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Posts from the “Accidents” Category


Milton Olin’s Killer Escapes Charges. A Broken System Cries for Change.

Last night, Brenda Gazaar broke the story in the Daily News that the District Attorney will not be pressing charges against Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood, who struck and killed Milt Olin from behind with his car while Olin was riding his bicycle in the bike lane. Olin, a former Napster executive and lawyer, was riding legally and safely in the bicycle lane on the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabasas.

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Olin is pictured in his cycling gear with sons Chris, left, and Geoff

Reaction from safety advocates, critics of the scandalplagued Sheriff’s Department and bicyclists was swift on social media. The department’s internal investigation showed that Wood was typing non-emergency messages on his on-board computer when his car veered into the bicycle lane at high enough speed to strike Olin and send him flying over his handlebars.

I share their outrage, and the investigation into Wood’s killing of Olin has been under fire from the moment the Sheriff’s Department declined to pass the investigation off to the California Highway Patrol, but the burden of proof to convict a peace officer who kills someone with a vehicle is so high that even a well-ordered investigation may have yielded the same results.

The system is broken.

Maybe a review of the D.A. will overturn the initial ruling and a criminal trial will occur. Even if that’s the case, there’s going to be a high standard for Wood to face justice.

The system is broken.

Gazaar explains: Read more…


Jerry Browned, Doored, and Jerry Browned Again…Rough Afternoon on Pico Blvd.

It happens to all of us, even Streetsblog writers. Two years ago, Kris was doored on his way to a story. Sahra’s written about how too many people don’t report crashes, and she’s had some close calls of her own.

Not the door that I hit. Image: 33 Condition##

Not the door that I hit. Image: 33 Condition

Yesterday was my turn.

Riding my bicycle on Pico Blvd. going east between Overland and the really hilly section a driver buzzed so close to me (note: the lane to his left was empty) that I veered right…right into an opening car door that was opened inches in front of me. As I struggled to maintain balance, another car buzzed me and this time I toppled over onto my right side into an empty parking space directly in front of the Beverly Hills Bike Shop.

I probably terrified the woman in the car. To be fair, I doubt she was at fault. I came at her at a funky angle after reacting to the “Jerry Browning.” Frustrated, scared and filling up with adrenaline I took my helmet off and slammed it into the ground as Gunpowder clattered itself on the asphalt and I walked to the sidewalk. A 6’2 guy acting erratically after a high-stress incident probably seemed like something from another planet to this elderly woman who was gripping her steering wheel and staring at me.

As I was limping around and checking my legs (bruised, minor cuts, swelling in my heel and shin), and bringing my bike and helmet to the sidewalk, she came over to see if I needed help…and admonish me for treating my helmet so poorly. English was not her first language, she had an eastern European accent, and we struggled to communicate. She was extremely apologetic, even though I still don’t think it was really her fault. I did show her how fast cars travel on the street and the narrow space cyclists have to ride. She promised to think of me every time she opened her door and double check. We high-fived (her idea) and she stayed with me until I rode away.

I didn’t get any information on the person who actually caused the crash, the driver who decided to whip past me without giving proper space. My first thought was staying upright and by the time I fell and got back up he/she was long gone. I can’t even tell you the make, model, or color of the car. I’m a pretty lousy witness. Read more…


Seriously, When Is Someone Going to Take Away This Kid’s Car Keys

For the second time in 2014, the world sat witness to Justin Bieber’s private meltdown. After two years of excusing and applauding his wreckless driving history, the long arm of the law caught up with Bieber after he egged a rich guy’s house and one of his friends was busted for carrying his drugs.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber

Last night, the popular mega-star was arrested for DUI, resisting arrest, and drag racing in Miami Dade-County. South Florida seems to be a popular place for L.A. based celebrities to drive dangerously.

While gossip news sources and Bieber haters will delight in this news, the sad truth is our society that dismisses dangerous driving behavior is partially to blame for the Bieb’s most recent meltdown behind the wheel. Consider his recent driving history and wonder how a sane society allows this young man to operate deadly machinery.


