A poignant and angry remembrance of a fallen cyclist, and a tale of justice denied

Yesterday, I received the following email from a reader named Kate.

In it, she describes a death of a dear friend in a San Bernardino County cycling collision two years ago today, and the apparent lack of justice that followed. Which may sound familiar if you’ve followed the case of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado and the two drivers charged with his death.

She hadn’t intended to make it public; she just wanted to vent her frustration and anger.

But I thought she had something important to say. So I asked for her permission to share it with you, which she graciously granted.

I am writing to you because Sunday, November 4th is the 2 year anniversary of the death of a dear family friend, Lynn Pletcher.  He was killed in Cherry Valley while riding in a bike lane with two other buddies.  Lynn was 70. He was fit (he had completed a 400-ish mile ride across Oregon for his 70th birthday a month prior). He was experienced and extremely safety conscious. He was a husband, father of two, grandfather of 2 (now 3).  Lynn was a retired educator who was very active in the local Rotary Club.  He was also my parents’ next door neighbor for almost 20 years, and my father’s closest friend. http://www.swrnn.com/2010/11/06/bicyclist-killed-in-beaumont-identified/

I know this is not current cycling news, but I guess I just want to vent my frustration about how this was handled. I know you don’t print names or details that aren’t already known, and I’m not looking for that.  I just want to vent.

The man who killed Lynn was never named publicly.  The man who killed Lynn was never charged with anything.  It took the cops more than a year to complete their accident report, and then it was determined that the accident was Lynn’s fault, and that the skid marks showed that he was out of the bike lane when he was hit.  The two men (one a retired postal worker and one a retired physician) who were riding with Lynn didn’t see the accident, as Lynn was last in the pace line.  Lynn was hit from behind, so regardless if he was in the lane or out of it, he was still rear-ended. The bike lane in that particular spot is 6 feet wide, wide enough to ride two abreast if you wanted to, and still be well within the lane. Rumor had it that the guy who hit Lynn was somehow connected to law enforcement, and even that he may have known the cop who came to the accident scene. He had a cell phone in his hand when he got out of the car. I heard this from Lynn’s family, but you can see that there are others out there who heard the same info. http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/52256/ .

The guy who killed Lynn got away with everything. He was never named publicly, never reported in the paper or online, he was never charged.  He never had to face Lynn’s family.  He declared bancruptcy to avoid any kind of law suit. He kept his house. The only thing he has to do is make a monetary contribution to the scholarship fund set up in Lynn’s name.  He writes the check to Lynn’s wife each month.  So far he has made 10 payments, as it took that long to get the final police report, and determine what the penality (if any) would be.  At least he has to think about Lynn every month.  Lynn’s sons are both attorneys, and after having other attorneys look over the case, they were told that based on the evidence, Lynn was most definitely not at fault, but that fighting the system would be expensive, lengthy, and likely a losing battle, so his sons and his wife opted to have the donation made to the scholarship fund each month. They are tired and sad, and don’t want to pursue anything else, which I understand and respect. Lynn’s family has been through so much in the last 2 years, they are glad the checks have been coming regularly so far, but wonder how long it will last.

Sunday will come and go, we wil leave flowers at Lynn’s ghost bike and on his grave, then we will go to lunch with his widow and one of his sons.  His killer might watch football, maybe he’ll work an extra shift and get paid overtime, maybe he’ll spend the day with his family.  Lynn no longer has that option.  I am disgusted at the how this was handled.  I am angry at the lack of accountability.  I am outraged at the blue wall protecting their own.

I will continue to read your blog faithfully, although, I have to say, some days I just want to put my bike in the garage and forget about it. Nope. I won’t let the morons of the world dictate what I do, and I will continue to do my small part to spread awareness when I can.

Thanks for listening,

Kate

6 comments

  1. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I feel their frustration in dealing with the system. Having dealt with other aspects of ‘the system’ I know all too well how it goes. I think I can feel my blood pressure rising just reading this. It makes me too angry to think of anything to say except that I’m very sorry to hear of this, and my condolences go out to his family and friends.

  2. Frank Peters says:

    Thanks for sharing thus, Ted.

  3. Biker395 says:

    Egad that infuriates me. If the rumors of distracted driving are true, I’m not sure I’d be so sanguine about declining to file suit. Cellphone records should make it possible to prove whether he was on the phone or not, and judgments are good for 10 years and can be renewed for another 10.

    20 years of penury doesn’t make up for killing someone, but as it is, the perpetrator can wait until the statute of limitation expires and start amassing possessions anew like it never happened.

    That just ain’t right.

  4. Patti Andre says:

    I agree. My brother was killed on April 18, 2012 waiting in a bike lane for a light. He is dead, our family is in horrible pain and the driver (as we were told on Friday) will walk with a misdemeanor ticket. He ran a red light, killed my brother
    http://bikinginla.wordpress.com/tag/donald-mccluskey/
    yet as Kate identified in her scenario, was never publicly identified. My brother is off the earth forever yet this man will have no measurable consequences for his actions. Had the driver been texting, drinking or left the scene of the accident, we might have been able to press further charges but since he was just being selfish operating an armed vehicle without regard to other’s rights, there is no recourse. This sends out a terrible, infuriating message “oops I hit bicyclist and killed him but it was not premeditated”+ don’t even have to say your sorry or suffer the normal societal consequences for wanton disregard for another’s life. I work with prisoners- some have incarcerations or 3rd strikes for a much less heinous crime.
    I could write all day but need some guidance as to what I can do and how we can make this better? My brother was always the peacekeeper and strength that kept our family together. I would love to honor him by participating in some kind of action against the injustice in these situations.
    My heart goes out to all the cyclists who have been hurt or killed or will be in the future and those who love them.
    Patti

    • bikinginla says:

      I remember that case well, Patti. Unbelievable that the driver who caused the collision that killed your brother will get off with a simple ticket for running a red light.

      At this point, I’m not sure if it’s the law, or those elected to enforce it, that has to be changed. Or maybe both.

      My deepest sympathies.

      • Patti Andre says:

        Interestingly, we found out a few days after this post that my brother now has a new DA representing the case and the charges have been changed. I am hearing this through a third person so not quite sure what they are but seems they have upped the anti. Maybe when a family gets an opportunity to be involved and verbal it helps.

        I am serious about working and honoring my brother to see cyclists and their families get justice. I am a nurse practitioner working on my doctorate in vulnerable populations. Obesity was my topic however I do not feel the same passion as I could trying to make this situation more visible for my brother. To change our national trend of obesity we need to move towards a more active community.

        I can switch the topic to a community health formula regarding bike lanes, communities and laws that support cyclists. I think cyclists (and pedestrians-anyone not in a car ;) are quite vulnerable.

        Oddly, I have known 3 people killed in the last 7 months- my brother, Dr. in NP Beach and Anesthesiologist in San Luis and never knew anyone before that. Coincidence or call to action?

        The personal cameras documenting the situations bike riders face in California is one way to get some actual data to promote stricter laws. Any ideas?

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