Torrance cyclist critically injured; police appear to bend over backwards to blame the victim

Excuse me a moment, because I’m livid.

Yesterday, a 19-year old alleged drunk driver collided with a group of cyclists in Torrance, critically injuring one rider and leaving another with a broken hand.

In fact, reports indicate that the car was full of intoxicated young women, on the road at 7:15 am(!). Yet according to the Daily Breeze, a spokesperson for the Torrance police still tried to blame the cyclists for the collision.

“It’s kind of a residential street, so we’re not sure if the bicyclists were staying on their side of the road or taking up more of the road,” Chase said.

That, even though his aspersions are clearly contradicted by witnesses at the scene.

According to a second-hand witness statement posted on Road Bike Review, Adam Rybicki was riding with a group of 10 – 12 cyclists returning from a ride through Palos Verdes when they encountered a swerving car on the 600 block of Camino de Encanto.

When the car veered onto the wrong side of the road, Rybicki swerved left to avoid it. However, the car then swerved back to the right, narrowly missing the lead riders and hitting him head on, as well as hitting and injuring a second rider. The writer says it was only divine intervention that spared the rest of the group — and describes the driver as emotionless when she was cuffed at the scene.

Jim Lyle, who came on the scene moments later, described Rybicki’s carbon fiber bike as “exploded,” and said there was significant damage to the driver’s car.

I’ll spare you the description of his injuries; you can read it on Road Bike Review comment if you want. But trust me, it’s not pretty, and sounds like your prayers and/or best wishes would be in order.

Then again, judging by the report in the Daily Breeze, it also sounds like cyclists may need a little divine intervention in dealing with the local police, as well.

Here you have a case where witnesses clearly describe a car swerving onto the wrong side of the road, scattering a group of riders in a desperate attempt to save their own lives. Then the driver swerves back and hits two riders who were only on the wrong side of the road because they were trying to avoid her.

And by all accounts, the driver was clearly drunk — verified by the fact that the police immediately took her into custody for felony DUI, holding her on $100,000 bond.

Yet a spokesperson for the Torrance police still suggests that the riders may have been at fault. So just what part of drunk driving don’t they understand?

And let’s not forget that the driver was underage.

Here they had a perfect opportunity to comment on the obvious and well-documented dangers of driving under the influence — at seven in the morning, no less. And use this woman’s story as a cautionary tale to help keep other young people off the road after drinking.

Instead, all they seem to manage is to suggest that, despite all available evidence, maybe she wasn’t entirely at fault.

Excuse my language, please.

But just what the fuck is wrong with them?

My prayers go out to Adam Rybicki and his family and loved ones; best wishes for a full and complete recovery.

Update: It appears the initial comments by the Torrance Police spokesperson were wrong. All reports I’ve received from people on the scene of Sunday’s collision indicate the Torrance police conducted a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation, and that the officer whose comments suggested police were blaming the cyclists was not involved in the investigation and had no direct knowledge of the case.

19 comments

  1. I think the Torrance PD owe the victims an apology. A PUBLIC apology. Even on narrow streets where only one car fits one way (like on 4th after you cross La Brea going west), I make sure to give oncoming vehicles plenty of room. I highly doubt the cyclists saw a car coming and said, “oh let me play chicken!” So to even suggest this is ridiculous. Especially when the driver was arrested for felony DUI on the scene?!!! Why would you EVER make that statement to the press?! And why can’t PD, if they don’t want to comment or rush to judgement, say just that?! Rather than saying outlandish things like that and blaming an innocent victim, why can’t they just say: “we have to investigate all possible factors of the case.” If you don’t want to discuss the alleged DUI, then don’t, but don’t go blaming the victim to make it look like, I don’t know, I guess a balanced investigation.

    This just disgusts me. I think it’s time for a letter writing campaign to the Torrance PD to get their heads out of their asses and to think before they speak. I’m guessing if the officer actually took two seconds to think about the statement he was making, and the consequences of what it means, he probably wouldn’t have. I’m hoping, truly hoping, that our PD have more intelligence and sense than that.

  2. Wait, one more thing: since when is 19-years-old a legal age for consuming alcohol in the U.S.? I would like to see whomever bought and served the alcohol prosecuted for contributing to the delinquency (rather felony) of a minor or underage whatever.

    • bikinginla says:

      Legally, whoever suppled her with the alcohol shares culpability, and can — and should — face charges, as well. That is, if the police bother to stop blaming the victim and go after the ones actually responsible.

  3. TQ says:

    An average 120 lb. woman who consumes five drinks before 2am will still be over the dangerously high and arbitrarily legislated “legal” limit of a BAC of .08 (for motorists over age 21 in California) at 7:15am.