There’s Still Plenty of Questions About the “Eric Garcetti Crash”

From the Times's security cameras you can see the quickly arriving squad car, the Mayor's SUV but barely the crash victim.

From the Times’s security cameras you can see the quickly arriving squad car, the Mayor’s SUV but barely the crash victim.

The LAPD, Mayor’s Office and to some extent the media are downplaying the significance of yesterday’s afternoon car crash in Downtown Los Angeles involving the Mayor’s SUV. Driven by an LAPD officer, the vehicle was driven into a pedestrian inside of a crosswalk causing her hospitalization. The the officer and his passengers were traveling east on 2nd Street towards City Hall when the crash occurred at Spring Street.

A video of the crash was taken by L.A. Times security cameras, but the resolution is so grainy and the actual collision occurs off-screen.

The LAPD dismisses the crash as “minor.” And with reports already streaming in that the woman was “crossing against the signal” it is possible that the city will use this crash as justification for its widely panned pedestrian stings.

But a look at the facts of the case show that instead of this being a lesson about safely crossing the street, it could turn into a lesson for the LAPD on how it desperately needs to improve the way the department investigates crashes. Here’s a rundown of some problems with the investigation as reported:

Problem 1: The LAPD Blamed the Victim Before Completing the Investigation

From the Los Angeles Times:

Police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the woman appeared to be crossing 2nd against the light when the accident occurred, but further investigation was needed.

The LAPD biasses its own investigation by stating the “probable” cause of the crash without all of the needed information. We don’t know if the officer had a chance to speak with the victim in the crash or what further investigation was needed. We do know that the officer assigned blame to the largest media outlet in the city before the investigation was completed.

We also know…

The Times video showed only part of the scene because of the camera’s angle. It appears to show the pedestrian was struck as Garcetti’s SUV was passing a pickup truck stopped in the crosswalk. Read more…


Garcetti a Passenger in LAPD SUV That Struck and Injured Pedestrian

An LAPD squad car carrying Mayor Eric Garcetti struck and injured a pedestrian at 12:20 pm today near Second and Spring Streets. The woman was taken to the hospital by Fire Department. Neither LAFD nor the Mayor’s Office would comment further on her condition.

“I’m very concerned about her and wish her a speedy recovery. I look forward to speaking with her soon,” Garcetti said in a statement.

The LAPD confirmed to KNBC that the Mayor was interviewed by LAPD investigators investigating the crash. The statement from the Mayor’s Office stated that Garcetti was on the phone at the time of the crash and did not actually witness the collision.

No further details have been released as to the cause of the crash.

Streetsblog will update this story throughout the evening if more news becomes available.

UPDATE, 6:30 pm – We have confirmed that the crash happened on Second Street near Spring Street, not the other way around.


The Dodgers Are Failing the Yasiel Puig Test

On Saturday, December 29th, at 9:30 am, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was arrested for reckless driving in Greater Miami after being caught driving 110 miles per hour. Puig’s mother and sister were also in the car. This was the second time Puig was caught going over forty miles over the speed limit. In April, Tennessee police clocked him driving 97 miles per hour in a 50 m.p.h. zone.

Puig with his 2013 Lincoln Navigator. He leased this car to be "less conspicuous." Photo: ##

Puig with his 2013 Lincoln Navigator. He leased this car to be “less conspicuous.” Photo:

The Florida state police deserve credit for not allowing the glare of celebrity to blind justice. They charged Puig with reckless driving, took him to Collier County Jail for processing, and blasted him in a statement for his dangerous behavior.

TMZ reports:

The officer writes in the report, “By driving in this manner Mr. Puig showed willful and a total disregard for the safety of his mother and the other two passengers and any vehicles on the roadway and placed the life’s [sic] of everyone in his vehicle and every vehicle that he was passing on the roadway in danger.”

The officer goes on to say that if a crash had occurred, “His mother and the two passengers would not [have] survived as resulted [sic] of his action.”

