Day one of Scarpa murder trial, tell LA to stop street racing and loud engines, and CHP responsible for East LA hit-and-run

Our anonymous Orange County correspondent is back to cover this week’s trial of Stephen Taylor Scarpa for murder.

Scarpa allegedly ran down popular Costa Mesa fire captain and father Mike Kreza in a drug-fueled crash three years ago, as Kreza was riding a bicycle in Mission Viejo to train for a triathlon.

Here’s what she had to say about the lead-up to the long-delayed trial.

Stephen Taylor Scarpa‘s jury trial starts on Monday. So far, Judge Patrick Donahue has decided to allow the video of Scarpa’s participation in his high school’s “Every 15 Minutes” event, as well as testimony from fellow personnel of the rehab centers he worked at. The People’s exhibits will probably also include the DMV’s letter of license revocation and a diagram (but no photographs) of the victim’s many injuries.

Since Scarpa has a long-standing association with drugs, his medical records might be presented as well. The judge finds that this is not in violation of HIPAA. Despite the lack of a previous arrest for DUI, there is sooo much other evidence, strong evidence, that Scarpa knew the dangers of impaired driving, the DA might not even bother to present these records. Scarpa had jaw-dropping levels of assorted drugs in his system, and his blood was not drawn until 4 hours after the collision.

His Honor has forbidden Kreza’s fellow firefighters to attend the trial in full uniform, and friends & family will not be allowed to wear clothing or badges with the deceased’s likeness. I am sorely tempted to get a T-shirt printed up with “It’s about time” in bold letters, because according to the arresting officer, these were Scarpa’s words as the handcuffs were slapped on.

And this is how she reported on the first day of public testimony in the trial.

Oh, man, I’m not hopeful.

The Scarpa trial began Monday morning. Deputy DA Michael Feldman began opening statements by thanking the victim’s friends and family for coming. As stipulated by the judge, no uniformed firefighters were present inside the courtroom. But they were out in the hallway to provide support for the widow and other family members. There was no mention that Mr. Kreza himself had been a firefighter.

In a PowerPoint presentation bannered by the misspelled name of the defendant, Mr. Feldman tersely listed the basic facts that support the People’s charge, among them Scarpa’s participation in his high school’s “Every 15 Minutes” program, his rehab stints, and his employment as a behavioral health technician. “He’s gonna be the one to tell you first hand,” insisted Mr. Feldman, pointing at the defendant, that he was aware of the dangers and consequences of impaired driving. To this end, the People played audio files of the interrogation, in which Mr. Scarpa tells the investigating deputy, “I do it, but I don’t condone it,” a tacit and unambiguous confession. Mr. Scarpa clutched tissues as the DA played his confession that he’d driven impaired with his own young daughter in the car.

Feldman then went on to use the word “accident” several times during his opening statement. AUUUUURGH. That is the entire premise of the defense. It’s almost like he’s trying to hand Mr. Scarpa an acquittal with a big red shiny bow.

Mr. Lowenstein, for the Defense, insisted that the collision had been an “accident,” and that Mr. Scarpa’s actions did not meet the legal definition of implied malice. He stated that the prescription drugs found in Scarpa’s system do not, as opposed to Feldman’s assertion, have warning stickers telling users not to drive. The defense asked whether Scarpa acted with “conscious disregard” (without underscoring the impossibility because Scarpa was, in fact, unconscious at the time of impact).

The Defense told the jury that Scarpa, though drugged up after a party, drove approximately 25 miles without incident, and there was no evidence that he was speeding. He went on to loftily praise Scarpa’s parking (“snug against the curb”!) after the collision, and reiterated several times that he did not attempt to flee afterwards. The collision was merely “a split second in time, a miscalculation, a perfect storm of events.”  Scarpa’s temporary inattention, “a fraction of a second,” and impaired state led to “a perfect storm of events.” (Lowenstein also mentioned something about a perfect storm of events.)

Both Feldman and Lowenstein brought up the words Mr. Scarpa uttered upon his official arrest: “It’s about time.” The People assert that this indicated Mr. Scarpa’s acceptance of a long-anticipated outcome. The Defense suggested that Mr. Scarpa had been expecting an arrest only for the duration of his lengthy interrogation.

First to testify was widow Shana Kreza, who identified a photo of her late husband, and briefly described the family’s Saturday morning, getting ready for their daughter’s soccer game. Mr. Kreza had left on his bicycle, but never arrived at the soccer field.

Next on the witness stand was the first responding officer, who described taking initial command of the scene, Mr. Kreza’s broken body, the agitation of the suspect, and the actions of the Good Samaritans.

The next two witnesses had been in the car behind Scarpa. Ragan Hill and her nephew, Cage Morgan, were putting up garage sale signs in the neighborhood. Hill saw Scarpa’s minivan leave the roadway. As it took out shrubs and saplings on the embankment to the right of the sidewalk (where Kreza was riding his bicycle, despite the adjacent bike lane), she saw a body fly off the top of the minivan.

