In the early morning hours of June 15, a group of Midnight Ridazz were waiting in the parking lane or slowly moving through and away from the intersection of Jefferson and Hetzler near the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook when a driver plowed into the group at 45 miles per hour. The LAPD arrived on the scene and went to work covering up for the driver and lecturing the bicyclists about safe cycling as ambulances carted away victims. Many went to the hospital, a handful required surgery, at least one was in a coma.
Thank goodness the crash occured just inside Culver City limits so a police officer who had more on his mind than “these cyclists deserve this” was in charge of the investigation. Yesterday, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County announced that Christine Dahab is charged with felony DUI for her actions causing sever physical and emotional distress due to negligent driving. Dahab will faces those charges at a December 22 hearing at the Los Angeles Airport Courthouse.
Culver City Patch reports:
Dahab was formally charged by the Los Angeles District Attorney last month with “violating California Vehicle Code Section 23153 (A) [Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol causing injury], and California Vehicle Code Section 23153 (B) [Driving while Intoxicated above a .08 blood alcohol content, causing injury].”
Because of the initial reports and the length of time between the crash and the D.A.’s decision, many cyclists were worried that Dahab was going to walk away from the crash without facing charges of any kind. That the D.A. filed more-serious felony charges instead of misdemeanor charges was something of a surprise.
The horrific nature of the crash and the Keystone Kops response by the LAPD. Even as bodies were being loaded into the ambulance, the officer on the scene was saying that he couldn’t tell if Dahab was speeding at the time of the crash, that her blood alcohol level was below legal limits, that there was a blind turn she was going around, and that the Ridazz must have been at fault because there were condoms and beer bottles at the top of a nearby scenic overlook. These claims were demolished and enraged a bicycle advocacy community that was already emotional as first-hand witnesses of the crash were posting their stories on websites such Bikeside, Midnight Ridazz, Streetsblog and YouTube.
Meanwhile, ABC7 earned the enmity of bicyclists the world-around by mindlessly repeating these claims without a shred of analysis. The network tried to make up for this horrendous “reporting” by sending a different reporter to a press conference hosted by cyclists on the event, but that didn’t stop Roadblock from confronting the reporter, Elex Michaelson at Occupy L.A. last month. Of course, that there were condom and empty drink containers somewhere near the crash site is completely irrelevent.
The crash and the LAPD’s attempted cover-up spawned a peaceful, grassroots, advocacy campaign. A team of bicyclists organized a press event on the steps of City Hall to bring attention to the crash. Critical Mass, escorted by the LAPD, visited the hospitals where the victims still lay 10 days after the crash. Roadblock and other Ridazz proved that the there is now way a driver paying even a scintilla of attention to the road could have missed the pack of Ridazz. Independent media such as Bike Talks TV, Bikeside and Streetsblog unearthed more stories on the crash, including that Dahab blew a .07 blood alcohol level at the crash site, that Culver City was aware of how dangerous the crash intersection is, and that crash witnesses were telling a very different story and that crash witnesses were telling a very different story than the police.
Of course, all of this mess would have been avoided if Dahab was paying attention to the road or someone had talked to her about the dangers of social drinking before it’s too late.
Streetsblog will report on the hearing on the 22nd.