Tag Archive for Wendy Villegas

Breaking news: Wendy Villegas accepts plea in September hit-and-run death of cyclist Andy Garcia

Ghost bike being installed for Andy Garcia; photo from Ghost Bike Luis "Andy" Garcia Facebook page

Ghost bike being installed for Andy Garcia; photo from Ghost Bike Luis “Andy” Garcia Facebook page

News is just coming in that Wendy Villegas has been convicted in the hit-and-run death of cyclist Luis “Andy” Garcia.

According to Danny Gamboa, Villegas changed her plea to no contest for the September 14th collision that took the life of Garcia, and left two other riders seriously injured.

Gamboa reports she accepted a plea bargain of three years and eight months in prison for felony hit-and-run and DUI. That represents a gift from the DA’s office, as she had been facing a minimum of five to seven years for vehicular manslaughter, DUI and felony hit-and-run, with a maximum of 10 to 15 years.

In other words, she was sentenced to just 20% of what she could have faced.

Garcia was riding with Ule Melgar, Mario Lopez and two other riders on the LA River Bridge on Cesar Chavez Avenue near Mission Road at 2:45 am on Saturday, September 14th, when they were hit from behind with no warning by Villegas’ car.

She proceeded to drive home, dragging Garcia’s bike several hundred feet beneath her car according to LA Streetsblog. She was reportedly still drunk when she was taken into custody several hours later.

Meanwhile, her victims remained where they’d fallen. Lopez had been tossed into the air, breaking his back and leg; Melgar was nearly knocked over the guardrail and into the LA River below.

Garcia was left lying in the roadway, where he was run over by a second vehicle. Whether he could have survived the initial impact had Villegas stopped as the law requires will never be known.

Many reports suggested that the 21-year old Villegas never seemed to grasp the seriousness of her actions, as exemplified by this courtroom incident reported by Sahra Sulaiman in the Streetsblog story above.

So, when she and her lawyer complained that wearing an ankle bracelet that would monitor both alcohol intake and movement would be inconvenient to a young, working student as well as a challenge for her to pair it properly with the variety of shoes she wears, Lopez couldn’t take it any more.

“I thought to myself at that moment, ‘Well, what about Andy?’” he wrote. “‘[Andy] was a full time student in college. He had responsibilities. But yet, he can’t and will never be able to fulfill them…And she is worried about her fashion sense! What about the inconvenience she brought upon his family and friends?’”

He finally yelled out, “But she killed someone!”

Maybe a few years in state prison will succeed in driving that home.

Update: KTLA-5 reports that Villegas is scheduled for sentencing on April 22nd. Not surprisingly, the story notes that many of the cyclists in the courtroom were unhappy with the minimal sentence, and the Garcia’s mother was repulsed by Villegas lack of remorse. 

Possible justice for Andy Garcia, Frye flips out after getting flipped off, and a big bike drag in HP

Looks like there may be justice for fallen cyclist Andy Garcia.

And the riding companions who were injured with him.

Streetsblog’s Sahra Sulaiman reports that 21-year old Wendy Villegas was arraigned last week for the hit-and-run collision that left Garcia sprawled in the roadway, where he was hit and killed by a second vehicle.

Fortunately, the judge seems to be taking the case very seriously.

Not only is Villegas facing a sentence of between 5 – 7 and 10 – 15 years, but the unnamed judge wanted nothing to do with her lawyer’s complaints that an ankle monitor would cramp his client’s lifestyle.

Not to mention her choice of fashionable footwear.

According to them, the judge told Villegas she will wear the device because she is a danger to society. As such, she is no longer able to drive a vehicle, must obey a curfew, and is obligated to appear in court by 4 p.m. today (Oct. 11) to both pay for the monitor and have it placed around her ankle. Should she choose not to do so, the judge advised, a warrant would be issued for her arrest, she would be placed in custody, and her bail would be revoked.

Villegas was still drunk when she was taken into custody hours after dragging Garcia’s bike several hundred feet beneath her car.

Meanwhile, Sulaiman reports the survivors have been deeply affected by the collision. Mario Lopez suffered fractures to his back and leg, and now requires a walker and back brace to get around, painfully.

And Ule Melgar, the other rider hit by Villegas’ car, suffered severe road rash and leg pain; fortunately for him, his backpack broke his fall.

The other riders in the group have to live with watching their friend killed before their eyes.

As do the occupants of the car that took his life after Villegas left him sprawled in the road.