    However, a woman who consumes this much alcohol is uninterested the physiology of alcohol metabolism, the legality of her behavior, or in the safety of other human beings.

    It is nauseating that, as always, the passengers in the vehicle weren’t also arrested. They weren’t the perpetrator’s passengers. They were her accomplices during (and probably in the events leading to) the commission of the crime.

    • Absolutely. Also, why does it matter if the cyclists were taking up more of the road? Why would that give any driver the right to swerve into them or not slow down and approach a crowded street at a more reasonable/cautious pace?

      Why didn’t they arrest all the drunk underage passengers in her car for the simple reason that they were underage drinkers?! This whole thing is ridiculous!

      • DL says:

        dont jump to conclusions. Saying the girl was emotionless at the scene is heartless. Any 19 year old girl in this situation would be in shock. And we dont know what her BAC level was. Even if it was under .08 she legally would have gotten a DUI since she is under 21. I am most definitely not saying she is not to blame but at the same time try not to be ignorant. It is just as liekly that this could have happened to a sober driver who wasnt paying attention to the road. As for the passengers in the car who is to say they were drunk if they were not breathalyzed? Too late for any prosecutions for the passengers now.

        • Wow, DL. Maybe you should look in the mirror and repeat your own words: try not to be ignorant. Nowhere did I mention the girl being emotionless. Neither did TQ. What I did do is agree with TQ about how so many people could care less about getting behind the wheel drunk. So maybe you should try not to be ignorant and take a class in reading comprehension. Furthermore, I did not jump to any conclusions, rather, if you look at my comment, almost every sentence is a question, which means I am asking questions, not answering them or jumping to conclusions.

          It is not ignorant to respond with questions about why things were handled a certain way. I am asking questions in regards to the alleged crimes committed here, and that is also not ignorant. What is ignorant is suggesting (by your tone and insensitive comparison) that if it happened to a sober driver who wasn’t paying attention to the road, that it wouldn’t be just as much their fault. If it were a sober driver who was driving distracted they would be just as much at fault.

  4. RPV Cyclist says:

    Despite the unfortunate quote, I don’t think Torrance Police are blaming the cyclist. They charged the driver with a FELONY DUI, which applies when a drunk driver’s neglect (or illegal act) causes an injury. I don’t think they’d make such a serious charge against the driver unless they clearly believed she was at fault. My prayers are with the injured cyclists.

    • I agree. I think it was an insensitive statement that sounds like victim laming, and maybe he didn’t think about before saying. It would have been more appropriate just to say: we are still investigating.

  5. Gus and Gail Ohlsson says:

    HERE IS THE REAL DEAL PEOPLE. These are our friends, our group. This is my every day riding friends for 20 years.
    The ride was just starting a few minutes late starting out of Malaga Cove Plaza AT 7:00 A.M. Sunday, cuz of the weather that morning. The streets were dry to the west so the ride was on. For 20 years this established group including a Judge of L.A., a large assortment of prestige doctors of this area, and attorneys were in this group, along with others. We do not break the traffic rules. We have been known as “The Doctors Ride”, as many as you know. We are all seasoned riders with thousands of miles under all our belts. After turning on to the street of Camino de Enchantinto, heading down the hill. My spelling might be wrong.

    The peloton headed down {North} approximately 6 to 10 houses down when a vehicle coming up the hill headed toward the group and what many have recounted as a “Chicken” act by the vehicle to push the riders to the right curb. My Friend John was in the lead of the group. On his right was Mike. As they veered right to the curb to evade the vehicle aiming directly at them, Our Buddy Adam, directly behind them, on the outside, made the decision to go left since the vehicle was heading to the south bound curb at John and Mike. At the last possible second the driver pulled her wheel to the right and while Adam was trying to avoid a collision she pulled the vehicle directly in his path. Hitting him HEAD ON!
    As a note there was absolutely no remorse from these 4 girls. And it has been Quoted from one of the victims that the girl sitting “Shot Gun” She said: And I Quote : ” I do not have time for this Sxxt I’m going to walk home. The boys sat her back down.
    The driver has been charged with felony dui and is OUT ON BAIL $100,000.00 Mommy paid today.
    This is EXACTLY THE STORY.
    WE PRAY FOR ADAM, OUR FRIEND, NOT TO DIE.
    IF HE IS STONG TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE TRAMA..WE ALL WANT ADAM TO BE SOMEHOW TO BE WHAT HE ONCE WAS…ONE STRONG ATHELTE
    As a side note we have been in touch with Torrance P.D. in reference to today’s article on the front page of the Daily Breeze. This Devin Chase Lt. was not there and is only a cop within the agency.. He had not right to voice his opinion without actually being there., His comment that he bestowed to the D.B. is totally erroneous as stated by the leading investigating detective , Joe, Torrance Police Dept..
    Torrance P.D. did a good job and the EMTs were there ASAP. Thanks to you guys.
    We ride safe and to the right and oh yea We STOP at the lights and Stop signs.
    G and G

    • I am so glad that you are both safe and sound after a very scary morning. My thoughts and hopes go to your friend that he might make a speedy recovery. Thank you, too, for clarifying the statements from the PD and what you witnessed during the incident.

