Sad Truth: We’ll Never Know What Happened to Susanna Schick

It’s been two weeks since the LAPD closed their investigation into the April 6th bicycle crash that left Susanna Schick hospitalized with broken ribs, concussions and other  injuries.  Schick claims that the driver of a white Lexus ran her down from behind in the late night crash.  The LAPD claims she fell off her bicycle.  The police basically refused to investigate the crash, despite press reports promising a thorough investigation, and because Schick claims a hit and run, there will likely never be true resolution to the crash.

Streetsblog called out the LAPD several times for their reaction to the crash.  For posterities sake, here is the timeline of the Schick crash and investigation, readers can draw their own conclusion as to the thoroughness of the investigation.

Schick (left) and a friend build a bicycle to be given to children at Christmas in 2011. Photo: Net Impact Los Angeles

April 6At 11:30 at night, Susanna Schick is biking down the Green Street Buffered Bike Lane.  Schick claims she was struck intentionally by a Lexus following an altercation at the stop light at 4th Street.  Schick reported that the driver crossed several lanes of traffic to enter the green street buffered bike lane between 2nd and 3rd street.  When Schick confronted the driver at the next intersection, the driver rolled up his window at 4th Street.  Between 4th and 5th street, the driver ran her down.  While Schick passed out, a good samaritan called 911 and then returned her bike to her residence.

April 6-9Outraged cyclists demand to know where the LAPD was in all of this?  The media runs with Schick’s version of events announcing a hit and run crash in Downtown Los Angeles.  An L.A. Times reporter calls the LAPD who is completely unaware of what is going on.

April 9LAPD officers visit Susanna Schick in the hospital to take her statement on the crash.  A police report is created.

April 10 – The LAPD releases their explanation of what happened the previous Friday.  Two LAPD officers “witnessed” the entire incident between the Schick and the driver.  There was no crash between the two vehicles, so a police report was never filed.  The LAPD’s version of the crash on April 10 was that a car pulled out of a garage, crossed three lanes of traffic and the buffered area into the bike lane but did not hit Susanna Schick.  At 4th street traffic light, Schick attacked the car and yelled at the people inside who rolled up their windows and drove away.  Susanna Schick then fell off her bike sometime in the next block.

Jennifer Beatty, who served as a spokesperson for the Schick family, compared the damage to Schick’s bicycle to a “bike taco.”  It was the LAPD officers on the scene who returned the bicycle to Schick’s residence.  They reported no damage to the bicycle.  The LAPD also reports that Schick admitted there was no collision between her and the Lexus.  Via twitter, Schick continues to claim there was a hit and run.

April 12 – Responding to criticism that their version of the crash defied common sense, the LAPD promises an “exhaustive” investigation into the crash while continuing to claim there was no hit and run.  When pressed about how her injuries could be so dramatic from falling off her bicycle, the LAPD claims she was going in excess of thirty miles per hour.  The speed reader on Schick’s bike clocked her at eighteen miles per hour.

April 25Blog Downtown follows up with the LAPD abou the state of their investigation.  Captain Horace Frank reports that officers clocker her going thirty miles per hour, there was no contact between car and bike, and that the bike is completely undamaged.  Later, Schick explains that she doesn’t remember the crash but that she believes she was struck because of the nature of her injuries.  She repeats that she wasn’t going thirty or thirty five miles per hour.

Confused by the report in Blog Downtown, Streetsblog emails Captain Frank to find out how the LAPD investigated the crash after the fact and how it explains some of the differences between their version of events and Schick’s version of events.  Streetsblog sent the following four questions:

1) Have an LAPD officers besides the two at the scene at the night of the crash looked at Schick’s bicycle to asses whether there was damage to the rear tire?
2) How does the LAPD account for the differences in the estimated speed from the officers on the scene and the speed recorded on Schick’s Cycle Meter (a
3) The city’s “bicycle anti-harassment ordinance” provides an avenue for cyclists to take a vehicle driver to court if their actions endangered the cyclist.  Did the officers on the scene consider whether or not the altercation with the car driver and passenger contributed to the crash?
4) Did the officers on the scene consider ticketing the driver for clearly driving inside a buffered bike lane that led to the altercation?  If not, why not?

May 4 - Streetsblog re-sent their questions to Captain Frank

May 5 - Frank responds with a statement that contradicts many previous statements from the LAPD as reported in the press, but still concludes that Schick fell off her bicycle.  In full, his response reads:

We have closed this investigation. There has been no evidence to support a crime. All indications are that she fell off her bike. The officers did not witness any altercation between Ms. Schick and the motorist. She is the one who reported the verbal altercation. The officers did not witness the vehicle cut her off so they could not issue the driver. A ticket. The speeds were estimate based on the officers pacing her and based on her own statements. If you require additional information beyond this, you can contact the Department’s Media Relations Section. Thank you.

In short, the “exhaustive investigation” promised on April 12 included previous conversations with Schick and talking to the officers on the scene.  Nobody has looked at the bicycle except the two officers on the scene.  There was no attempt to even explain why a speedometer and officers “pacing’ Schick posted wildly different speeds.  Most amazingly, despite earlier reports that there was an altercation between Schick and the driver that included details such as what parts of the car Schick struck and the drivers rolling up the window and that officers saw “the whole incident;” according to Frank the officers on the scene didn’t witness any altercation between Schick and the driver.

We’ll probably never know what actually happened between Schick and the Lexus driver with 100% certainty.  While Schick’s missing memory is common for these kinds of crashes, the LAPD’s account of the crash has left many cyclists scratching their heads as well.

Personally, the LAPD’s shifting stories and defensiveness make me feel as though the cops on the scene missed the bulk of the incident, but after the media coverage they closed ranks to defend their original story.  This has happened before with bike crashes including the ridiculous reporting of the 2009 incident where a hummer ran down Andres Tena and dragged his bicycle and the police wanted to charge Tena’s friends for damage to the hummer’s side mirrors, the 2010 incident where they refused to investigate the hit and run of Ed Magos until shamed into it by the media after they accidentally released a press statement mis-stating what a hit and run crash is or the 2011 incident where they blamed a group of Midnight Ridazz when a woman slammed into thirty bicycles with lights on at two thirty in the morning.

Next year, when the LAPD does it’s annual bungling of a high profile hit and run crash, we’ll be able to add the “2012 case of the LAPD claiming a woman accelerated to thirty miles per hour in half a block and fell off her bicycle for no reason” to the hall of shame.