A memorial carwash will be held this Saturday in Garcia’s memory, and to raise funds for his family.

………

Ever think there might be a reason why a cyclist might flip off a friendly driver just trying to give a helpful honk?

Evidently, a thought like that has never passed through the head of Chicago Sun Times, Men’s Health and ESPN.com columnist Andy Frye.

In what he (mis)labels as satire, Frye reports a recent incident in which he drove up behind a bike rider who apparently didn’t know he was there. So he “tooted” his horn lightly.

Guess I should have known better. Not that I expected a waive from the cyclist, nor did I expect him to stop and say thank you, but I didn’t expect him to give me the one-finger salute in a long, protracted, five-second long flip-off accompanied by a scornful face.

Suddenly I was the bad guy, and apparently an archetype that embodied everything that is wrong with society, at least in the eyes of this self-proclaimed roadhog radical. I had become ”The Man” and perhaps a symbol of an oppressive oil-oligarchy, hellbent on usurping all that is good by bumping this free-spirited city cyclist off the road.

I never knew a single digit could convey so much deep meaning.

And “The Man?” Seriously?

What, is it 1968 all over again?

Meanwhile, I’ve scoured my car horn, but can’t find the light toot setting, let alone the friendly warning button. Call me crazy, but I always thought car horns make the same sound regardless of your intent in honking.

So how, exactly, was the rider supposed to gauge the supposed purpose behind Frye’s honk? Especially when even the most well-intentioned honk sounds loud and angry to anyone not encased in couple tons of relatively soundproofed glass and steel.

Chances are, the rider already knew Frye’s car was there; loud, hulking vehicles are kind of hard to hide, even without looking. And if not, all he managed to do was scare the crap out of the poor guy by hitting his horn behind an unsuspecting rider.

Under the same circumstances, I probably would have flipped him off too. And I guarantee I would have known he was there long before his misguided finger hit the horn.

And he’d know I was there long after.

So for anyone else as clueless as the self-proclaimed bike-riding Frye, never, ever honk at a cyclist. It will almost never be taken well, regardless of what’s hidden in your heart of hearts.

And as Bike Snob so succinctly pointed out, that old cliché of “I own — or ride — a bike too…” is the moral equivalent of “Some of my best friends are (insert ethnicity here)…”

………

This coming Saturday should be a major drag in Huntington Park.

The city is teaming with the LACBC and Wolfpack Hustle to host a bike drag race compete with full support, including barricades, medical emergency response teams and police services. Registration is just $10 — and free for HP residents.

In addition, participants and spectators are invited to give your input on the city’s new Bicycle Master Plan at the LACBC booth.

………

More on Mayor Garcetti’s plan for Great Streets, which doesn’t exactly jibe with proposed plans for a deadly virtual freeway on the Hyperion-Glendale bridge complex. The Times says men downplay the risks of texting and driving; oddly, I see more women texting behind the wheel, myself. Rick Risemberg reports riding in Portland is sort of like having CicLAvia every day. UCLA makes progress on their 2006 bike plan; I’d be happy if the red light on westbound Charles E. Young at the entrance off Sunset Blvd would just recognize my bike. The artist behind those incredible gates on the LA River. Governor Brown vetoes a poison pill bill that would have effectively halted a surface route for the long-planned extension of the 710 Freeway, but signs Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s bill extending the statute of limitations in hit-and-run cases. Celebrate the newly bike-friendly Colorado Blvd on Saturday the 26th. A little 80-year old lady from Pasadena hits a salmon cyclist head on in broad daylight. Bike thefts spike in Torrance. Long Beach is scheduled to hold their bike count this week.

Bike Newport Beach introduces a bootleg bike master plan. After losing both his legs in Afghanistan, a San Diego vet rides 160 miles for charity. Thousand Oaks is striping roadways to reduce collision — not accident — rates, thank you. A Lake County CA cyclist is killed in a head-on collision with a sheriff’s deputy speeding in response to a reported home invasion. The musician behind last year’s viral hit Bike Path Love is arrested for DUI after colliding with a pedestrian. San Francisco firefighters are worried bike lanes and traffic calming are narrowing the city’s streets too much.