Morgan described his aunt yell, “Oh my god, look at that car!” He diverted his attention from his phone to see Scarpa’s minivan returning to the roadway, with a trailing cloud of debris. He watched as a man fell off the minivan’s roof onto the road. Hill hit the brakes, stopping about 5-10 feet from Kreza’s prone, bloody body. Morgan called 911, and both exited the vehicle to assist.

Scarpa had parked by the curb and exited his minivan as well, but didn’t approach his victim or the witnesses. Instead, he sat on the curb, fidgeting. “My first thought,” testified Hill, “was that he was impaired.”

Both Hill and Morgan described the same aspects of the scene: Scarpa’s agitation, Kreza’s bone sticking out of his lower leg. Morgan was afraid to initiate CPR, fearing it would exacerbate Kreza’s injuries. Because Morgan was unsure the collision was accidental and did not know whether Scarpa was dangerous, he didn’t approach the suspect, but gestured questioningly from a distance, with palms up. He kept an eye on Scarpa, who appeared disoriented, because “I was afraid he would flee the scene.”

Deputy Christian Servin was called to the scene to perform a field sobriety test. He first approached the twitchy suspect and asked what was going on. He was apprehensive about asking Scarpa to perform some of the physical field sobriety testing tasks because his lack of balance and coordination might subject him to falls. Deputy Servin’s search found six 800mg gabapentin pills on Scarpa’s person, and Scarpa confirmed he had no prescription. Though Servin had difficulty with communication because Scarpa was “in and out” of it, he was able to determine that Scarpa had not slept for two days, had smoked .25g of meth 36 hours prior, had fresh tracks from injecting a fentanyl/meth mixture, had taken Suboxone at a party that morning, and had taken lorazepam. Scarpa stated that he had no medical conditions, and (and) that he was under a doctor’s care. (This doctor, perhaps?) Scarpa also stated he knew he should not have been driving, because he was “upset,” and he believed that he had crashed into a tree and several people.

At this point, court recessed for lunch, and I had to split ’cause I have graveyard shifts, but I’m all free for Day 2.

Meanwhile, the Daily Pilot says the case will hinge on intent, and whether Scarpa intentionally committed the act that resulted in Kreza’s death.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels.

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Our anonymous correspondent also added this note.

EMT students are required to attend one rotation in a hospital emergency department. I did this.

The morning started off slow, and the nurses had zero interest in talking with me, so I poked my head into an exam room and announced to the patient that I was there to check her vitals. She consented and while I took her pulse, I asked what brought her to the ER. She stated that she had passed out while making a left turn (in a major intersection, btw) and had crashed into a fire hydrant. I sympathized with her awful morning, and then asked what she’d had for breakfast. Nothing. I suggested that it was always a good idea to fuel up to start your day. Then I asked whether she was on any medications. She had taken a prescription narcotic analgesic before she took her kids to school. “And you drove?” She confirmed this. I informed her that it was dangerous to drive under the influence, and her pill bottle even had a warning sticker added to the prescription label. She insisted there was no such warning, so we pulled the bottle out of her purse to look at it.

I read the warning out loud: “Do not operate heavy machinery.”

She protested, with frustration at my stupidity, “I wasn’t operating heavy machinery. I was just driving my car.”

(Ed. note: Because evidently multi-ton cars aren’t, well, you know…)

There are warnings of “Don’t drive until you know how this drug affects you,” even though said drug impairs your cognitive abilities such that you cannot ascertain how the drug impairs you. In the absence of quantification and/or memory, your brain just lies to you: “Everything’s fine.”

Why appropriate phrasing hasn’t been legislated, I don’t know.

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Streets For All is urging you to take action to support a couple of motions on the agenda for this afternoon’s meeting of the LA City Council Public Safety Committee.

Make your voice heard on two key issues this week.

There are two key issues being considered this week at City of Los Angeles Public Safety Committee.

1 – The first (Council File 21-0870) is a motion at the Public Safety Committee to consider re-designing streets to prevent illegal street racing. As much as we fight for lower speed limits, the best way to slow cars down is by redesigning streets all together.

2 – The second (Council File 20-1267) is a motion to reduce illegal exhaust noise in the City of Los Angeles. Modified mufflers disturb the peace and evenincrease our stress hormones and risk of heart disease. While we don’t want more armed officers doing traffic stops, we can solve this by clamping down on the shops that make these illegal modifications.

Here’s how you can help in 2 easy steps:

1) Make public comment using the council file system

If you are unable to make live public comment, the next best thing is writing a message in the council file management system. We have made this easy with a pre-filled template and links.

MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT IN ADVANCE

2) Make public comment live at the committee meetings

The Public Safety Committee is on Wednesday, September 1, at 330pm. Here is the agenda. Call into this meeting to comment on the re-designing streets to curb racing and the illegal exhaust noise issue.

CALL IN INSTRUCTIONS + TALKING POINTS

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Speaking of Streets For All, the political nonprofit is calling on you to fill a vacancy in your local Neighborhood Council if you live in any of the following areas.

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In a Twitter thread, the LACBC calls for accountability from the CHP for the hit-and-run that injured a 14-year old boy in East LA over two months ago.

