Finally…. Hit & Run Cycling Victim, Paul Livingston is on the Road to Justice

On June 12, 2011 Paul Livingston, an avid cyclist in the Los Angeles area, rode from Hollywood to the beach as he often did four or five times a week. On his way home, at approximately 6 pm he rode his bicycle through Beverly Hills. Just before City Hall on Santa Monica Boulevard., he was hit from behind by a car.

Paul Livingston (photo: Don Ward)

In that moment, Paul’s life flashed before his eyes as he remembers a LOUD crash, immediately thinking to himself, “Is this really happening to me right now?! Oh —-, this is really happening to me!” For the first twenty seconds, while lying alone on the cement, Paul couldn’t breathe. When he was finally able to take a breath, he realized he couldn’t move the lower portion of his body, but knew he needed to get off the street. Paul used his left arm to pull his torso up onto the curb as he heard a bystander saying, “The girl just took off!”

In that moment, realized the person who hit him was gone.

The last thing Paul remembers that day is being put on a stretcher before he woke up in a hospital bed six days later. He suffered spinal and pelvic fractures. His pelvic bone, broken in half and pushed upwards into his bladder had severed blood vessels causing him to bleed internally. When he was first admitted to the hospital he was hypotensive, which means his organs were shutting down with the lack of blood and his body was going into shock. Paul underwent three abdominal surgeries within the first two days just to stop the bleeding. On the fourth day, the doctors were able to fix his pelvis and then he went through spine surgery only to have pelvic surgery once again to get it back to its original position. Paul also suffered from post-operative infection from the abdominal surgeries. Finally, with his fever gone, he was healthy enough to have his spinal fusion – as a result, Paul is a bit shorter now.

“For the first time I was really excited because I was going to live and I was going to walk again,” Paul tells me as we sit outside his apartment on a sunny Loa Angeles day.

And with a smile, Paul tells me that after three painful months of rehabilitation, he was able to walk again… on his own.

I ask him about the person who hit him, self-identified as Victoria Chin. He tells me that during the time of his recuperation, he had been in touch with the Beverly Hills Police Department to find out what was going on with the woman who hit him and then ran. Apparently, they were dropping the ball on his case as they never even processed her car for evidence. And her explanation for not stopping, as given to the BHPD, “There was no place to park.”

The technical loophole that Victoria Chin falls into is that no one could properly identify her even though the day after the collision she called the BHPD herself. The police officer she spoke to said she had to come in to the police station to turn herself in. She then called back saying she would be in tomorrow. The police officer reminded her to bring her car in for processing. The next day, Chin showed up without her car and with a lawyer. She only admitted to being Victoria Chin refusing to say anything else. Her lawyer asked the police officer if they were going to book his client. BHPD said no. So, the lawyer asked if they were going to arrest his client. BHPD said no.

They let Victoria Chin go. No arrest. No charges.

At the same moment Chin was leaving BHPD headquarters, Paul Livingston is at Cedars Sinai Hospital undergoing surgery after surgery to stop the internal bleeding while in a chemically induced coma.

Shorty after Paul was released from the hospital, his lawyer filed a Civil Lawsuit against Victoria Chin. Chin refused to answer any questions for fear of incriminating herself which would then provoke the District Attorney’s office in Beverly Hills to file a Criminal Lawsuit. This stress weighed on Paul as he thought about how this woman who almost killed him and put him in a wheelchair, was getting away with her crime. Where was the justice?

“What is most difficult is the mental and emotional suffering,” Paul, along with many other cyclists and pedestrians who are hit by cars suffer from PTSD.

He goes on to tell me,“What is so bad about PTSD, what I deal with everyday is this,” He opens his arms to this sunny day he and I are enjoying, “It’s a gorgeous day, the sun is shining like it was on the day that I got hit and then all of sudden, out of nowhere, with no warning or anything, I was fighting for my life. And that’s what I deal with now. The fear that at any moment I could get taken out. The physical stuff is really brutal, but it’s the emotional stuff that really sticks with me.”

After a year of no justice, no action from BHPD, nothing, Paul Livingston was put in touch with Don Ward, a fellow cyclist who was also the victim of a hit & run.

In late august 2012, over a year after the crime, Don Ward wrote about the crash here at Streetsblog and elsewhere informing people about Paul’s situation and called on the cycling community to join them at the Beverly Hills City Council Meeting to draw attention to his case.

