Tag Archive for vehicular homicide

Update — Two cyclists injured, one killed by second driver in drunken early morning hit-and-run

Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

I’ve just gotten word from the LAPD that a bike rider was killed, and two others injured in a hit-and-run early this morning.

Or rather, the victim most likely died because the driver failed to stop at the scene as required by law and basic human decency.

According to the press release, 28-year old Los Angeles resident Ulises Melgar, 30-year old Mario Lopez of Bellflower and 21-year old Bell Flower resident Luis “Andy” Garcia were riding east on Cesar Chavez Avenue at Mission Road with two other bicyclists at approximately 2:45 am Saturday.

They were rear-ended by an eastbound 2013 Toyota Corolla driven by 21-year old Wendy Villegas, knocking all three off their bikes and into the street.

Villegas fled the scene, leaving her victims lying in the street. She drove to her home, where she told her parents she’d been in a collision, and asked them to call the police.

Unfortunately, it was too late.

Just moments after Villegas ran away, 21-year old Jimmy Marroquin was driving east on Cesar Chavez in a 1994 Nissan Quest. He didn’t see Garcia lying in the roadway and struck him with his SUV, dragging his body a short distance.

Had Villegas stayed at the scene, she could have directed other drivers around the people lying in the street until they could move or help could arrive. Ot at the very least, Marroquin would have been more likely to see the collision and drive more carefully around it.

Garcia was pronounced dead at the scene. Whether he could have survived the initial collision if he hadn’t been struck a second time is a matter of speculation.

However, the other two victims only suffered minor injuries, which suggests that his injuries might have been survivable. Lopez was treated by paramedics at the scene, while Melgar was taken to the ER at USC Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Villegas confessed to police that she had been drinking and left the scene of the collision. She was booked for hit-and-run resulting in injury or death (CVC 20001(a)) and vehicular manslaughter while under the influence (Penal Code 191.5).

In other words, police investigators are blaming her for Garcia’s death.

The collision is still under investigation.  Anyone with information is urged to contact Central Traffic Detective M. Kaden at (213) 972-1837 or Officer R. Cortez at (213) 972-1846; or call the Central Traffic Division’s Watch Commander at (213) 972-1853 during the weekend or off hours.

This is the 66th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the 28th in Los Angeles County; that compares to 23 in the county for all of last year. It is also the 12th biking death in the City of Los Angeles, compared to five in each of the last year two years.

That’s nearly two-and-a-half times the city’s cycling death toll for 2011 and 2012, with over three months left in the year.

And horrifyingly, nine of those 12 deaths have been hit-and-runs.

My prayers and deepest sympathy for Luis “Andy” Garcia and his loved ones.

Thanks to LAPD Central Traffic bike liaison Sgt. Laszlo Sandor for the heads-up.

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Ghost bike for Andy Garcia, from MidnightRidazz.com

Update: There are a number of rumors swirling around this case. According to reports, instead of turning herself in, the second driver followed Villegas home and reported her to the police after watching her get out of the car stumbling drunk.

In a second version, there were three vehicles that hit Garcia; the third was reportedly a Metro van, or possibly an official Metro vehicle, which followed Villegas to her home after hitting Garcia.

After checking with the LAPD, both of those versions appear to be untrue. The only vehicles involved in the collision were those driven by Villegas, who fled the scene, and Marroquin, who stopped after hitting Garcia.

Marroquin did not follow Villegas to her home; if he had, he would have committed hit-and-run, regardless of his intentions in following her. And so far, there is no credible report that there was a Metro vehicle present at the time of the collision, let alone that it was involved in the wreck or that the driver tracked her to her home.

I’ve also been told that one of the victims suffered a broken back as a result of the collision, which I have been unable to confirm with the LAPD. They’re looking into it for me, but so far say both other victims suffered minor injuries.

In addition, reports are that it was actually Melgar who was treated and released at the scene, while Lopez was taken to the hospital; he’s the one who reportedly has a broken back.

There will be a memorial service for Andy Garcia Tuesday, September 17th.

andy

Accused Ventura drunken serial hit-and-run driver Satnam Singh pleads guilty, now facing 15 to life

Evidently, the farther you get from San Bernardino County, the more likely cyclists are to see justice.*

Case in point: Satnam Singh, accused in the drunken hit-and-run death of Ventura cyclist Nick Haverland, has changed his plea to guilty to second degree murder and driving under the influence following two days of damning testimony.

