Tag Archive for Milton Everett Olin Jr

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.

 

 

Morning Links: Two months later, still no word from DA on Olin Case; Amoeba plans Hot August Bikes celebration

Sometimes, no news is no news.

More than two months after the Sheriff’s Department turned their investigation of their own officer who fatally ran down cyclist Milt Olin over to the District Attorney’s office, the DA has announced absolutely nothing.

According to the Daily News, there is still no word, official or otherwise, on whether the officer will face charges. Or even when or if a decision will be made.

Even though the DA’s own website promises a decision on filing within 60 days on any case, barring unusual circumstances.

I guess a texting on-duty cop running down a rider in a bike lane, then being investigated by his own department, rather than an independent agency such as the Highway Patrol — which normally investigates traffic fatalities in the county’s jurisdiction — could qualify as somewhat unusual.

Although the near-total news blackout on the results of the six-month investigation, followed by a total lack of comment from the DA’s office after more than two months, might make someone wonder just what the hell is or isn’t going on.

This case has stunk from day one.

And eight months later, the stench isn’t getting any better.

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Sounds like fun. Amoeba Records, along with a long list of co-sponsors, will celebrate Hollywood bike culture with Hot August Bikes in their parking lot behind store on Sunday, August 17th. The event, which runs from noon to 5 pm, will benefit the LACBC.

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Forgive the late notice.

The Bikeway’s Subcommittee of the LA Bicycle Advisory Committee — the city’s only official voice for bicyclists — will meet from 1 – 3 pm today at LADOT Headquarters, 100 Main Street.

BACBikewaysAgendaJuly302014

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Local

Been awhile since we’ve heard from bike lawyer Daniel F. Jimenez, better known here by his nom de bike Dj Wheels. He writes that cyclists are turning to tech products to improve safety.

Planning is underway for next month’s third annual Clitoral Mass ride; as the name suggests, men need not apply. Meanwhile, Culver City will get its own CicLAvia next July.

The Westside’s favorite bike race, the annual Brentwood Grand Prix, rolls this Sunday; always a great time offering exciting men’s and women’s racing.

Metro honors CICLE’s new executive director, Vanessa Gray.

Seriously? A Glendale museum director insists that cyclists — except for his law-abiding friends, of course — are crazed lawbreakers who speed downhill at 40 mph in spandex and without brakes, unlike all those rational, law-abiding motorists out there. Proving you can be really smart, and still say some really stupid things.

And a Palos Verdes letter writer (second letter) complains about bicyclists getting their own private space, plus being allowed to use every lane on the public roadways, unlike all those law-abiding motorists who would never dream of driving in a bike lane. Thanks to Margaret for the heads-up.

 

State

A San Francisco cyclist suffers life-threatening injuries when he’s hit by the driver of a stolen minivan fleeing from police; six other people were less seriously injured.

After a young New York woman is killed while riding in Chico, her parents vow to live out her bucket list.

A Stockton man sics his dog on a bike rider for the unconscionable crime of using a hose without permission.

 

National

The Bike League looks at how better laws can promote bicycling, and invites you to order their new Smart Cycling Quick Guide.

Despite what the NY Times says, Bicycling insists there’s no proof carbon fiber is making bikes more dangerous. And the magazine’s Test Director can barely control his anger at the Times piece.

I’ve been ignoring multiple stories lately about a competition to design the urban bike of the future; Bike Snob explains in his own inimitable way why that was the right choice.

A Chicago study shows only buffered bike lanes keep riders outside the door zone.

An upstate New York woman was high on crack when she hit a cyclist not once, but twice before fleeing the scene — and despite her 23rd license suspension. You’d thing after the first dozen or so, someone would permanently revoke her license and forbid her from owning a car.

A proposed change in DC law would end contributory negligence in car vs bike collisions.

When Ft. Lauderdale police lead Critical Mass riders uphill at a dangerously slow pace — 3 mph, for chrissake — a ride leader asks them to speed up so people won’t fall. And is nearly forced into a collision by a cop, then arrested for his trouble.

 

International

A local Yorkshire official who called cyclists lawless menaces who speed through the village at a remarkable 50 mph is convicted of drunk driving at nearly twice the legal limit. But we’re the dangerous ones, right?

Now that’s class. When the Malawi bike team competing in the Commonwealth Games brought a pair of bikes to a Glasgow bike shop for repairs, the staff decided they deserved better. And loaned them two high-end bikes for the competition.

British rider Emma Pooley announces she’ll retire after the Commonwealth Games.

After pedestrians call an Irish bike rider an idiot for riding on a footpath, he proves them right by attacking them with a key and screwdriver.