Elly Blue calls for putting a kickstand and other crap — her word, not mine — on your bike. Your helmet could text for help the next time you wipe out. Tacoma WA is ordered to pay nearly a quarter million dollars to a cyclist who did a face plant after getting a wheel caught in a crack in a bike lane. An Arizona writer says life is cheap in Tucson, at least when it comes to cyclists and pedestrians; evidently, it’s not just Tucson, as an El Mirage driver drags a rider 108 feet down the street before fleeing. A string of bad decisions is blamed for Boise bike and pedestrian collisions; then again, isn’t that the primary cause of virtually every collision? A Texas cyclist discovers the downside of riding into a closed national wildlife refuge during the government shutdown. Indianapolis residents want a butt ugly bike sculpture removed; it’s supposed to look like Kurt Vonnegut but instead looks like a tangled jumble on a pole. A New Hampshire woman administered fentanyl to calm down a young driver hours before she plowed into a group ride, killing two cyclists; I was given fentanyl for outpatient surgery a few years back, and was completely and totally unable to get out of bed for the next three days, let alone drive. A year after a liver transplant saved his life, a Boston area cyclist loses it to a hit-and-run driver. The Wall Street Journal questions the risks of unsanctioned bike races as they rise in popularity. NYC bike advocates predict even more bike lanes in the city. A New York rider ends up with nerve damage after being cuffed by police for running a red light. Don’t ride onto a Pittsburgh parade route, even if you’re in the bike lane. Sometimes you have to — politely — explain the law to the cops, like this rider did.

Hermes introduces an $11,000 handmade carbon fiber bike for casual cyclists with more dollars than sense. Will robocars be good for bike riders? British bike rider is escorted off the equivalent of the 5 Freeway, in the rain, no less. Brit track cyclist tracks down his stolen bike on Facebook. The women’s Tour of Britain receives equal standing with the men’s race, while UK’s Olympic champion women’s pursuit team calls for a women’s Tour de France. A USC professor — no, not that USC, the Australian one — determines cyclist safety is degraded because roads weren’t designed for cyclists’ needs; well, duh. Ride South Africa’s wine routes on your next vacation. An 81-year old Aussie man rides 30 miles a day; I want to be like him when I grow up. A New Zealand cyclist is dead, and two others injured, because a driver didn’t bother to wear his contacts and only saw two of the group of 10 riders he plowed into.

Finally, there’s no longer a need to choose between your cleats and sexy high heels.And there’s no need to ever shift again if you can afford this $1000 virtual automatic transmission for your bike.

More on the 2nd-car death of Andy Garcia, no more green bike lane, and LA gets tougher on hit-and-run

Streetsblog attempts to clear up the confusing details over the hit-and-run collision that resulted in the death of Luis “Andy” Garcia.

Garcia was killed after 21-year old Wendy Villegas hit a group of five riders and fled the scene, leaving her victims lying in the street, where he was hit by a second vehicle.

Streetsblog writer Sahra Sulaiman talks with some of the other riders involved.

What they have to say contradicts some of the details in the official press release from the LAPD — including the fact that Mario Lopez, one of the riders hit in the initial collision, suffered a broken back, rather than the minor injuries the police report.

And paints a picture of a needlessly horrifying night that took the life of a young bike rider, shattered two families, and forever scarred the four surviving riders, as well as the three men who prayed over Garcia after their van took his life.

All because a young woman got behind the wheel when she was too drunk to drive, and fled like a coward after colliding with her victims.

Then again, there’s no such thing as being just a little drunk when you’re driving.

………

Photo of no-longer green Spring Street bike lane shamelessly stolen from Niall Huffman

Photo of no-longer green Spring Street bike lane shamelessly stolen from Niall Huffman

Also courtesy of Streetsblog, which has been very busy on the bike front this week, comes official confirmation that you can kiss your green Spring Street bike lanes goodbye.

The highly popular bike lanes barely survived an attempt by Hollywood filmmakers to have them removed entirely; regretfully, self-described bike supporter Council Member Tom LaBonge bought into the industry’s easily disprovable lies — as did our new bike-friendly Mayor Eric Garcetti.

If it wasn’t for the efforts of Council Member Jose Huizar and a few others, the bike lanes would have been removed entirely, rather than just stripped of their green paint.

Now they await a newly approved treatment that costs significantly less, but may not be as effective in capturing the attention of motorists.

We should all hold Hollywood — and our elected readers — accountable for any drop in ridership on the street.

Or increase in injuries.

……..

The LA City Council instructs the LAPD to take a tougher stance on tracking hit-and-runs. And will work at the state level to revoke the licenses of fleeing drivers, and forfeit their vehicles.

Which is exactly what I’ve long been calling for.

