Cases Against Two Hit-and-Run Drivers Roll On

8_24_09_die_in.jpgCyclists stage a “die-in” where Jesus Castillo was killed during April’s Critical Mass.

Last Thursday “DJ Wheels” spent his day attending the arraignment of Robert Sanchez, the driver accused of killing Rod Armas and his fourteen year old son at the end of the L.A. Wheelman’s June Grand Tour Double Century and then pedaling downtown to get an update on the trial of Alejandro Hidalgo, the driver accused of killing Jesus Castillo in a hit-and-run last April.

Ted Rogers already has most of Wheels’ account at Biking In L.A., but I wanted to add a couple of my own thoughts.  First, both drivers are being accused of “gross vehicular manslaughter” and “driving under the influence.”  Sanchez is also accused of “3)Cal. Vehicle Code 20001(a) – failure to stop after an accident involving an injury” and Castillo of “driving under the influence with a B.A.C. over .08.”

A few thoughts here.  In the Sanchez case, the D.A. told the judge that Sanchez’s blood-alcohol level was at .05 “five hours after the crash” which makes me believe that he could have been at .08 when he killed Armas and maimed his son.  Also, Sanchez was found two hours after the crash in a parking lot.  Why did it take three hours to submit a breathalyzer test? Are west coast treatment centers so overflowing that the state is trying not to find drunk drivers after a driver caused fatal crash?

In the Castillo case, the driver is charged with multiple drunk driving charges but not for the hit-and-run.  It was hours after Castillo was killed that the police picked up Hidalgo yet “hit-and-run” isn’t included.

Regardless, both of these drivers are facing steep jail sentences if found guilty of these killings and of course the families of the two victims will be dealing with the results of these crashes for the rest of their lives.

While I might nit-pick the legal strategies to bring these drivers to justice, it’s doubtless better than the justice that will be seen will be better than that seen by the cyclist killed by an LADWP driver on June 1.  In that case the LAPD determined the cyclist at fault because she was “riding in a crosswalk” and even worse “riding the wrong way in a crosswalk.”  Of course, cyclists are allowed to ride in a crosswalk under the Los Angeles Municipal code, and there’s no such thing as “riding the wrong way in a crosswalk.”

  • While these stories are both truly tragedies, families senselessly torn apart, random deaths in a way that hit close to home for all of us riding around the LA area, there has to be a better way, a more constructive way to talk about them beyond focusing on jail sentences, penal codes, and a continuing proliferation of the horrific law and order culture that permeates Los Angeles.

    The solution to senseless violence isn’t more senseless violence; locking people up never does anything to move us collectively closer to a more safe and functional society. And it’s always disheartening to see advocacy folk advocating for the very systems at the root of our problems (as so often, and understandably, happens after these mind boggling incidents). I’m not so naive as to think the justice system’s cogs will not turn regardless, but OUR interpretations, lessons learned, and actions taken from that perpetual motion have to be forward thinking, more structural and proactive than simply clamoring for incarceration.

    Let’s remember the dead for the people they were, not the incoherence that took their lives, and this city as the place it could be, not the place it will be.

  • I’m sorry, this is not hyperbole “we oughta lock em up” about gangstas, nor is it about making it illegal to be poor (as we’ve institionalized it here in L.A.). No, this is about killing a human being with a vehicle. This is a serious crime – homicide. Why shouldn’t prison talk come up when it comes to homicide?

    If these were killings done with guns, bats, knives, poison, or other means I doubt you’d read the article quite so sympathetically on behalf of the perpetrators.

  • sure it’s not hyperbole ubrayj, but these hit and run stories are always eye for an eye witch hunts. You can’t separate the examples you gave of our prison addiction from the those being requested in this and many other articles like it; even in stories of guns/bats/knives I understand that we live in a world of systemic and structural violence far beyond that which any one individual could ever commit. Plus, those kinds of homicides are mainly pre-meditated, while these DUI hit and runs, shocking as they are in their recklessness, don’t seem to be. I’m sure neither of these men who have killed will ever be the same again, and that doesn’t justify much, I know, but how can we who are so familiar with this violent car culture and a society unconcerned with human life put all of that blame on two drunken fools? Are we that self-righteous, enough to think that corporate advertisers who sell every social event on alcohol, or car companies who only make bigger and faster cars, or legislators who cut transit budgets aren’t equally to blame? My only point is why aren’t these tragedies more constructively weaved into the larger narrative of the livable streets initiative? I don’t read the article on behalf of anybody, but if I’m run down on my bike today please don’t use my name as the impetus for locking another human being away; use my name as a rallying call for refocusing this confused world we live in.