 

Finally…

A Houston burglar uses a doggy door to steal a bike, then leaves it behind when he can’t ride it. And Long Beach police respond when a six-year old tries to use a toy gun to jack another boy’s bike.

Seriously, you can’t make this shit up.

 

Weekend Links: Is the LA County Sheriff’s Department trying to hide the results of the Milt Olin investigation?

So what, exactly, are they trying to hide?

It’s standard practice in public relations that when you want to hide something bad news, you release it on a Friday afternoon where it can get lost on the weekend news cycle. And when you really want to hide something, you release it on a Friday just before a three-day holiday weekend.

That’s exactly what the LA County Sheriff’s Department did today.

The department has been highly criticized for investigating their own deputy in the December death of cyclist Milt Olin, rather than turn it over to independent investigators from the CHP, which usually handles traffic fatalities for the LASD.

Now, after sitting on the news for over a week, they finally announced that the results of their foot-dragging investigation into the former Napster executive and entertainment lawyer’s death were turned over to the DA’s office for evaluation on May 15th.

Why it took over five months to conduct an investigation that probably wouldn’t have taken five days if it was an average citizen behind the wheel is anyone’s guess. Let alone why the announcement wasn’t made last week, unless they were deliberately attempting to time it for the holiday weekend.

The incredibly cryptic announcement doesn’t offer a clue as to the results of the investigation, leading many in the cycling community to suspect the department may be attempting to cover-up its own culpability in Olin’s death. And hoping we won’t notice.

Good luck with that.

I’ve heard from a number of riders since the news broke late Friday afternoon, all of whom suspect something fishy is going on. And virtually all of whom question why the LASD chose to investigate itself, knowing the results would be held in doubt unless they unexpectedly come down hard on the department itself.

And yes, I’m told the CHP was more than willing to step in to assist or take over the investigation, but were never asked.

Meanwhile, the Times cites the coroner’s report as saying Olin appeared to be wearing earphones connected to an iPhone, which would be in violation of state law permitting an earpiece to be used in one ear only.

What bearing that could possibly have in the investigation is highly questionable, unless they’re trying to make a case that Olin should have somehow been able to avoid the patrol car that drifted into the bike lane and ran him down from behind.

Even eyes in the back of his head, let alone perfect hearing, probably wouldn’t have helped in that case.

The paper also notes that the Sheriff’s Department has publicly apologized to Olin’s family. As well they should.

But what they really owe them, and us, is an open and honest investigation, rather than a five month cone of silence followed by deliberately trying to bury the press release when it was most likely to go unnoticed.

On the later, they failed miserably.

On the former, the jury is still out. If it ever gets to one.

Thanks to everyone who reached out to me about this story.

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The US Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offer a new animated bike safety video; Copenhagenize’s Mikael Colville-Andersen says it was made by people who hate bicycling.

Seriously? Seems pretty innocent to me.

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You’ll find a free bike valet at the annual Fiesta Hermosa in Hermosa Beach, which makes biking along the beach by far the best way to get there.

I’ll try to catch up on updating the Calendar over the weekend.

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This weekend marks the US Cycling Pro National Championships in Chattanooga TN.

Cycling scion Taylor Phinney is a favorite, but can we please stop calling him the next big thing and/or the future of American cycling and just let him prove himself on the race course, or not, as the case may be?

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Local

Great news on the Westside, as the popular San Vicente bike lanes are being extended through Brentwood. I rode through there myself on Friday, and even unfinished, it feels a lot more comfortable than the usual Friday traffic madhouse.

A Burbank resident writes a paean to the Chandler bikeway.

More on the planned Downey Bicycle Master Plan, which plans to borrow ideas from nearby Long Beach. Good ones, I hope.

 

State

Red Kite Prayer looks at the recent Campy Gran Fondo San Diego.

CalBike lobbies the state legislature for protected bikeways and a vulnerable user law.

Merced police pitch in to buy a cerebral palsy patient a new bike after his is stolen.

This one definitely wins the prize for California’s best named bike tour. Welcome to the Tour de Manure.

Pedal Love’s Melissa Balmer says bike style has the power to capture the imagination.

 

National

The hit-and-run epidemic spreads to Seattle, as a bike rider suffers serious injuries while the cowardly driver flees the scene.

Denver’s mayor leads cyclists on a test ride of the city’s first protected bike lane.

The popularity of Chicago’s bike-friendly mayor sinks to just 29%, evidently because voters don’t like bike lanes.

Jersey City moves some bike lanes to the left side on one-way streets.

A speeding New Orleans driver is indicted on negligent homicide and negligent injury charges for killing an Atlanta firefighter in town for an Ironman competition and injuring another rider. Apparently they’re taking this case seriously, since he was taken into custody on a total of $600,000 bond.