Despite catching the crash on video, and multiple news reports, they’ve apparently done nothing to hold the officer responsible, or compensate the bike-riding boy for his injuries.

Click on the tweets for the full thread.

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This is who we share the road with.

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The war on cars may be a myth, but the war on bikes just keeps on going.

Utah’s Zion National Park is looking for public input on new bike and ebike regulations that would allow bikes in groups of no more than six spread at least a quarter-mile apart, require riders to pull off to the side of the road for buses, and have a bell on your bike to warn people and wildlife. Because everyone knows cougars, skunks and bighorn sheep will politely move aside to let you pass if they hear the dulcet tones of a bike bell announce your presence.

But sometimes, it’s the people on two wheels behaving badly.

San Diego authorities are looking for a bike-riding arsonist who set a series of small fires in the city’s North Park neighborhood earlier this month.

Probably not the best idea to leave a “sanctimonious, passive-aggressive” note on a Portland driver’s car calling out the expired plates, and suggesting they get rid of it and start riding a bicycle.

Police in Lincoln, Nebraska busted a man who stabbed another man in the back in a dispute over an alleged stolen bicycle, then tried to break into an apartment using lock pick tools.

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Local

Bloomberg considers UCLA parking meister Donald Shoup’s call to stop subsidizing drivers at the expense of everyone else, arguing that free parking is killing our cities.

Monrovia’s new “Biking for Bucks” program promises to reimburse people who live or work in the city up to $350 for the purchase of bikes and ebikes, whether for adults or children, as well as bicycle accessories, purchased between July 1st and September 30th of this year. So start shopping, already.

Active SGV teamed with Alhambra and SCAG to install a new popup bike lane, high viz crosswalks and curb extensions on Popular Boulevard in the city to gather public feedback. But hurry of you want to check ’em out, because they’ll be gone this time next week.

 

State

LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds teams with San Francisco Transportation Director Jeffrey Tumlin to pen an op-ed for CalMatters in support of AB 43, arguing that speeding drivers should not set speed limits.

 

National

It looks like Outside and VeloNews are joining Bicycling in hiding their stories behind a draconian paywall, on the mistaken assumption that preventing people from reading them will make more people want to. However, unlike Bicycling, the Outside and VeloNews stories don’t appear to be available on Yahoo.

Schwinn’s new I Am A Cyclist ad campaign focuses on marginalized members of the bicycling community to show what kind of people really ride bicycles.

Consumer Reports explains the steps they take to rate bike helmets, while InsideHook looks at the best commuter bike helmets for people who hate to wear one that won’t make you look like a total dork.

Best Buy is jumping head first into the ebike business by selling ebikes, e-scooters, mopeds and electric dirt bikes on their website, as well as in some stores.

A writer for Shape raves that her new Rad Power bike actually makes her comment enjoyable. And no, Best Buy doesn’t sell it.

Police in Colorado are looking for a hit-and-run driver who abandoned his SUV, then fled on foot before stealing a bicycle from a nearby school to make his getaway.

This is who we share the road with, part two. South Dakota’s killer Attorney General was hit with yet another speeding ticket — his seventh in seven years — just days before he was scheduled to go on trial for the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian while on his way home from a fundraiser last year. Yet he’s still allowed to stay on the roads to kill someone else, never mind that the $177.50 fine for a simple speeding ticket is nearly a fifth of what he was fined for actually killing someone.

A new Illinois law will require the state to pick up 100% of the costs for bicycle and walking infrastructure on state roadways; the state had previously required the local community to pay 20%.

A four-year old Michigan girl is able to ride a bicycle for the first time, after a fundraiser brings in enough to buy her an adaptive bike, and cover the cost to buy a bike for someone else, too.

Like drivers everywhere, motorists in Dayton, Ohio seem to have trouble figuring out how the city’s new parking protected bike lanes are supposed to work, parking in the bike lane next to the curb while leaving the parking lane empty.

 

International

Wired says Covid-19 means it’s finally time for the 15-minute city, where living, shopping and work are all within walking distance in the same neighborhood. Unless you live in Los Angeles, that is, where city leaders seem to be firmly committed to keeping everything within an hour and a half drive. Except at rush hour, of course.

Bosch says their new upgrades to ebike batteries and motors promise to make your new ebike ride smarter and farther.

Probably not the best idea to try to steal a bike from inside a British police station.

Life is cheap in Australia, where a driver was sentenced to seven years for the meth-fueled hit-and-run that seriously injured five bike riders last year — but with time served, he’ll be eligible for parole in less than a year.

 

Competitive Cycling

Twenty-year old American cyclist Quinn Simmons refuses to limit his options, dividing his plans for next year between the WorldTour and American gravel races.

Red Bull talks with two-time European mountain bike champ Lars Forster about how he went from riding with his dad to riding with, and beating, the world’s best.

 

Finally…

When your status in the local bicycling community hinges on finding the right bike basket. Get your very own bicycle umbrella for your next rainy ride.

And you’ll have to wait another year for a zombie bike ride in Key West.

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Be safe, and stay healthy. And get vaccinated, already.

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