Update: DA refuses to file charges in Milt Olin case

The investigation is finally complete.

As predicted as soon as the LA County Sheriff’s Department inexplicably insisted on investigating itself in the death of cyclist and former Napster Exec Milt Olin, no charges will be filed against the deputy who killed him.

And as long predicated by myself and others, the immediate cause of the collision was the deputy’s use of the patrol car’s onboard computer while traveling on a winding road at 48 mph.

It was clear that the Sheriff’s Department was attempting to downplay their investigation — if not coverup the results — when they announced late on the Friday before Memorial Day that it had been turned over to the DA’s office for evaluation over a week before.

Then, nothing.

Not a word from the District Attorney for over three months, until news broke late this afternoon that the deputy responsible, Andrew Wood, would not face charges.

DA refusal letter (pdf)

Surprisingly, it actually appears the Sheriff’s Department recommended a charge of vehicular manslaughter; not surprisingly, the DA declined to file, saying they did not feel they could prove the deputy was negligent, which would be required for a conviction.

As we have discussed before, the case hinged on CVC 23123.5, which prohibits using electronic communication devices while driving — but exempts police officers and other emergency service workers in the performance of their duties.

According to the DA, that exemption applied in this case, as Wood was typing a response to a query from another officer when he drifted into the bike lane and rear-ended Olin’s bike without ever braking.

As often happens in such cases, Wood initially claimed Olin swerved in front of him in the traffic lane, and he only went into the bike lane in an attempt to avoid him. That is, until physical evidence and witness testimony proved him wrong, at which point his story changed to say he never saw Olin prior to the collision.

Yet somehow, the mere fact that Wood was driving at nearly 50 mph — in a bike lane — with no idea what was on the road directly in front of him is not sufficient evidence of negligence as far as the DA’s office is concerned.

Simply put, there are only two options.

Either the deputy was at fault for driving distracted — even though he could legally use the computer, he is still required to drive in a safe and legal manner.

Or the Sheriff’s Department itself is negligent for a policy allowing its officers to use the onboard computer in a manner that places everyone else at risk, as they will undoubtedly be found responsible for in the civil suit filed by members of the Olin family.

Either way, thanks to the complicity of the DA’s office, no one will ever be held accountable for the death of an innocent man, whose only crime was going for a bike ride on a sunny afternoon.

And a dangerous, if not deadly, policy will never be changed.

Thanks to Brenda Gazzar for breaking the story. 

Update: The afore mentioned Brenda Gazzar offers a detailed look at the case and the DA’s decision not to file charges in the LA Daily News, including this:

Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, said he was disappointed to see a clearly distracted law enforcement officer escape charges on what he called a technicality.

“Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” Bruins said. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”

It’s definitely worth a read to get the full story.

Meanwhile, LAist quotes several angry tweets from very pissed-off cyclists. Including yours truly.

 

 

21 comments

  1. Karl says:

    “FuckMe”

    [vernacular not SPAM]

  2. Joshua Cohen says:

    There will be a civil lawsuit with a massive settlement. And, there may be a federal investigation as well for the cover-up. http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-napster-executive-death-20140807-story.html

    • bikinginla says:

      We can only hope it’s big enough to force the Sheriff’s Department to stop deputies from using the computer while driving. My understanding is that while it is officially against policy — no doubt to avoid lawsuits like this — it’s unofficially encouraged.

  3. Jason says:

    Olin family: I’m so very, very sorry. I never met Milt and I’ll likely never meet you, but as a cyclist and a guy who really used to think that sh*t would all work itself out, I’m shaken to the core by this. I know it’s no consolation, but I’m gonna remember the name Milt Olin for the rest of my life.

  4. David says:

    I don’t think that there is any doubt that dividing your attention between the road ahead and typing on a computer in a moving vehicle under your control is dangerous and is clearly the cause of the collision. Even if the cyclist left the bike lane the driver should not have been so distracted that they could not react quickly to brake or operate their vehicle away from the cyclist. More so for the police who are specially trained in high speed pursuits, and avoidance maneuvers.

  5. Can I just point out that we have another example of the driver’s brain handing them false information while trying to create a narrative for the conscious mind to explain where the cyclist they just hit came from? I refer you to the cyclists hit by the bus in Camp Pendleton where the cyclists were riding single file just clear of the guard rail when they got hit from behind by a bus. The bus driver claimed the cyclists swerved from the guard rail as she moved over to pass, but the onboard video showed the bus driving straight through the line of cyclists. This very seldom happens outside of Anglophone countries, but has acronyms in two different Anglophone countries. In the UK it’s called a SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You) and in the US it’s called a SWSS or SWCC depending on how the driver processed the wreck to explain where the cyclist came from.

    • bikinginla says:

      I’ve been using SWSS (single witness suicide swerve) for years. As a matter of fact, I learned it from you.

