Today we saw a turn of events so credibility straining it would get most Hollywood screenwriters fired.
And that’s not exactly a group known for believability.
An exchange of emails with LAPD Sgt. David Krumer shed light on the investigation into last Friday’s traffic incident that left Susanna Schick, aka Pinkyracer, broken and bruised in the ICU of a local hospital. Yet still raised as many questions as it answered.
And then it got strange.
Sgt. Krumer, the department’s highly respected liaison to the cycling community, had been out of the city through the holiday weekend, returning to his desk Tuesday morning. And was forced to immediately jump into the controversy surrounding the Schick case.
He reported that, contrary to earlier information, the LAPD did respond to the collision, and that a report was taken.
He said that the police were actually on the scene before the paramedics arrived, and that they were the ones who had called for an ambulance. And in fact, the officers were the ones who dropped Schick’s bike off at her home, rather than the paramedics as we had previously been told.
He said that there were conflicting reports that a collision had occurred, so the investigators were looking for video evidence to confirm exactly what had happened.
According to Krumer, the police also tried to interview Schick at the scene; perhaps due to the confusion caused by her injuries, she didn’t say anything about a collision. He said police would try to re-interview her again to clarify the situation.
It’s also possible that Schick doesn’t remember the collision itself due to her concussion; nearly four years later, I still have no memory of the solo fall that put me in the ICU.
He hinted that he had more information that would explain everything, but was prohibited from releasing it due to the ongoing investigation.
If only everyone else had such high standards.
Friends of Schick report that two detectives did in fact stop by to interview her in her hospital room — although interview might not be the best way to describe it. Instead, I’m told they put in at least as much effort trying to convince her she was wrong about the hit-and-run as they did asking what actually happened.
Then Tuesday morning, reports started to leak from police headquarters indicating that Schick wasn’t hit by a car after all; apparently there were witnesses who could discredit her entire story.
Witnesses in blue, no less.
And members of the department wasted no time in releasing the information Sgt. Krumer was prohibited from sharing.
I guess ongoing investigations don’t count when the department’s reputation is at stake.
I first heard rumors that a female detective was leaking information that Schick’s wreck had been witnessed by two officers who reportedly saw the entire event, and that they were the ones who called for the paramedics.
And they denied that any hit-and-run had occurred. Or that there was even another car involved in her fall.
By afternoon, a police spokesman was speaking to Blogdowntown on the record. LAPD Lt. Paul Vernon denied anything illegal had happened.
“There’s a great deal of discrepancy,” Lt. Paul Vernon of the Los Angeles Police Department said. “There is no crime here. She fell down on her bicycle.”
Remarkably, the police claimed that an experienced cyclist simply fell down. And somehow suffered multiple broken bones, as well as a shattered helmet, despite what would have been a relatively slow speed impact.
Blogdowntown reports that there is no dispute that the previously described white Lexus pulled out of a parking garage and swerved into the bike lane Schick was riding in on the opposite side of the street.
According to the report filed by the two officers who claim to have witnessed the events, Schick pedaled up to the car at the next red light, hit the passenger side mirror and started yelling at the people inside; the people in the car responded by rolling up their windows.
The officers said Schick continued riding for another block or two before the car turned right, and she simply began wobbling on her bike before falling over.
This semi-official version of events raises a lot of questions.
Not the least of which is why two police officers would witness a car serving across the entire width of a roadway and into a marked bike lane, jeopardizing the safety of a cyclist riding in it, and do absolutely nothing.
Which is exactly what they did when allegedly following an ongoing roadway dispute, even after they supposedly witnessed a cyclist striking a motor vehicle in anger.
Call me crazy, but wouldn’t that have been the time to light up the reds and stop both parties before the situation escalated?
Now, it’s entirely possible that Schick did strike the car’s mirror to get the attention of the people inside. I’ve slapped fenders, trunks and windows for the same reason, as it can be almost impossible to get the attention of music blasting, cell phone-using drivers these days.
And so far, no one has mentioned whether the officers had an unobstructed view of the situation. Schick has stated that the car followed her for at least a block, possibly in the bike lane itself —which would be yet another violation the officers failed to address, and which would have obscured the view of anyone following behind.
It’s possible, if not likely, that the Lexus could have hit Schick’s bike before or during its turn without the impact being visible to the police officers who supposedly saw everything.
It’s also possible that the car might have caused her fall without ever actually coming into contact with her bike. Which would still qualify as hit-and-run if it could be determined that the driver’s actions directly contributed to the wreck.
And the Department’s version of events fails to explain why, if a police report was filed over the weekend, no one in the department seemed to know anything about it on Monday morning. Or even knew a crash had occurred.
I’m not saying the police are wrong.
I wasn’t there. I don’t know what actually happened.
And they were — even if the information released so far doesn’t exactly add up.
But if the department is going to release information about an ongoing investigation, they need to be a lot more honest and open about it. And explain the apparent discrepancies in what we’ve heard so far, rather than falling over themselves to blame the victim.
Unfortunately, Schick’s bike may not be much help.
As it turns out, the supposedly tacoed rear wheel is actually a relatively minor bend. While it could still offer evidence of an impact, it may take an expert examination to determine exactly how it got that way.
Something else the police have yet to do, despite concluding that no impact occurred.
Meanwhile, the LACBC is calling for the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles to devote more resources halting the epidemic of hit-and-run; even if this turns out not to be one, drivers flee the scene in a full one-third of all L.A. collisions.
And writing on Streetsblog, Damien Newton calls on the LAPD to train a group of officers in the physics of bike and pedestrian crashes, so maybe in the future they can fairly assess blame without resorting to blaming the victims.
I couldn’t agree more.
But let me leave you with one final thought.
The LAPD investigators say they’ve ruled out hit-and-run, even though they’re still in the middle of an ongoing investigation. And despite continuing to look for video evidence or examining other physical that could prove that premature conclusion wrong.
So just how fair, open and honest can we really expect that investigation to be when, they’ve already announced the outcome in advance?
For a department that offers firearm training for all its officers, they certainly seem to have shot themselves in the foot.