Now that Puig has been caught not once, but twice, engaging in behavior that literally puts everyone near him in danger, it’s past time for the Dodgers to respond and take control of the situation. Respond they did, in a statement so weak that even the Los Angeles Times’ baseball columnist and Dodgers cheerleader Bill Platschke recognized it as woefully insufficient.

It goes without saying that if Puig were wandering the streets waiving a loaded gun around the Dodgers would do more than call him to ask him to behave nicely or commenting that they’re “very disappointed.” But when it comes to putting people’s lives in danger, Puig is basically doing the same thing. No amount of dramatic home runs or diving catches excuses that behavior.

Except of course, in modern America it does. Read more…


LASD Sheriff Strikes and Kills Cyclist in Bike Lane with Police Cruiser


Milton Olin Jr., from his LinkedIn account.

Milton Olin Jr., former chief operating officer of music-sharing site Napster and Hollywood Attorney, died Sunday when his bicycle was struck by a Sheriff’s Deputy’s patrol car at the 22000 block of Mulholland Highway. LASD confirms that Olin was in the bicycle lane at the time of the collision.

Both the driver and bicyclist were traveling east on Mulholland at the time of the crash. The LASD Cruiser has a cracked windshield, suggesting that the car hit Olin from behind at a high rate of speed. The LASD reports that the windshied was cracked when Olin’s body was thown onto the Hood. Olin was pronounced dead at the scene.

At this point, the Sheriff’s investigating the crash have not released the name of the driver, who was on duty and not responding to an emergency call at the time of the crash. The deputy was taken to the hospital for cuts and bruises. As one would expect when a cyclist is killed by unsafe driving, there have not been charges filed.

As a quick experiment, I ran a News Google search on “Milton Olin.” As you would expect, dozens of stories detailing how he was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy immediately filled my screen. I ran the same search but added the word “suspect.”

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 10.34.00 AM

Surprise, surprise.

Read more…


The Teachable Moment Everyone Is Ignoring

By all accounts, Paul Walker was a great person.

This cropped image of Walker and Rodas comes from the worst coverage of the crash I could find. The conservative news website ## Media## actually had the gal to end their bizarre piece by sighing that at least Rodas and Walker died doing what they loved, "driving fast and furious."

This cropped image of Walker and Rodas comes from the worst coverage of the crash I could find. The conservative news website Pajama Media actually had the gal to end their bizarre piece by sighing that at least Rodas and Walker died doing what they loved, “driving fast and furious.”

He was a movie star who cared about people. He raised millions for charity. He loved his daughter. He did all the things that one hopes celebrities do in their lives, by using his money and fame to make the world a better place.

Except for the part where he made a terrible decision with his friend on Saturday that led to both of their untimely deaths.

On Saturday night, after leaving a toy drive organized by his charity for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Walker got into the passenger seat of his friend Roger Rodas’ 2005 Porsche Carrera GT. The next thing we know, the Porsche collided with a tree a couple of hundred feet from Rodas’ specialty car shop on Hercules Street in Santa Clarita and burst into flames. Both men died in the crash. Based on camera footage and tire patterns on the street, authorities estimate that the pair were going well over the posted 45 mile per hour speed limit…perhaps as high as 90 miles per hour.

The tragedy is being mourned across the world. Social media and news websites are filled with tributes. The memorial at the scene of the crash looks larger than some of L.A.’s parks. Walker is survived by a teenage daughter who is, of course, completely heartbroken. The Sheriff’s Department is looking into the crash.

This isn’t a surprise. By all accounts, Paul Walker was a great person.

But by ignoring that Walker and/or Rodas made a stupid and selfish decision on Saturday, the media and their fans are deliberately letting a teachable moment slip way. Both men were accomplished and skilled drivers. But by going at excessive speeds on a road not meant for high speed travel, they made a mistake that cost them their lives.

After living a life that was full of giving, Walker’s death can give us something else…a lesson that is too often lost in the drumbeat of a car culture media:

Cars are not toys. When they are treated as such in a public place people die. Read more…


What To Do After an Accident When the Police Fail to Respond?