After a North Carolina bike rider confronts a cop to deny running a red light, the officer takes him down, breaking his arm in the process.

 

International

A Montreal letter writer insists roads are for cars and bikes don’t belong there. So there.

A UK motorcyclist riding in a bike lane knocks down a bicyclist, then blames the victim before posting video of the incident online — which clearly shows his mirror clipping the rider’s arm.

Bike Radar profiles the essential kit for bike commuting. Yes, tires are essential; the rest, maybe not as much.

A Sydney newspaper calls a study showing bike lanes carried the same amount of traffic as the lanes next to them a two-wheeled fraud.

A Thai driver walks with a one year probation and a 10,000 Bhat fine — the equivalent of just $307 — for killing two bike riding British tourists on an around the world tour. I’d like to say life is cheap there, but I’ve seen just as bad right here in the US.

 

Finally…

A North Carolina TV station says Chapel Hill police seek expensive bike thief. So how much are bike thieves going for these days? And after an Alabama truck driver idiotically posts videos online showing himself threatening cyclists, he’s arrested on a charge of reckless endangerment; needless to say, other idiots rush to his defense.

 

Update — bike rider killed in wreck with Sheriff’s patrol car

Word is just coming in that yet another bike rider has lost his life on Mulholland.

And this time, the police may be fault.

According to KCBS-2, the victim, who has not been publicly identified, was riding in the bike lane on the 22000 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabasas around 1:05 pm today when he was hit by a Sheriff’s Department patrol car. Calabasas Patch reports that both the victim and the patrol car were traveling in the same direction, suggesting the rider was struck from behind.

The sheriff’s deputy behind the wheel was reportedly on routine patrol and not responding to an emergency call; a sheriff’s spokesman said speed was not a factor in the crash.

However, the driver was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor lacerations to his face and eye due to broken class from the impact, suggesting a significant impact. No explanation was given for why the driver apparently entered the bike lane to hit the cyclist; drug or alcohol use was not suspected as a factor.

This is the 82nd bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 34th in Los Angeles County; that compares with 71 in the seven-county SoCal region and 21 in LA County this time last year. And this was at least the fourth cyclist to lose his life on Mulholland Hwy in the last four years.

My deepest sympathy for the victim and his loved ones.

Thanks to Carlos Morales, Danny Gamboa, sonofabike and John McBrearty for the heads-up.

Update: KABC-7 has just identified the victim as 65-year old Milton Everett Olin Jr. of Woodland Hills; a well-known attorney in the entertainment field. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with information is urged to call the LASD Malibu/Lost Hills Station at 818/878-1808.

Meanwhile, the Ventura County Star reports that Olin’s bike somehow hit the patrol car, rather than the other way around — despite obvious damage to the car’s windshield. The LA Times confirms the car’s windshield was broken, making it virtually impossible for the rider to have struck the car if they were both traveling in the same direction. 

Update 2: KTLA-5 reports Olin and the patrol car were both traveling east on Mulholland Hwy when the collision occurred.

The Times fills in Olin’s work history, noting that he was Chief Operating Officer at Napster from 2000 to 2002, at a time when the file-sharing service was under fire from the music industry for enabling piracy, and forced to liquidate in bankruptcy court. 

He’d been a practicing attorney since graduating from UCLA Law School in 1975, and worked as vice president of business development for A&M Records — which was chiefly responsible for the lawsuit that led to Napster’s bankruptcy. He also served briefly as the senior vice president for business development for Firstlook.com before joining Napster.

The Star has corrected their story that repeatedly blamed the victim for the collision in a later report, although they’ve left the initial biased story online; thanks to Lois for the tip.

Update 3: Too often, we never learn anything about the victims of bicycling collisions, or the pain their loss leaves behind. But in this case, both the LA Times and KNBC-4 fill in the blanks with nice reports on a man who loved his family and riding his bike.

Although it does not build more confidence in the investigation to know the lead investigator in the case took yesterday off. Or that I’m told the CHP was willing to conduct an independent investigation, but wasn’t asked.

Meanwhile, a reader forwards an email exchange with the editor of the Ventura County Star in which he complained about the bias in the initial report. And received a very nice response promising to look into the matter — which resulted in the updated report correcting the misinformation, as well as changes to the initial story.

Too often, complaints like that get ignored. So let’s give credit to VC Star editor John Moore for doing the right thing.

Update 4: The LA Sheriff’s Department offers an apology, but doesn’t accept responsibility.

Update 5: The Daily News identifies the Sheriff’s Deputy who killed Olin on as a 16-year veteran from the Malibu/Lost Hills station, despite a lack of confirmation from the department. The collision is still under investigation; two weeks later, investigators still haven’t spoken to all the witnesses. 

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