle or close in. The other two are very close up and chaotic, and begin further into the incident.
Jen Yamato contributed to this report.