  • The whole jail thing is obviously not working. And it’s just a barbaric way to control people that doesn’t work and encourages them to leave the scene. America loves throwing everyone in jail for all kinds of things, it’s just a bit of an overkill. We put a larger percentage of our people in jail than China, yeah China and they put you in jail for looking at the wrong website.

    I’m not saying its right (what I’m about to say is very wrong,) but 5 years in jail, twenty years in jail, to most people it’s the same thing (unless you are a straight up thug and this is what you do go to jail and come out) so after you have killed someone with your car the average person is going to think about running, if you have a law on the books that goes against what the average person would do, it’s a stupid law. The whole jail term at all if you kill someone on accident isn’t right. You shouldn’t go to jail, take away your license, fine you an insane amount, but jail, no, it is simply riduculous for someone without a history of violence.

    We need to make not getting in your car after drinking more attractive than getting in your car after drinking. That’s how we have to think.

    What they need to do is only put bars along where there is 24 hour regular bus service and provide no parking. Why do bars have parking lots? It’s like the city is saying, “Go ahead, get in your car and kill someone.”

    Why do places that serve nuts and no food have parking lots?

    Also what is up with lots closing. You are at a bar. You are drunk, but if you don’t move your car it gets towed, so you move your car and you think, “Well might as well try to make it home on the backstreets.” Now if you could leave your car overnight at places where they know darn well people are parking there because they are going out to drink then maybe less people would drink and drive. They also need to have cabs near bars, lots of them. The bars should be surrounded by cabs and busses. You shouldn’t be able to have a bar in an area that doesn’t either have regular frequent late night transit or a taxi queue.

    The way LA is set up it’s begging you to get in your car drunk and kill someone.

    We should just look at this without the morality perspective. None of the drinking is wrong or murder deserves this payback, just: ok this is happening we want it to stop, scaring people with jail is not working, so lets move on to plan b.

    I just hate the jail option to control people’s behavior.


  • Why does this discussion come up when it comes to car drivers? I don’t see many people weighing in with a call for leniency in sentencing when it comes to “dangerous taggers” or “gang bangers” or whatever. A kid caught scribbling on a wall to pass the time has more hate and anger thrown his way than someone who kills another human (due to their own incompetence as a driver, recklessness, stupidity, dumb luck, legal blindness, whatever) with a car. You kill someone, you kind of deserve a little bit of crap being thrown your way, and that should include some prison time. Prison exists as a punishment for those who have done wrong and been found to have done wrong by the courts. Does homicide not count as a wrong anymore?

    I think other stuff should happen too: your car should be impounded and auctioned off, you driving “rights” suspended indefinitely.

  • Gang members set out with the idea that they might kill someone if it gets to that point. How are you going to compare a drunk to a gangmember, but say we did…why do we have gangmembers in the LA. How was LA founded? Why does it seems like poor people of color in LA have an entirely different lifestyle than middle class people of color?

    Maybe possibly if we didn’t have this “throw the book at them” never forgive anyone society, gang members wouldn’t exist, maybe their father’s would be able to get a job even if their fathers had records, maybe their father’s wouldn’t have records for nonviolent crimes, maybe their mother’s wouldn’t have records for nonviolent crimes, maybe gangmembers and the whole lifestyle would cease to exist if we got rid of this US jail culture that mainly impacts poor people of color.

    Rich people rarely go to jail for the same thing that poor people go to jail for, because they can pay to stay out and people are more sympathetic.

    In my opinion texting and driving is more dangerous than drinking and driving. Texting is going to kill more people than alcohol in the near future. Do we want to start throwing highschoolers in jail for killing people while they were text messaging? Because that’s where this “lets throw them in jail” thing is going. Why bother changing the way we do thing? Why bother changing the way we set up our streets? Lets just throw them in jail, the the business owners won’t be sad, the beer companies won’t be sad, none of the corporations or city planners will be sad, will blame it all on the individual.

    Sorry Ubray, I don’t give a crap about the feelings of the people who planned out this death trap of a city and make money on it. I know it’s not just individual people in regards to why people get in their car and drive drunk. I want to solve the problem. This isn’t about payback for me it’s about fixing the problem. Jail and revenge fantasies doesn’t fix the problem.



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