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: ##http://netimpactlosangeles.org/2011-net-impact-conference-experience-portlandia/##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.

  • Cameras on bikes everywhere. Maybe we need a kickstarter for this.

  • Thank you for this, Damien. You said a lot of what I felt, but was reluctant to put into words. 

    It’s possible that the LAPD has conducted a full, fair and impartial investigation into this case. If so, they’ve done a horrible job of communicating it. As you note, it seems far more likely that they’ve simply circled the wagons and done their best to make this case go away, at the expense of the victim.

    Worse, the department’s piecemeal release of demonstrably false information only contributes to conspiracy theories. Because I know at least part of what they’ve told us is wrong, I question whether any of what they’ve said is true. 

    And it makes at least some people wonder just what they’re trying to hide; I’ve heard from a number of people who’ve questioned whether it was the police vehicle itself that hit Susanna Schick, and they’re just trying to cover it up.

    Chances are, we’ll never know — not what actually happened, and not whether it was investigated as thoroughly as the police claim.

    The LAPD and L.A. cycling community have worked very hard over the past several years to develop a level of trust. Speaking strictly for myself, I now find that trust shattered, and wonder if the department will be there for me if and when I need them.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t it physically impossible for Schick to have been going 30 mph? 
    Does LAPD know  the identity of the Driver and/or Owner of the Lexus and is this available through FOIA?

  • Anonymous *this time*

    20th anniversary of the riots, and ta daaa, the LAPD has not changed. Color me utterly unsurprised. 

  • Anonymous

    The stats are sooooo discouraging. One drunk guy in Green Bay runs down a cyclist and kills him and gets away with a fine. Another drunk guy runs down a cyclist and kills him and goes to prison. Guess which one was rich? Now we get to see how the latest case here ends up-rich guy, 11:30 am, empty road, dead cyclist. “failure to yield” indeed.

  • FWIW, I’m going to do my best to get past the frustration of this incident by looking at the happier truth that this wasn’t a complete tragedy. Susanna survived the crash, can recover from her physical injuries and will hopefully surmount any of the understandable pscyhological hesitation to ride again.

  • Jumbo Shramp

    I think an apology to the LAPD is in order from this blog, from Beatty, and from the rest of the bike community that jumped to conclusions on this one. If Shick’s bike was so thrashed, we would have seen pictures of it online – as the weight of that evidence would show that she was hit by a vehicle.

    It is no surprise that our outrage at shoddy police work is on a hair trigger, but we need to give credit where it is due. The LAPD was there to help scrape this woman off the ground when after she fell off her bike.

  • Sgt. David Krumer

    There is only so much I can disclose in a public forum on this case without compromising Susanna’s confidentiality.

    I totally understand the cycling communities desire to know what happened. And I understand that many feel entitled to answers…but only Susanna is legally entitled to the answers and it is entirely her decision what she wants to make public. She can request a copy of the report and evaluate the evidence that lead the Department to conclude that no collision took place.

    Unfortunately the Departments reluctance to be more forthcoming with information is being perceived as a tacit acknowledgement of wrongdoing, or worse…an intentional attempt to suppress unfavorable information. This is not the case and I actively encourage you to seek the answers as I am confident based on what I reviewed that the Departmnt acted appropriately. The source of that info however must be Susanna.

  • Anonymous

    If Susanna had died who would be responsible for releasing the information on the case? I’m not with these guys, I’m just genuinely curious.

    I would guess the parents or the spouse (if applicable). Did I just answer my own question?

  • Sgt. David Krumer

    Whoever would be the executor of her estate…usually spouse or next of kin. Yep, you answered your own question, but if god forbid she had died I do not believe confidentiality would be an issue and we might be able to disclose more details.

  • Abstractmachine

    You keep avoiding the issue of the police claiming that she was riding at Olympic speeds of 30-35mph down town between stop lights.

    How is suzanna’s privacy compromised by commenting on the veracity of lapd officers public statements?

    The obvious absurdity of this claim is at the heart of what makes LAPDs “findings” seem suspect to many of us.

  • PakanaBMXr

    I have been hit by a vehicle on my bike. And it knocked me down hard. However no visible damage was done to my bike either. But that doesn’t mean it never happened. Believe it or not, their are people that have it out for cyclist. I’ve had people try and run my off the road onto sidewalks, even had another vehicle drive on the sidewalk and attempted to run me down.

    No apology is needed to any LAPD. If they witness the whole thing, then why wouldn’t they go after the driver, simply for reckless driving.

  • Udit

    this whole thing is a hot mess; why is there no picture of the bike; why isn’t the bike rider being public now … i think that the whle thing was made up and that the girl fell down on her bike after engaging in a screaming match with a perfect stranger.

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