      • I got it from Chip Seal… I invented the SWCC variation based on the different driver interpretation. I don’t remember the exact wreck any more (out of more than 15000 reports world-wide?) but I do remember the picture of the bike that had been clearly hit directly from behind being at odds with the report that the cyclist ran a red light in front of the driver.

  6. mecurious says:

    Obviously the DA failed to look at the Andrew Woods cell phone records. It was reported that he had been texting all day, including several text at the time of the fatal collision. Why is this reported “fact” being ignored?

    • bikinginla says:

      According to the DA’s report, records showed he only was texting while the car was stopped; the last text was to his wife while he was stopped at a red light a few minutes before the crash. Illegal, but according to the DA, not a contributing factor in the collision.

  7. Stefan says:

    I’m disgusted beyond belief. Please call every media contact you have and ask them to question this. Cops kill and always seem to get away with it. No, I’m not anti cop, but I’m anti irresponsible and dangerous cop. Baca had to resign in disgrace. The Sherrifs department is a disaster. Favours for the rich and fuck everyone else.

  8. Larry says:

    To the good cops out there (and I know that there are more than a few): Please protect us from bad cops.

  9. Add in the ridiculous watering down of the possible Vulnerable Road User law to a $300 maximum fine and the deck continues to be fully stacked towards drivers and their cars. My physical well-being is worth less than littering or driving in the carpool lane with no passengers.

    Great.

  10. Hwy. 39 says:

    There are other statutes that Deputy Wood violated. This decision is not set in stone. This is just the opinion of an Asst. DA. Don’t forget that the Sheriff’s Department recommended a charge of vehicular manslaughter to the DA’s office. And the DA, Jackie Lacey, can and should overrule her ADAs when necessary.

    Jackie Lacey needs to know that Rosa Alarcon got it wrong. Contact her office with calls, emails, letters, tweets, carrier pigeons, whatever.

    District Attorney’s Office
    County of Los Angeles
    210 West Temple Street, Suite 18000
    Los Angeles, CA 90012-3210

    Telephone (213) 974-3512

    jlacey@da.lacounty.gov

    https://twitter.com/search?q=%40LADAOffice&src=typd

    If Lacey refuses to file charges, Kamala Harris, the State’s Attorney General, may do so. It is also important that she knows the LA DA’s office made a tragic mistake that she needs to rectify. Here is her contact info:

    Attorney General’s Office
    California Department of Justice
    Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
    P.O. Box 944255
    Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

    attorneygeneral@doj.ca.gov

    https://twitter.com/CalAGHarris

    https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris

    https://www.facebook.com/KamalaHarris

    Seth Davidson at Cyclinginthesouthbay.com also has a great piece on this decision.

    • lenny the also bikesexual says:

      Yes I am changing browsers and calling the D.A. Monday as my phone failed again to poste my best work or save other then the already posted…..SO SORRY MIT….

      Sorry about the unedited duplicate post my browser lost what I wrote in reply when I went below 1% battery as my WiFi got shut down and retrying will reproduce this multifield bug everytime I think… Anyway he confessed to traveling straight. The confession if wrongfully leaked can’t be admitted. Be advised!

      {IN A 3RD POST THAT MAYBE PENDING MODERATION OR POSTED I NAILED THE DEPUTY TIGHT. NO TIME THOUGH LEFT TONIGHT TO RECALL ANY OF IT YET FOR THIS FLEEING JUSTICE BLIGHT}

  11. Tony says:

    So, his original statement was a fabrication. “He swerved into me”.

    How can a liar be a deputy?

    • lenny the also bikesexual says:

      No technicality as the law ways that even if he was not speeding which is not possible cognitively given he was less then ten seconds before colliding due to the brains inability to either slow without seeing or fail to see a brake light. Further he would have honked not braked and a QWERTY typing of those letters is probitive at trial. The car and blackbox and dispatching and policy creatinging needless perceived exigency are all wrong contributing clueless minutia. I want to know how a prosecutor can not but fail to over compensate if exposed to compelled statements? seriously
      The deputy is guilty of covering up his complicity in the slaughter. He was musing about his marriage on our time and deserves to serve hard time for it.

    • lenny the also bikesexual says:

      Sorry about the unedited duplicate post my browser lost what I wrote in reply when I went below 1% battery as my WiFi got shut down and retrying will reproduce this multifield bug everytime I think… Anyway he confessed to traveling straight. The confession if wrongfully leaked can’t be admitted. Be advised!

  12. Allan says:

    When a bike rider riding IN A BIKE LANE in BROAD DAYLIGHT is witnessed to be struck by a car that did not have a major mechanical failure, the driver of the car WAS NEGLIGENT AT THE TIME and should be prosecuted accordingly. How can anyone possibly argue otherwise?

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