(Farid Yaghoubtil is an attorney with the Downtown L.A. Law Group. Following last week’s story on the LAPD’s failure to cite a driver in a crash involving a cyclist, Yaghoubtil asked if he could write a piece on what cyclists can do to get the best legal results after a crash…not that it would have helped in last week’s incident. – DN)

The moments immediately following a traffic accident can be confusing, leaving the victims in a state of bewilderment and shock.  In the most serious accidents, the injured parties are hopefully quickly transferred to a local hospital where they are given immediate medical care.  Dealing with the aftermath of the accident becomes an ancillary concern, and the focus justifiably shifts to the well-being of the accident’s participants.  However, what about situations where an ER visit is not necessarily needed? 

The first step in any traffic accident situation would be to contact local police department and have them write up a report regarding the accident.  While many accident victims are tempted to forego this crucial step, it is essential to resist this urge.

Many times, the at-fault party accepts fault immediately following the accident, only to change their story once they speak to their insurance provider or when they are in a courtroom setting.  Without a police report that confirms the true story, innocent victims are frequently left with only their word in defending their position.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that time and again the police department, especially in busy metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, will simply refuse to come out to the scene of the accident.  In fact, Ted Rogers of Biking in L.A. recently reported  on the story of Melanie Freeland, which is one of the most egregious examples of police inactivity we have ever seen.

Whether this is due to police indifference, a general lack of resources, or simple police bureaucracy, the fact remains that accident victims are sometimes  left dealing with the repercussions without the benefit of police involvement.  This can be especially crippling for victims that are left with thousands of dollars worth of medical and property damage bills.

Therefore, in light of Mr. Roger’s report, the following is a list of additional measures that should be taken after an accident that could protect your rights following an accident.

1. Witnesses can be your best friends – Other than a police report, independent witnesses are the most credible pieces of evidence in proving your innocence.  Look out for anybody who may have witnessed the accident, politely ask for their information and if they would be willing to provide a statement in the future. Read more…


Why Is Hitting a Car Still Considered More Serious Than Hitting a Person?

How do we get LAPD to treat crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians as seriously as those involving cars? For the record, the LAPD claimed repeatedly and publicly that this Hummer had full license plates. Photo: Luis

On Sunday, July 28, I was playing in the back yard with Sammy when we heard a horrible sound of twisting metal come from the front of the house. Grabbing my phone, I ran out of the house to see if anyone was hurt in what was surely another car crash at the corner of Federal and National. A dazed looking man wobbled out of a truck, and a less woozy looking man was already out of his car walking over to the truck. Not seeing anyone on the phone yet, I pulled mine and called 911. Moments later, I heard sirens. When the firetrucks arrived, I went back in the house. Everyone was fine and the authorities arrived.

Later that night, an LAPD investigator called me back wanting to know if I had witnessed the crash. I had not. He thanked me for calling and I wished him luck.

To their credit, the LAPD was taking the crash seriously. Good for them.

Sadly, this doesn’t happen everytime there is a crash. At Biking in L.A., Ted Rogers recounts the story a Melanie Freeland, a bicyclist that was hit by a car earlier this week right in front of two LAPD officers. While both officers agreed that the vehicle driver made an illegal turn, the Department is not issuing a ticket. The frustrated cyclist followed up with the LAPD on the phone and immediately after the crash, but can’t get the Department to take her case seriously.

I called the Central Traffic Division and asked to speak with the Watch Commander on duty yesterday. As I probably should have guessed it was [the Sergeant she’d spoken to at the scene].  I explained to her my phone conversation with [the desk officer] and she stated she did not know why he would state it was a rear end incident when it wasn’t.  We talked at length about why a citation would not be issued for this offense.  She stated that in order for a traffic citation to be issued two criteria must be met. An LAPD officer must witness the incident and be trained in traffic laws (taken the special course in traffic). Because the [traffic officer] didn’t witness the incident it did not meet the two criteria. Secondly, the officer who did witness the incident is not trained in traffic laws, so again it does not meet the criteria.  Thus it is now my understanding, due to the letter of the law that it is not possible for the LAPD to issue a citation to the driver who hit me.

Read more…