Tag Archive for Benjamin Torres

Was the brother of a Gardena bike theft victim murdered by the cops sent to help them?

Maybe those riders in Gardena are lucky they only got ticketed for blocking the lane.

It was suspicious enough when Gardena police blew away the brother of the victim — yes, victim — of a bike theft last month, because they couldn’t be bothered to let him explain that the bike-riding men they’d detained were friends who were helping to look for his brothers bike.

And yes, he said it in English, according to witnesses.

Somehow, the patrons at a nearby restaurant were able to understand Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino clearly. But the cops couldn’t seem to make it out, claiming he was shouting and gesturing before reaching towards his waistband.

So they shot him.

Eight times.

Including twice in the back.

One of those non-bike theft friends was also shot. And yes, also in the back.

Maybe they have a problem with backward shooting trick shot artists down there.

Never mind that the officers shot and killed an unarmed man. Or the recklessness they showed in opening fire just feet from of a crowded Redondo Beach Boulevard restaurant.

At best, it looks like an incredibly bad shoot by a trio of trigger happy cops. At worst, they may have murdered the brother of a petty crime victim

I cannot repeat that enough. They killed someone helping the victim of the crime.

And now those officers are back on the street after being placed on administrative leave.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to stay the hell out of Gardena for the foreseeable future.

And whatever you do, don’t report a crime there.

Correction: An earlier draft said police had killed the victim of the bike theft, which had been my understanding. However, this story from the Daily Breeze makes it clear that the man who was killed, Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, was the brother of the man who had his bike stolen, and was assisting in the search for the stolen bike. Thanks to Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman for the correction.

………

Meanwhile, in yet another black mark on the city’s police department — which still hasn’t been able to catch the killer of hit-and-run victim Benjamin Torres — Streetsblog’s Damien Newton writes that you shouldn’t expect justice in the case of the LAPD Sargent whose daughter is charged with killing bike-riding postal worker Jesse Dotson in a hit-and-run.

That’s because Gardena police aren’t even investigating the father, even though she was driving his car, which was later reported stolen. And oddly, discovered just blocks away from their home.

As Damien put it,

He either believes his daughter’s ridiculous story and is one of the worst investigative officers ever, or he is complicit in the scheme to report the car stolen.

Yeah, no point in investigating that.

………

Bike racer Emma Pooley says it’s long past time that women bike racers were allowed to compete equally with the men — in fact, they used to just a few decades back, both in the Tour de France and America’s late, great Red Zinger/Coors Classic.

If you agree women belong in a parallel Le Tour — let alone the Amgen Tour of California and the upcoming USA Pro Challenge — sign the petition here.

I did.

………

A new bike and pedestrian bridge over the LA River on its way to approval by the LA City Council may make a planned Glendale bridge superfluous. The county breaks ground on a new segment of LA River pathway in Studio City and Sherman Oaks. The Source is enthusiastic about bike trains. Participants in Friday’s Zócalo Public Square/Grand Park forum call for a cease fire between bicyclists and drivers. Tell that to the papers of the Los Angeles News Group, who continue to troll for bike hate, this time questioning if LA commuters will ever bike to work, in a negatively worded poll. A Pasadena bike rider suffers life threatening injuries in a head-on collision with a salmon cyclist. Boyonabike looks at cars and the environment. Ride with the mayor of Montebello next Sunday. Over 500 riders turn out for the first ever Long Beach women’s only Beach Babe Classic. A Santa Clarita cyclist suffers a broken back in a hit-and-run; the driver turned himself in four hours later, apparently at the urging of family members. The San Diego Union-Tribune endorses efforts to promote bicycling in the county. Evidently, you don’t have to be sane to have a drivers license in California, with predictable results.