The 20-year old college student was riding with a friend to take a college final when he was run down by Singh’s Hummer in May of last year. The Santa Paula liquor store owner reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .39 — nearly five times the legal limit — when he hit Haverland and injured five other people in a series of violent collisions.

Singh now faces 15 years to life in state prison, followed by parole for the rest of his life if he should be released; no word on whether he would ever be allowed to drive again. He was also threatened with deportation upon release from prison if he can’t prove he’s a citizen of the U.S.; odd that something like that should even be in question this far into the case.

Prior to his drunken rampage, Singh had received at least two tickets for speeding, and been accused in another DUI collision just three months before murdering Haverland — a case in which he attempted to have his wife take the fall.

Just more evidence that the state moves too slowly to protect the public in cases like this.

*Then again, Riverside County may not be much better.

………

Sunday’s shift back to Standard Time means bike commuters will now face evening rush hour traffic in full darkness. And that means you need a good headlight and tail light — preferably flashing — in order to make it back home in one piece, let alone avoid a ticket.

Even if you’re just out for an afternoon ride, it makes sense to throw a light set into your bike bag or jersey pocket in case a flat or other mechanical keeps you out later than planned. Or at the very least, toss in some reflective ankle straps just in case.

After all, it’s better to light a single bike headlamp than to curse the darkness after getting run over.

………

Tuesday is Election Day. I won’t tell you to go vote in what may be the closest election of our lifetime — not to mention one with a slate of state propositions and local measure that could affect your life for decades to come.

I assume you’re an adult and know just how important this is.

What I will do, though, is urge you to ride your bike to the polls if at all possible to show that our votes count, too. And that it’s long past time for politicians to address our concerns if they want our votes.

………

Writing for Orange 20 Bikes, Richard Risemberg says that, contrary to perceptions, bikes are actually better for business than cars. Best wishes to LADOT Bike Blogger JoJo Pewsawang as he moves on to hopefully greener pastures. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske looks at California’s cranky and apparently bike-unfriendly Governor Jerry Brown. Calbike says Prop 33 in Tuesday’s election hurts those who are helping the environment — like bicyclists. Maybe your broken carbon frame can be brought back to life after all. The 23rd Solvang Prelude brings thousands of riders to the Santa Ynez Valley. A teenage Santa Barbara hit-and-run driver faces charges for a right hook hit-and-run that critically injured a cyclist. The widow of a Sonoma cyclist now helps others after confronting the man who killed him. A 24-year old Napa driver gets a year in jail for seriously injuring a cyclist while under the influence of marijuana.

Bicycling offers a roster of vintage rides through the wine country, along with five coffee table bike books. CNN talks to gold medal-winning Paralympian and former race car champion Alex Zanardi. A Boulder CO intersection gets a makeover in the wake of two cycling deaths; meanwhile, the city won’t pursue a stage in next year’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge; probably not just because of the tour’s awful name, though. San Antonio’s safe passing law needs better enforcement. A Chicago writer says that cyclists shouldn’t have to bear responsibility for safety or accept that risk is inevitable. Bike Portland’s Jonathan Maus reports on riding in the Manhattan blackout following Hurricane Sandy; the New Yorker asks if Sandy will turn the city’s residents into bike commuters. Charging powerless New Yorker’s devices by bike. Thankfully, former L.A. bike and creek advocate Joe Linton survived Sandy, as well. Why are the rules of the road are a lot longer for Boston bicyclists? What would you do if you came across a bike crash? Yet another delay in the case of accused killer Miami DUI hit-and-run driver and musician Carlos Bertonatti.

A writer says Vancouverites are too old to take advantage of the city’s new transportation plan; you’re kidding me, right? Are bike helmets or bike lanes more important for bike safety? British cycling legend Tommy Godwin passes away at 91. The London Times says bikes are the future, and cities must adapt them — but can’t be bothered to make the story available behind their paywall. A Swiss sportswear company is suing cycling’s governing body over damage to the sport following the Lance Armstrong scandal, while Guam could hold the key to real reform in pro cycling. We have a new candidate for the world’s safest cycling city: Berlin. An Aussie cyclist is shot in the ass as he tries to ride away from a group of men in a park. Bringing the internet to Bangladesh by bike. Even the Indian city of Mangalore gets cycletracks before we do.

