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Driver rams into Native American parade in US city, injuries at least 15

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police section off the site where an SUV came to an abrupt stop after Jeff Irving (L) drove through the parade route of the Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration (Combination photo of AP and New Mexico State Police)

A New Mexico man driving under the influence has rammed into a parade celebrating Native American culture in the western part of the US state, leaving at least 15 people injured.

Media reports said Jeff Irving drove his SUV through the parade route in downtown Gallup on Thursday shortly after the commencement of the nighttime ceremony, which served as the kick-off event for the 10-day Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration.

As the vehicle sped near the parade, videos on social media showed people yelling for others to get out of the way and some pushing parade-goers to safety.

The videos showed children performing traditional dances to be among the first to have seen the SUV heading toward them. They ran to the side amid screams and others scrambling to get out of the way.

The images also showed blankets, shoes, banners and umbrellas left strewn along the street and on the sidewalks as people fled.

The state officials in New Mexico and court documents said Irving was arrested late Thursday and faces 21 charges that include aggravated driving while intoxicated, fleeing from officers and injuring parade-goers and two Gallup police officers who tried to stop the vehicle.

Court records said the 33-year-old’s blood-alcohol content was diagnosed three times the legal limit for driving, with police underlining that his license had been revoked or suspended for another drunken driving charge and the SUV had no registration or insurance.

In a statement, New Mexico State Police said that investigators found no reason to suspect the crime was motivated by hate as no one was killed and that the people who were hurt, including the police officers, suffered mostly minor injuries during the parade.

New Mexico has long had a driving while impaired rate above the US national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nighttime parade is a ceremonial celebration which was founded in 1922 as a way for traders to showcase the culture and art of Native American tribes in the region.

People travel to Gallup from the vast Navajo Nation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and from other tribal reservations to attend the parades and events.

A daytime parade will go on as planned on August 13, with other events that include dances, rodeos and a juried art show.

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