Scion thinks you’re an obstacle, but they’re really, really sorry about it. Elly Blue says our roads are depreciating, too. Do bike shops just market to white males? Cycle chic is already a thing; you can’t co-opt it by adding “ing,” even if helmets really are becoming more fashionable. Five innovative ways to park a bike. Using a bike as a weapon is no different from using a car as a weapon, except for the results. Famed researcher John Pucher says it’s time for a bike renaissance in Seattle. The Boulder CO sheriff says the road rage brake check that left a leading triathlete seriously injured wasn’t. An aggressive road-raging, horn-blaring, multi-car passing Colorado driver films his own apoplectic outrage at a group of bicyclists. Turns out you can’t use your car as a weapon to run down a bike riding, cigarette-stealing Wisconsin thief, after all. Even a protected bike lane isn’t enough to protect a Chicago bike rider. Michigan police arrest a 12-year old bike riding bank robber. Thanks to our veto-wielding governor, California can’t even get a three-foot passing law; a Maine writer says three-feet isn’t enough. Lesson #1: Try not to share the same stretch of asphalt as your boyfriend’s crazed, motor-maniacal ex. Upstate New York triathlete killed when he rides into the back of a parked car; another is seriously injured while exchanging water bottles. A pair of bike-riding Pennsylvania teenagers rescue a kidnapped five-year old girl; thanks to D.D. Syrdal for the heads-up. The next broken down bike rider you see could be Dave Matthews on his way to his own show, and you could get front row tickets if you stop. Seriously, no matter how pissed off you are about the 70-something driver who nearly hit you, don’t try to punch him out. A nice piece from Bike Delaware explains why you may be invisible to some drivers.

A British pub owner is really, really sorry he threatened to run down “weak-kneed” cyclists at 60 mph. Half of all Brits admit to road rage; maybe that’s why someone is pushing people off bikes in Leicester. With a week left, the Tour de France may already be over, as Froome looks unbeatable. Cadel Evans tweets advice on how to watch a bike race safely. A year after she quit racing, American Mara Abbott is a two-time winner of Italy’s prestigious Giro Rosa. Lexus rolls out a one million-yen limited edition bike; yawn.

Finally, what do you do after leaving City Council? Former Councilmember Ed Reyes rides a bike. And it looks like Westfield Century City will soon open LA’s first bike station; more on that later.

Westfield Bike Station

Update: Busted for going too slow? Or Biking While Brown in Gardena?

Update: Here’s video of the  incident. I wonder how many motorists are frisked or searched for weapons for a simple traffic violation?

Something tells me a white, middle-aged man like me would have have been treated far differently under similar circumstances.

………

We’ll hope it was just a mistake.

On Wednesday night, a group of bike riders were on their way for a meeting with the Gardena City Manager when an apparently over-enthusiastic police officer pulled the entire group over. And ticketed them for a violation that didn’t apply under the circumstances.

From the Los Riders Facebook page

From the Los Riders Facebook page

Representatives of the United Riders, made up of members of Los Riders and East Side Riders, were on their way to city hall with relatives of hit-and-run victim Benjamin Torres in their continuing fight for justice in the still unsolved case. As well as  to discuss the issue of ghost bikes following the removal the memorial for Torres.

In the absence of a bike lane or other bicycling infrastructure, they were riding in the right lane, outside the door zone — as they are legally entitled to do — when they were pulled over by a squad car on the 15400 block of South Western Avenue.

According to the Los Riders Facebook page, they were told to sit on the curb while the officer waited for her Sargent to arrive with another four patrol cars in tow.

All for a handful of bicyclists riding slowly  on their casual cruiser bikes.

Maybe too slow for the officer in question, who, after consulting with her superior, ended up citing the group for impeding traffic under CVC 22400.

Yet according to the LAPD, the standard for impedance requires a minimum of five vehicles stuck behind the slower moving vehicle and unable to pass, which was not likely in this case. And it doesn’t apply on roads with two or more lanes in each direction — like Western, for instance — where a driver could simply change lanes to go around the slower vehicle.

Or bike.

Or group of bikes.

In other words, despite the presence of at least six patrol officers, including a police Sargent, they couldn’t come up with a valid violation to cite the riders with.

And it’s pretty well guaranteed that those six patrol cars impeded traffic far more, and far longer, than a group of slow moving bike riders would have.

Meanwhile, the riders eventually got to city hall for their meeting. And ran into Gardena police chief Ed Medrano, who promised to talk with the officers in question.

No word on whether the tickets will be rescinded, however.

Which brings up the question of whether the riders were really stopped by an officer who didn’t understand the law because they were riding too slow.

Or because they were profiled based on their appearance and attire.

That’s not a question I can answer.

But its one I wish I didn’t have to ask.

Thanks to Danny Gamboa and Lynn Ingram for the heads-up.