Finally, as if doping isn’t bad enough, now former doper Alexandre Vinokourov is accused of paying off another rider to let him win the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic.

Is it just me, or is pro cycling is starting to give swamp pits a bad name?

Fatal bike assault finally explained as case goes to trial; anti-bike Chicago columnist goes off deep end

The Valley News finally offers an explanation for why police believe the death of a Riverside County cyclist earlier this year was an intentional act.

Anaheim resident Anthony Ray Lopez was charged with deliberately running down and killing 68-year old Herman Armando Villalobos of Home Gardens. Now Lopez faces trial for first degree murder with great bodily injury allegations for the January 15th death; a jury was empanelled on Wednesday.

According to prosecutors, Lopez had spent the afternoon drinking with a friend while watching a football game at a Corona bar before driving home; on the way, he crossed paths with Villalobos, who was riding home after shopping with grocery bags on his handlebars.

Villalobos reportedly rode in front of Lopez, forcing him to brake sharply. After exchanging glares, Villalobos rode off, with an enraged Lopez following behind and cursing at the cyclist.

When that failed to get a response, Lopez bumped the rider’s bike; witnesses say his bike jumped but Villalobos was somehow able to maintain control. Lopez then floored his pickup and slammed into Villalobos, running him over and dragging him and his bike 30 feet before fleeing the scene.

He is currently being held jail on $1 million bond. We can only hope he’s been there since he was arrested, and will never again see the light of day.

Frankly, there’s not a pit in hell deep enough for someone who could do something like that.

………

Oh please.

In an absolutely idiotic proposal, a self-proclaimed visionary newspaper columnist proposes that a) cyclists pay tolls to use bikeways, b) stop sign cameras be installed to automatically ticket scofflaw cyclists, c) cyclists be required to pay hefty fees to use city-owned bike racks, and d) that cyclists buy a handlebar-mounted transponder that would allow them to bypass toll booths.

Brilliant.

As long as your plan is to discourage bike use, with the resulting increase in vehicular traffic, traffic congestion, more traffic collisions and a decrease in air quality, as well as a jump in obesity and other related health problems.

But other than that, his plan is pure genius.

Visionary, indeed.

And by the way, Chicago Tribune, do I really need to tell you where you can put your pay wall?

………

Century City bankruptcy attorney Stanley E. Goldich reports an all too typical interaction with an elderly driver while riding on PCH.

On PCH last week, heading South on PCH near Cross Creek a car coming from the Malibu Sea Colony street on the west merged into PCH without any regard to me – I was not going fast so it was not dangerous. He hit the light and I knocked on his window and could see it was an elderly man. I nicely said that he needed to yield to cyclists as well as cars – he responded that he would need to see the cyclist first.

………

Tom Danielson won stage three of the USA Pro Challenge in a bold breakaway, riding the last 20 miles alone after cresting Independence Pass; Christian Vande Velde and Tejay van Garderen are tied for the lead. Danielson and Vende Velde give credit to Dave Zabriskie. Italian rider Daniele Callegarin is back riding with Team Type-1 a year after suffering a serious crash when he hit a cattle guard in last year’s inaugural Pro Challenge.

Meanwhile, Simon Clarke edges Tony Martin following a long breakaway to win the fourth stage of the Vuelta; Joaquin Rodriguez holds the overall lead, with Chris Froome second.

And CNN offers a recap of the witch hunt case against Lance Armstrong.

………

September’s LACBC Sunday Funday ride will be the group’s first Sunday FunGay ride. Flying Pigeon urges cyclists to give their tires a little love. Long Beach votes to establish a $12 million bike share program with Bike Nation; combined with the Anaheim and upcoming L.A. programs, we could be on the verge of a pan-SoCal bike share network. Solana Beach residents and visitors are urged to leave their cars at home this Saturday. A 16-year old San Diego cyclist is injured in a hit-and-run; his brother reports hearing the truck rev its engine just before the collision. Local bike advocates look at what it will take to make Sacramento even more bike friendly. The 81-year old road raging driver who ran down a cyclist on a Santa Rosa golf course is out on bail, and people who’ve encountered him say he has a hair-trigger temper; anyone want to bet he gets rearrested before his case even goes to court? The Santa Rosa paper calls on drivers to share the road. A helmetless Santa Rosa cyclist pulls an endo trying to avoid a head-on collision; thanks to Witch on a Bicycle for the link. Tahoe police throw the book at a hit-and-run driver who critically injured a cyclist before fleeing the scene, leading them on a dangerous chase and crashing her car.