      Do you know if any of the girls (who I read were also allegedly drinking) were given breathalizer tests and if they were underage? And if so, do you know if any of the passengers were taken into custody for underage drinking?

      As I said to a good friend of mine who was hit by a car two days ago (and she was blaming herself when she was in no way at fault): sometimes you can do everything right, be as safe and predictable as possible, and even acquiesce the right-of-way, and some dangerous, drunk, and/or distracted driver will still mow you down. All we can do it continue to fight for stricter licensing, DUI, and hit-and-run penalties.

      Shouldn’t there be some law that you can’t even OWN a car if you don’t have a valid license?

  6. David Kelly says:

    My prayers go out to the cyclist Adam and a speedy recovery to the other cyclist injured.
    I shouldn’t be surprised by the police officer(s) comments. It is clearly said a couple of times that the 19 year old was swerving. Now correct me if this doesn’t sound right — common sense tells us to move out of the way of a moving object so we don’t get hurt. Then since when did that become the wrong thing to do?, move out of the way to protect ourselves? Whose fault would it have been if the cyclists kept riding in a straight line. Let me see….the cyclists. I mean these fascist idiots are always gonna blame the cyclist and the drivers can’t do no wrong. I think it is funny when I see motorcycles on the road/freeway, vehicles surely move out of their way and surely don’t cut them off. Why is that? Why not for a cyclist? I like them, but I’d rather move over for a cyclist. Thousands are killed every year by a DUI driver and not enough punishment is dealt. But, if a cyclist is riding drunk stop the presses, stop the presses and let’s tar and feather the cyclist. I’m a driver and was a cyclist. I see the disrespect cyclist are given on a daily basis. But at the same time I see the cyclist that give other cyclists a bad name. But in this incident I clearly blame the 19 year old. I have also had a distrust of Torrance PD since being a former South Bay resident. Granted not all Officers are bad, but sometimes just misinformed. Now had this been a law enforcement group ride, clearly then the driver would be at fault. So please don’t get me wrong I’m clearly for the cyclist-always. And for the 19 year old, she should be made to ride a bike and work in the morgue (like they do with teenagers who drive drunk) for her punishment to fully grasp what she has done.
    Once again my prayers go out to Adam and family and to the injured cyclist a speedy recover……

  7. DJwheels says:

    I think the staff writer, Melissa Pamer, and her editor at the Daily Breeze should have exhibited a little more editorial accountability as well before putting this piece out.

    It seems ridiculous that you would use that quote….ESPECIALLY if the preceding sentence CLEARLY states: “… that it’s not clear if the driver swerved or what led to the accident.”

    That could have been the end of the article right there followed by the request to call Torrance PD with more information, but throwing in the quote about the cyclists taking up more of the road only serves to inflame the old “bike v. car” debate, which has now become predictable and inevitable after any article reporting an incident like this.

    It’s pure speculation and an attempt at sensationalism, but sadly that’s what sells papers and gets you traffic on the interwebs.

  8. Marty Blount says:

    I’m praying for Adam’s complete recovery and return to cycling.
    Todays (4/05) Daily Breeze has a much more informative and more balanced report, with no hint of blame on the cyclists. The driver is identified and her poor driving record is reported.

  9. Bob says:

    Huh? Now there’s an open minded opinion! “I’m clearly for the cyclist-always.” Always? C’mon. Watch them blow thru the Calle Mayor intersection w/o even pausing. There are two sides to every story. Share the road… responsibly.

    • bikinginla says:

      So Bob, you’re saying that an underage girl can be driving drunk at 7 am, but what happens as a result may not be her fault?

      Sorry, but there is never an excuse for getting behind the wheel after drinking. And anyone who drives drunk bears 100% responsibility for the consequences.

      A husband and father is fighting for his life right now — and all you care about is cyclists running stop signs?

      Seriously?