Impeding Traffi Ticket

Update: The five vehicle standard in found under CVC 21656, which also notes it only apply on two-lane roads; thanks to billsd for the heads-up.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman offers a detailed look at what happened. 

Update 2: According to my records, Gardena has had at least three bicycling fatalities since 2010, including two in the last nine months — a horrible record for a town of under 60,000 people. And all of those were hit-and-runs.

They have far bigger problems than a few bicyclists riding in the traffic lane.

No charges in Sarah Leaf death, guilty plea in North San Diego, vehicle identified in Gardena hit-and-run

Evidently, they just don’t get it.

Newport Beach police have cleared the truck driver in the death of cyclist Sarah Leaf, concluding that she lost control of her bike and fell under the turning truck on her own, without the truck ever hitting her.

Yet they apparently failed to consider the possibility that it was a massive truck passing too close and/or turning across her path that caused her to lose control.

So let’s get this straight once and for all. Skilled, experienced cyclists don’t just fall over. And a vehicle doesn’t have to actually hit a rider in order to cause her death.

Something made her to lose control. Until the police can offer some reasonable explanation of what that was, we should not accept the results of this investigation.

And until police everywhere figure that out, no bike rider will ever be safe on our streets.

Update: A commenter who claims to have known a friend of Leaf disputes the contention that she was an experienced rider. By his account, she was a novice rider on a borrowed bike, who had been urged by a friend not to ride that day. And according to him, the reason she fell because she was unfamiliar with clipless pedals. However, as he did not actually witness the collision, that should be taken with a grain of salt; hopefully, we’ll learn more on Monday when the Chief of the Newport Beach Police Department meets with the city’s Citizens Bicycle Safety Committee.

………

Jin Hyuk Byun, the 19-year old driver charged with killing 18-year old North San Diego bike commuter Angel Bojorquez in a late night hit-and-run, has pleaded guilty to a single felony count of hit-and-run causing death.

Byun faces up to four years up to four years in prison — or as little as probation. Hopefully, the court deliver a sentence that shows Bojorquez’ life had value.

Unlike courts in, say, San Bernardino.

………

Gardena police have finally narrowed down the type of vehicle used in the hit-and-run death of Torrance cyclist Benjamin Torres on October 10th.

Be on the lookout for a maroon or purple 1995 to 2001 Ford Explorer or a 1997 to 2001 Mercury Mountaineer with light to moderate damage to the right headlight area. Call Investigator Matthew Hassoldt at 310/217-6189 if you have any information.

And on a related note, his step-daughters are asking cyclists to join them in honoring Torres and calling for bike safety on November 10th.

………

The LACBC is launching a safety education and bike light giveaway program dubbed Operation Firefly. The Times looks at the Bicycle Kitchen’s women’s-only Bicycle Bitchen night. Richard Risemberg writes that bike lanes benefit the entire community, including local merchants. Your access to mountain bike trails could depend on playing nice. South Pasadena may consider extending the Arroyo Seco bike path next week. The Culver City Bicycle Coalition is hosting a fundraising ride on Sunday, November 11th, while C.I.C.L.E. is hosting a Made in LA ride on Saturday, November 17.

How not to sell a bike on Craigslist. Video of the amazing turnout at last weekend’s memorial ride in Newport Beach. A new female-centric bike shop opens in Orange County. If you’re looking for a good ride and good beer, you could do worse than a ride to North San Diego County’s Stone Brewing Company. Lucky San Diego cyclists get to choose between two bike supporters for mayor, which is exactly what the LACBC’s Civic Engagement Committee is working towards here in L.A. A nurse has her bike stolen when she stops to help an injured cyclist at San Diego Critical Mass — then a local businessman buys her a new one. A coach with the Sacramento Kings hits a bike-riding child while test driving a new Jaguar, then returns it to the dealership instead of staying to help. Palo Alto police arrest two bike thieves after recognizing them from security footage. Who’s the genius who put a Share the Road sign in the middle of a bike lane? A 92-year old Sonoma driver denies running down two boys in a crosswalk, claiming they were the ones who damaged his car — and that one of them was a girl.