Safer cars may mean reduced safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Oregon police try to circumvent state law in order to ticket cyclists for leaving bike lanes. An OR woman seeks the hit-and-run driver who killed her bike-riding friend. A Colorado woman is charged with DUI, hit-and-run and other crimes when she turns herself in after seriously injuring a cyclist. Now that’s what I call a good looking Denver off road bikeway. A Pueblo CO girl is impaled on the gooseneck of her handlebars; for something described as a freak accident, this sort of thing seems to happen far too often. A Missoula MT detective commandeers a bike to capture a fleeing suspect; the Sheriff’s department paid to repair “significant” damages to the bike. A Wisconsin Catholic priest is killed while riding his bike. Chicago cyclists will soon enjoy a protected bike lane and special bike red lights on the city’s famed Loop. An Ohio man credited with developing the bike helmet mirror has passed away. A recumbent racer bounces back from a near-death infection to set a world record. After a Rochester NY BMX rider is hit by a car, police ticket him for riding on the sidewalk. A Kentucky cyclist suffers repeated attacks from an aggressive owl. A North Carolina cyclist captures the national crit championship in the 75 and older group. If you’re fleeing by bike after stealing a TV, keep your eyes on the road so you don’t crash into a police car.

Yesterday, a protected bike lane made of red Solo cups; today, a bike lane made from garbage — and both work. Popular UK bike website Bikeradar.com pulls support for an insurance company-backed plan that would require cyclists to pass a proficiency test before being allowed on the roads. The rich get richer: Dutch cyclists get a floating bike roundabout to avoid a busy intersection. In the wake of a recent cycling death, Singapore officials warn cyclists to be careful on the roads, rather than urging drivers not to kill them; drivers say it’s not their fault, while a cyclist(?) says we don’t belong on roads with speed limits over 31 mph. Vietnam turns back to bikes.

Finally, after she’s stuck in traffic, a Baton Rouge surgeon borrows a child’s bike to ride to a scheduled operation. A Russian cyclist rides the world’s smallest bike. And a Florida cyclist can’t stay off — or on — his, after police warn him not to ride while drunk.

Failed justice — alleged street racing killer of pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado gets off with just 90 days in jail

Pro cyclist Jorge Alvarado, a victim of our streets. And our legal system.

Sorry Jorge.

America let you down.

Or more precisely, San Bernardino County let you down, along with a court system that inexplicably denied you the justice you deserved.

You came to this country to live out your dream of becoming a professional cyclist. We sent you back in a coffin, the victim of two then-high school students who couldn’t manage to keep their feet off the gas pedal.

And then let the driver who killed you off with the barest slap on the wrist, as if your all-to-brief life had no meaning or value.

Less time than he might have gotten for killing a dog, in fact.

A lot less.

It was over two years ago, in April, 2010, that you were riding on Greenspot Road in Highland, just north of San Bernardino, training for your new role as a rider for the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team, founded by Compton’s own former national crit champion Raahsaan Bahati.

It was your big break.

A chance to prove yourself as a rising rider on a new pro team with a then-promising future.

You had no way of knowing, as you rode along that country road, that your dream would end at age 27, in the field on your right.

Maybe you reacted to those cars zooming towards you. driving far too fast. You probably saw one try to pass the other at around 80 mph, and watched in horror as the other driver cut hard to the left to keep him from passing. That sent the first car, driven by Patrick Roraff, back to the right, where he hit the shoulder and lost control, skidding across the road directly into you.

You probably hit your brakes and tried to swerve.

But it was too late.

At that speed, nothing you did or might have done would have made any difference.

I wonder if you muttered an obscenity as you saw the situation unfold. Or did you whisper one last prayer, or the name of a loved one just before the out-of-control car barreled into you, slamming you into the bushes on your right?