    • Wow, “them”? Seriously, you think all cyclists ride the same way and we are all the same? There is no “them”, Marty. Just like there is no “them” when it comes to drivers. I don’t assume all drivers are drunk because Ms. Garcia was, clearly, at 7am, do I? No, because generalizations are rarely true. Furthermore, a lot of cyclists do stop at stop signs because it’s the law. And I bet more drivers ignore stop signs and roll through them or make rolling right turns (which is very dangerous) without fully stopping BEFORE entering the cross walk than cyclists roll through stop signs. In my daily travels on bike and on foot I see more drivers breaking the law than I do cyclists. So how about you and your buddies (see how the generalization doesn’t work) share the road…responsibly.

      Furthermore, since when did “blowing through a stop sign” (which both drivers and cyclists do–although they shouldn’t) warrant the punishment of being maimed and possibly killed by a drunk driver? Since when does one citizen get to dole out punishment to another for traffic offenses? Since when does the slight annoyance of you having to share the road equate to blaming cyclists when a DRUNK DRIVER hurts them? Those cyclists could have easily been kids riding their bikes to school.

      You are warped, man.

  10. JA says:

    I contacted Lt. Devin Chase directly and here is his reply:

    “I wanted to thank you for taking the time to share your concerns. I am a bicyclist who rides at least two to three times per week, so I share your concerns and believe me as a bicyclist I do not have any anti-cyclist bias.

    I am not sure if you have ever been interviewed by the media, but they never quote you fully and often don’t quote you completely accurately. Unfortunately the ten minute conversation that I had with the Daily Breeze reporter was reduced to the short statement in the article; which was not quoted in context, nor did it clearly indicate that we were only interested in gathering all the available facts in this case.

    My actual statement was that the Torrance Police Department was conducting a major investigation into this accident and our major accident investigators had been called out and that they would be looking at all aspects of the collision in order to determine exactly what occurred.

    I then gave an example of one aspect that would be looked at, which was where in the roadway was the driver and where in the roadway were the bicyclists prior to the collision. The importance of this level of investigation is that the point of rest for the vehicle and the bicyclist was against the west curb with the vehicle facing west, possibly indicating the vehicle was taking evasive action from their side of the roadway and away from the bicyclists. To a non-trained investigator or to a citizen this might lead one to believe that based solely on those facts the bicyclist was riding on the wrong side of the street at the time of the collision; however our trained accident investigators will be able to reconstruct what occurred prior to the point of rest.

    I felt this was important to point out to the reporter because if a picture of the accident scene were published it would portray the above information; which would look bad for the bicyclist. This was all shared with the reporter, it just wasn’t printed.

    I want to assure you that the Torrance Police Department conducts very thorough, bias-free investigations of all aspects of a significant incident like this and this case is no different.”

    Lieutenant Devin Chase
    Watch Commander – Torrance Police Department

    ****

    I then asked if I could forward this information to others who were similarly upset about the article:

    “It is the department’s and my goal that the public understands that there is an unbiased, factual investigation occurring and so in that regard I have no problem with you sharing my response with others who would benefit from the further clarity that I hope my email provides. Thank you again for taking the time to seek out the truth before jumping to conclusions, I truly appreciate it.
    – Lt. Devin Chase”

    • I appreciate his explanation, but I still believe he should have just stopped after the initial explanation that they are conducting a major investigation. Why was there any need to start giving examples? Especially when, as we all do know, the media is not very trustworthy or accurate in reporting the comments of the people the interview? I get that he wanted to explain away any pictures of where the car and bike ended up, but the witness reports pretty much cover that. The bottom line is: reporters want a single line quote that sells the story. They are not interested in details and are rarely interested in the facts or their own responsibility in reporting a story. If you do not have media training, you should not be talking to the press. And Lt. Chase went into far too much detail for a reporter to handle, especially when you remember that their job is to sensationalize the story.

      Don’t get me wrong, I see that his intentions were good, but it was still a mistake. And no where in that response does he apologize for it. He just makes excuses. Furthermore, he still may have actually even said those words, but he went into so much detail–you can’t control what you say when you say SO much to a reporter. And, of course, we have to take him at his word that that’s really what happened.

      At the end of the day, and article was still printed about a horrific accident that shows the Torrance PD as trying to blame the victim rather than make any statement about the dangers of DUI or underage drinking. While sending cyclists emails apologizing or making excuses for it, the problem is the general public that does not ride bikes or maybe even dislikes cyclists is still reading it and potentially thinking what a danger cyclists are, how we “take up too much of the road”, and giving them emotional ammo to abuse us on the streets. So what I want to know, is what are they doing about that? The damage is done, and our lives on the road only get harder when statements from authority figures like this are made. I don’t see any acknowledgement of that.

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