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.
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
Judge Marsha Revel
7:30 am meet on front steps