Were you aware of what was happening? Did you know you were dying there alone on the side of the road, thousands of miles from the people you loved?

Or did you slip mercifully into oblivion, a loss of consciousness masking the pain from your broken body?

The young men who took your life were arrested, and eventually, charged with your murder.

But that’s where the wheels of justice seemed to slowly slip off the tracks.

The long wait for charges to be filed combined with endless legal delays to push any promise of justice back time and again.

Meanwhile, Roraff and co-defendant Brett Michael Morin, who was driving the other car, were able to graduate from Redlands East Valley High School. And even with a pending homicide charge, Roraff remained the star of his high school soccer team, and went on to play soccer at the University of Redlands. Perhaps foreshadowing the leniency to come, the judge even gave permission for him to travel to Texas with his team.

God forbid that killing another person should be enough to negatively impact someone’s athletic career.

Even though yours ended that day at Roraff’s hands.

To be fair, he did say he was sorry.

It looked, ever so briefly, like you were going to get the justice you deserved when Patrick Roraff finally changed his plea to guilty. Given the seriousness of the charges — felony vehicular homicide with gross negligence and a serious felon enhancement — he should have faced serious prison time.

But he doesn’t.

Instead, the judge imposed a sentence that is far closer to a pat on the back than a slap on the wrist.

Roraff was sentenced on Monday to just 90 days in jail, with three years probation, along with community service.

Ninety lousy days. And probably a lot less than that, given this state’s over-crowded jails.

That’s less that three months for what was initially described as an illegal street race  — a felony in the state of California, by the way, for which neither driver was charged — resulting in a man’s death.

And let’s be clear. This was not an accident.

Your death was the entirely foreseeable consequence of a conscious decision to use two potentially deadly motor vehicles as oversized Hot Wheels toys.

You were just collateral damage.

The court used this case to send a message — that killing another human being while recklessly endangering the public is no big deal.

So go ahead and do whatever the hell you want on the roads, because there won’t be any serious consequences.

Especially if you have athletic skills, evidently.

They might as well have thrown Roraff a party for decreasing the excess cyclist population in the county.

It matters.

Not just because you were denied the justice you so richly deserved. But because cyclists are vulnerable on the streets, subject to the whims and careless actions of those with whom we share them.

It’s the protection we receive from the police and courts — or don’t — that dictates whether those streets will be survivable. And on that count, this court failed us miserably, putting every cyclist at greater risk.

Maybe Roraff is deserving of a second chance. But by failing to give him the sort of sentence his crime called for, the legal system missed an opportunity to show things like this can’t, and won’t, be tolerated.

And making it that much more likely that it will happen again.

There’s no word on when Roraff will begin his sentence.

It’s possible that his jail time may be delayed so he can compete again this season. If not, he’ll do his time, and be free to play again; maybe even transferring to a larger school now that this is no longer hanging over his head.

Why he received this gift from the court, I have no idea. I could speculate, but it would be nothing but a guess.

And not a pretty one, at that.

The sudden guilty plea suggests that this may have been a plea bargain. If so, I would question whether any District Attorney who signed off on a deal like this is fit to remain in office.

If not, I hope local voters will keep this case in mind when the judge comes up for reelection.

And why Roraff’s co-defendant continues to fight his charges when he could get a sweet deal like this is beyond me.

Maybe he’s not a star athlete.

To say I’m disgusted is to put it mildly.

I’m sorry, Jorge Alvarado.

We failed you.

You deserved better. You deserved justice.

But like far too many people who needlessly die while riding a bike, you’re not going to get it.

And absolutely nothing about this case will keep it from happening again.

……..

Update: Cyclist/attorney Dj Wheels fills in some of the blanks in this case.

According to information on the website for the San Bernardino County Superior Court, the sentence was imposed by judge William Jefferson Powell, who was appointed to the court by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Roraff was sentenced to 90 days in county jail, and taken into custody immediately after the hearing. Which means he should be back on the streets by early November at the latest, followed by three years of supervised probation; the judge also ordered his license revoked for a period to be determined by the DMV. 

And Roraff was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service, half of which must involve discussion of the dangers of reckless driving. 

The terms of his probation also prohibit the possession of deadly weapons; in his case, maybe that should include motor vehicles.

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