So whether someone has read my blog, or just came up with the idea on their own, thank you. Frankly, I couldn’t care less who gets the credit as long as long-needed changes are made.

Now let’s get it done. And put a stop to this deadly epidemic.

………

The LA Times says the ball is in Governor Brown’s court when it comes to signing the three-foot passing law, noting that this is the fifth attempt at passing it in California. The first two never made it out of committee, while our esteemed governor vetoed the last pair.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog notes the Times promises more coverage of bicycling issues on their Opinion page. With all the bike-riding reporters and editors who work at the paper, the only question is what took so long.

Speaking of which, Streetsblog and the new Santa Monica Next are holding a fundraiser this Sunday.

………

lb_market_valetKelly Heller sends word that the Long Beach Southwest Farmers Market will begin offering a bike valet this Sunday:

Since it doesn’t begin till next weekend, I cannot tell you anything about how the valet staff is or what the bike accommodations look like.

However, I certainly *can* attest to the fact that this farmer’s market has a significant car-traffic problem.  They are paying for at least three traffic guards, and the whole time we were locking up our bikes and readying our shopping bags we observed the frustration of both the drivers and the traffic guards as they yelled at each other and everyone struggled to find any remaining needle-in-a-haystack open parking spots.

It’s nice to see that someone did the math and figured out that putting up a free bike valet might be the ideal solution.

………

There may be hope for the LA River yet, beyond the current unfinished bike path next to a graffiti-clad concrete river bed. The city breaks ground on a new park next to the river in Sherman Oaks that will include a short bike path. The city council approves a new $6 million bike, pedestrian and equestrian bridge over the LA River in North Atwater Village. Larchmont Village loses thirty — yes, 30 — bike racks in order to satisfy drivers who prefer parking meters. Residents want to tame traffic on Ave 64.

There will be a blood drive in honor of fallen OC cyclist Kurt Kirkey in Aliso Viejo on Wednesday, October 2nd. Bike Newport Beach looks at the different mindset for riding in Paris. A Bakersfield driver was using a legal hands-free device when she struck and killed a cyclist riding in a bike lane Tuesday night, in what has been a horrible year for Kern County cyclists and pedestrians; police say the driver was at fault. Sharrows or Supersharrows? When a cyclist is nearly decapitated by fishing line strung over a bike trail, it’s not a prank, it’s a terrorist attack.

Industry trade group Bikes Belong folds itself into its own People for Bikes subsidiary. Elly Blue offers five tips for the bike industry to increase ridership among women. Lovely Bicycle asks if it’s possible to have too short a ride. The Houston Chronicle asks how relatively ancient Chris Horner won the Vuelta. A Houston rider has his bike stolen when he’s mugged on a popular bike trail. Evidently, there’s a requirement in Montana that says drivers have to pass bike riders even when it’s not safe to do so. A Milwaukee man is shot and killed after spotting a man riding a child’s stolen bike. Apparently, more bikes really do mean safer streets, even if New York’s Daily News has trouble believing it. Evidently, you can do tricks on a bike share bike. Male riders outnumber women in Philly, like just about everywhere else. A Maryland rider explains what it’s like to be a cyclist on the state’s roads. DC could remove restrictions preventing bike shops from selling used bikes. A 77-year old Arlington VA driver threatens the cyclist he right hooked with a baseball bat; the driver claimed the rider should have signaled for the left turn he wasn’t making.

A Winnipeg law would absurdly force groups of 10 or more bike riders to get a parade permit. Beat the crap out of a UK bike rider in a road rage incident, and walk away with a fine. A three-year old Brit girl is banned from riding her bike because she might damage resident’s cars. Is Europe’s bad economy causing the boom in bicycling? After overseeing the worst doping era in bike racing history, Pat McQuaid says he’s the only one who can clean it up; I’d say let’s give him the same ban Lance got. The mother of racing great Marco Pantani thinks her son was poisoned after breaking pro cycling’s doping omerta. A Sydney paper continues its highly biased anti-bike reporting, including blaming bike lanes for a loss of handicap parking and cyclists for running red lights; apparently, objectivity and grammatically correct headlines aren’t attributes expected of the local press. Meanwhile, the Guardian says the anti-bike hysteria in the Sydney press has got to stop, and local cyclists fight back on Twitter.

Finally, this is one way to ride with a dog. And if you’re planning to burgle a flat screen TV, maybe a bike isn’t your best choice for a getaway vehicle.

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

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