For a moment, Paul pauses his story, speechless, he swallows and then tells me that four months later, after the public outcry and the persistency of his lawyer, Otto Haselhoff, the DA of Beverly Hills is finally pressing charges. The helplessness that Paul describes to me, all his suffering, mental and physical anguish, had begun to lift. He quit drinking, started jogging, he was able sleep through the night.

“Knowing that something can be done, that there will be some kind of justice, this changed my life.”

On May 1st at 7:30 am, I ask you to join myself and the community of Los Angeles cyclists as we stand with Paul at the Beverly Hills Courthouse for the preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Victoria Chin as she is being charged with “Felony Hit & Run.”

To this day, Victoria Chin has not apologized to Paul Livingston.

Paul doesn’t ride a bicycle anymore. Although he hopes to get another bicycle, he will only ride on bike paths, never in traffic again as it is way too terrifying. And though he runs a mile and a half every day, Paul lives in constant physical pain.

Paul tells me he is so thankful for his lawyer who did not give up on him. He thanks Don Ward for his motivational blog and the Los Angeles cycling community, especially those who showed up at the Beverly Hills City Hall to bring awareness, for those who said, without knowing him, “I’m here for Paul Livingston.”

Preliminary Trial Information:

Beverly Hills Courthouse

9355 Burton Way

3rd floor

Judge Marsha Revel

7:30 am meet on front steps

  • disgusting.

  • EK Magos

    So glad to hear that Paul is able to walk! His story is so upsetting and it is shocking to me that it took so much effort and time to get the police and city to recognize that he was wronged and pursue justice.

    This line is really touching ” The physical stuff is really brutal, but it’s the emotional stuff that really sticks with me.” To be a victim of a hit-and-run is truly more than a physical injury. The lack of compassion and humanity in leaving someone bleeding in the road adds to the injury.

    I am adding the May 1st court date to my calendar and hope to be there to show support for Paul. Also, Don Ward has been a real blessing to many hit-and-run victims. It is people like him and others who selflessly help out by reintroducing compassion and humanity to victims who have been abandoned and ignored by the justice system.

    I wish Paul the best and hope he can experience continued healing both physically and emotionally.

  • Sirinya Matute

    Sara-

    Thanks for sharing Paul’s story. My heart goes out to him and his struggles. I’m disappointed time and time again in the City of Beverly Hills and their seeming indifference toward prosecuting these crimes.

    Earlier this year, I happened upon a bike water bottle from the City of Beverly Hills at the Beverly/Fairfax Goodwill. Not to make light of Paul’s story. However, my quip at the time to Damien and Juan was, “Well, Beverly HIlls won’t give us bike lanes but here they must’ve told someone, ‘Here, have this water bottle.'”

    I really do challenge Beverly Hills to do more than just give away bike water bottles.

  • Anonymous

    Our culture embraces the notion that any impediment to people being able to travel “at a reasonable speed” trumps any other concern, even in situations where not slowing and being cautious can endanger or kill another human being. We excuse mutilations, horrific injury and death caused by motorists with excuses like “couldn’t stop”, “unable to avoid” and the old stand-by “ran out in front of me” simply because we all want to make sure we don’t get in trouble if we run over someone while we’re hurrying around.

    This is of course not different from poor people supporting low taxes on rich people because they hope they themselves will one day be rich. It mostly never happens and makes circumstances worse for most all of us in the process, winding up a lose-lose for society as a whole.

    just this weekend i was buzzed (less than 6 inches clearance) by a woman who said that she sounded her horn and blasted past me on two-lane residential street, nearly startling me right off my bike, because “there was someone right behind (her) and she couldn’t slow down.” So my life is less important than getting rear ended. Good to know.

    Best Paul, I’ll be there on the 1st.

  • Sprague

    This article illuminated the life altering consequences of a hit-and-run. What a shame that the “justice” system neglected to do its job. If the victim had been the mayor, I imagine more would have been time to charge/prosecute the suspect. Thank you for sharing the story.

  • Anonymous

    This is much a testament to Livingston’s remarkable resilience as it is to Beverly Hills’ shameful disregard to cyclist safety. What happened to him should be a wake-call both to BHPD to demolish its institutionalized neglect to protect and serve, and to the city to help avoid future bike v. car collisions on this stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard — easily one of the most dangerous sections of roadway in the entire region.

    Most of the expansive parallel parkway that spans from Doheny to Wilshire could accommodate an off-street bike lane, but if the costs attached to that project scare city leaders away, then simple signage directing cyclists essentially one block north to the alternate serenity of Carmelita Avenue certainly would be a viable and less expensive option that can prevent injury and save lives.

    It’s neither here nor there, but if Livingston was unaware of Carmelita as the safer and saner option across that section of Beverly Hills then I wish I could go back in time, head straight to June 12, 2011, and be standing under the Beverly Hills sign on Santa Monica just west of Doheny with a sign that would’ve directed him out of harm’s way and onward to the beach. Fantasy aside, all I can do is be there standing for him in court on May 1 and hoping he continues his emotional and psychological recovery.

  • paul livingston

    thank you for your words of encouragement!

    you’re right about everything you’ve said; however,

    i used to take Carmelita almost every time i rode through beverly hills, the exceptions being when there was light traffic.

    the day i got hit was one of those exceptions – mellow, sunny, and a sunday

    also worth noting is the fact that june 12, 2011 was gay-and-lesbian-pride-parade-day in west hollywood.

    i’m not blaming the gys and lesbians, it’s just not the best idea to be riding near a neighborhood where thousands of people are getting wasted all day long… as i learned the extremely-hard way.

    hope to see you there on May 1st!

  • paul livingston

    thanks!
    hope to see you.

  • paul livingston

    thank you!
    Yeah, Don Ward is the man.
    and a big thanks to Sara Bond who did a great job putting this story together and getting it out there.
    hope to see you there on May 1st!

  • This story is unbelievable. I cannot believe the amount of incompetence from Beverly Hills Police Department. Very disturbing.

  • ready esto

    you’re my hero Pablo…I am proud to know you and call you friend…
    not too many people out there with cojones like you…
    Bike riders belong on the streets of L.A. safe and free from lunatics like Ms Chin.
    Now is the time of safety awareness for drivers, bike riders and pedestrians, and thanks to Paul Livingston and all of us, this tragic story shall not fade away easily.

  • Lori

    Paul is my sweet nephew. We went to visit him in the hospital and it was hard to see him in that condition. He didn’t even know we were there. I admire his persistence and patience. I’m not impressed with the fact that it takes pressure from the community for the DA to do what he should have done all along. It’s very discouraging to know the court system has become so incompetent. I pray they start improving their act.

  • BHPD C***s!

  • Reas

    Thank God for Justice.
    To the bicycling community who never gives up, and strive to help innocent victims/strangers involved in a hit and run when they are in need.

    The details of Paul’s injuries, pain and suffering ..made my stomach turn..At the same time I felt so much anger, towards Victoria ! No place to park ?
    What would she have done if a police officer was pulling her over? Would she have kept on going, and have the incident turn into a pursuit? All because there was no place to Park.
    The police dept, being so calm about the incident, it had to take the bike community media and a lot of energy from Paul to keep on fighting for Justice. It should of not taken so long.
    All in all, Im glad Victoria turned herself. Other cowards would have left and not turned back..
    Justice is served.
    Thank God Paul recovered..it’s unfortunate that it was a long recovery. Brighter side, your family and friends get to enjoy and cherish life once again.

    My stepfather was killed in a hit and run on Oct 10,2012. In the city of Gardena. On 135th st and Wilton Pl. Just steps away from the Fire Dept. Benjamin Torres was his name, we are still waiting for Justice. We have a monthly bike ride in his honor and for other victims of hit runs. “Bike Ride for Safety and Justice for Benjamin Torres”. It’s really heart breaking to know, that these types of murders seem to be swept under the rug… Not going to let this one go so easily..
    We are continuing to send our message across, spread the news. Someone out there knows the killer. BIKE RIDE is very organized. Everyone is welcomed to join. East Side Riders BC, Los Ryder’s, ( United Riders of South L.A) .
    http://Www.eastsideriders.org

  • cassandra tribe

    I am in RI and was a cyclist victim in a hit and run just last week. Reading this has helped me enormously as I start my rollercoaster ride. It is life changing. To have to fight the police about charges (the man admited hitting me but said he was too scared to stop because the last time he hit someone and he tried to help him he got beat up), to struggle with the physical recovery, the emotional fallout…it is easy to start to believe it only ever happened to you…reading this has put a little context in my day and for that I thank you and wish you the best.

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