Seven reasons why bikes are for everyone. What does it take to build a world-class bicycling network, and will the US ever embrace bicycling like Denmark has? Why you might need more than one bike. Someday soon, you may never get another flat. Private bike share program Spinlister changes its name to Liquid, in an apparent attempt to conceal what the hell it is from anyone who might be interested. HuffPo looks at the hubris of Lance Armstrong, while the company that gave him $12 million in bonuses wants it’s money back, and an English town prepares to burn him in effigy; thanks to George Wolfberg for the latter link. Drunk Spokane driver gets two-and-a-half years for killing a cyclist. My hometown employs a smartphone app to crowd source cycling data. Oklahoma City gets its first sharrows. A Texas cyclist is under arrest for threatening two pedestrians with a gun. Doorings are down in Chicago, the question is why. Kill a Windy City cyclist in a right hook, and get a ticket for an improper right turn; no, really. The real riders on the storm — New York filmmaker Casey Neistat captures a four-hour ride through hurricane drenched streets. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, bikes provide the best way in, out or around Manhattan, as the city bans vehicles with less than three occupants from Manhattan. The anti-bike New York Post blames bike lanes for bus-bike collisions; yeah, it couldn’t be impatient bus drivers, overly aggressive riders or just plain carelessness. The world’s first car-only roadway is now a bike path, even though motorists used to fear the same vehicle segregation that many now call for. A Pennsylvania man gets six months probation for killing a cyclist while driving under the influence — six-effing-months probation, which is exactly the same sentence he would have gotten for a first-time DUI even if he didn’t hit anyone; nice to know the death of a human being doesn’t matter one damn bit in Western PA.

The popularity of tweed rides has helped increase the sales of more than just bikes. Helmet-cam video results in charges against a Canadian driver who dangerously Jerry Browned a cyclist — even though he could have safely passed a few seconds later. What to do after a crash. The victim is dead, but at least his bike has been returned. Teenage Brit triathlete is seriously injured in an apparent hit-and-run as she’s found on the side of the road after a car passes her, still clipped into her pedals. A new UK website tracks the best deals on bike gear. An Aussie writer asks whether you consider yourself a cyclist; ever notice that no one ever asks if people consider themselves drivers, which everyone becomes the moment they slide behind the wheel?

Finally, South Park takes on l’affaire Lance. A Polish cyclist is charged with speeding in a 30 mph zone — while riding completely naked except for the pants wrapped around his head.

And if you think some drivers are blind, you may be right.

Torrance bike commuter killed Wednesday in Gardena hit-and-run

Once again, a driver has run down a SoCal cyclist. And left him to die, his crumpled body lying helplessly in the street.

According to the Daily Breeze, 49-year old Benjamin Torres was on his way to work early Wednesday morning when he was hit by a vehicle while riding east on 135th Street at Wilton Place in Gardena.

Oddly, the intersection appears to be controlled by a red light in just one direction on 135th, with a stop sign on the cross street. (Update: It’s actually a one-way fire station signal.)

His body was found by a nearby worker after Torres was already dead. Whether he could have been saved if the coward behind the wheel had stopped and called for help may never be known.

Personally, I think every driver accused of a fatal hit-and-run should be charged with murder, since the delay in getting help inevitably contributes to the victim’s death if the collision was in any way survivable.

Torres’ stepdaughter reports that he always rode his bike from his home to his job at Brek Manufacturing on 132nd Street at 4:15 each morning, saying he felt it was pointless to pay for gas to go to work.

Police say he was struck sometime before 4:30 and 5 am. No witnesses have come forward; given the early hour, none are likely.

The paper says investigators found debris from the vehicle, including headlights, suggesting it’s likely to have significant front-end damage, most likely on the right side. Police are using that debris to determine the make of the vehicle; however, they had no other description at this time, including the color.

No mention is made of whether Torres was using lights or reflectors at that early hour.

He suffered severe head injuries despite his helmet. However, bike helmets are only designed to protect against impacts up to 12.5 mph; they are no match for a car moving at speed.

Torres leaves behind a wife of 17 years, as well as five stepchildren and their 12 children.

Gardena police urge anyone with information to call Investigator Matthew Hassoldt at 310/217-6189.

This is the 63rd bicycling death in Southern California this year, and the 19th in Los Angeles County. Torres is the 13th bike rider killed in a hit-and-run in 2012; three of the 10 riders killed in traffic collisions in L.A. County this year have been victims of hit-and-run.

My prayers and sympathy for Torres and his family.

%d bloggers like this: