Tag Archive for Dana Point

100-plus mph, underage drunk driver gets four years for 2014 death of bicyclist Haytham Gamal

Four years.

Four years behind bars for driving at speeds over 100 mph in a 35 mph zone, with a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit.

And taking the life of an innocent man as he rode his bike home from work on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, after losing control on a slight curve and skidding 200 feet before striking the victim from behind. Then dragging him another 500 feet before flipping over after hitting the curb.

Needless to say, the victim, 39-year-old Haitham Gamal, was pronounced dead at the scene.

All because he had the misfortune of sharing the road with then 19-year old Dominic Devin Carratt that tragic April night in 2014.

Carratt pleaded guilty last month to A) one count of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, B) one count of felony driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, and C) one count of felony driving with a blood alcohol of .08 percent or more causing bodily injury, along with a sentencing enhancement for great bodily injury.

Yet even though the victim’s wife implored the court to give him the maximum 10-year sentence, the judge showed leniency, deserved or not.

I’m told he imposed a sentence of four years in state prison for the first count, another two years for the second count, to be served concurrently, and stayed an additional two years for the third count.

Carratt will also be required to pay restitution in an amount to be determined at a later date, and his driver’s license will be suspended for three years after his release.

Though why he would ever be allowed to drive again is beyond me.

A woman in the courtroom for the sentencing noted that Carratt’s mother gave him a long, tearful embrace as he walked to the front of the courtroom.

It may be a long time before she gets another chance.

Thanks to Edward M. Rubinstein for the heads-up. 

Dominic Carratt sentence

 

20-year old OC driver faces 10 years for 2014 DUI death of Dana Point cyclist

Ten years.

That’s what a 20-year old driver is facing for the drunken collateral damage death of a cyclist in April of last year.

Thirty-nine-year old Haitham Gamal was riding south on PCH in Dana Point when Dominic Devin Carratt lost control of his car at high speed, drifting 200 feet through a bend in the road before slamming into Gamal’s bike.

Carratt’s car continued to drag him another 500 feet — nearly twice the length of a football field — before hitting a curb and flipping over. Gamal was pronounced dead at the scene, simply because he was in the way.

Carratt and his passenger were taken to a hospital with slight injuries, where he was found to have a blood alcohol level of .15.

Normally, that would be almost twice the legal limit. But as an under-aged driver, the legal limit in this case would be zero.

According to the Orange County District Attorney’s office, Carratt will be arraigned today on felony counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence while intoxicated, driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, and driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit causing bodily injury, along with a sentencing enhancement for causing great bodily injury.

I’d call death great bodily injury, all right.

Unlike the LA County DA’s office, the OC DA tends to take cases like this seriously, and is more than willing to throw the book at killer drivers. And they seldom bargain away a case just to get a conviction.

That may be a product of a lighter case load, or more jail space to house convicted drivers.

Or maybe they just give a damn. And take traffic crime seriously.

Thanks to attorney and cyclist Ed Rubinstein for the heads-up.

 

Dominic-Carratt-arraignment

 

OC Sheriff threatens to victimize an Orange County cyclist a second time; road raging driver allowed to walk

Prepare to get mad.

Or maybe livid is a better word.

Just a day after a widely circulated open letter called on the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to charge a truck driver who used his vehicle as a weapon to threaten a cyclist, the department recommended that charges be filed.

Against the victim.

According to the LA Times, Bryan Larsen was riding his bike on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point on May 31st when he captured video of a truck driver attempting to run him off the road before the passenger — who turned out to be the driver’s wife — hits him with a thrown Gatorade bottle; they then try to smoke him out as they took off.

Maybe she thought he looked thirsty.

Larsen was originally told that no charges could be filed because sheriff’s deputies did not actually witness the assault themselves.

Which is not true, of course.

Police are required to witness an event in order to file a traffic violation or misdemeanor charge; however, there’s no such requirement for felony charges. And using a large truck to intimidate a vulnerable road user should certainly qualify.

I’ve also been told by members of other departments that video footage can be used as evidence, as well as eye witness testimony. At the time, Larsen was riding with another cyclist who could verify everything seen on the video.

After the video went viral and was picked up by local news stations, the sheriff’s department reconsidered and conducted an investigation. Though based on the results, not much of one.

Even though the driver reportedly used his massive truck as a weapon to threaten the rider and attempt to force him off the road, they declined to charge him with anything. At all.

Instead, the Orange County Register reports they recommended that the OC District Attorney file an assault and battery charge against the driver’s wife.

And that charges be filed against the victim for apparently inciting the attack through his use of obscene language directed at the couple.

Charges are also being recommended against the bicyclist, he said, who is suspected of using “offensive words in public, likely to provoke a violent reaction.” Officials suspect the cyclist made “rude, disparaging comments” before the incident was recorded on his cellphone, (Lt. Jeff) Hallock said.

This, despite the fact the US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that offensive language and gestures are protected as free speech under the 1st Amendment. And even though Hallock makes it clear investigators are only assuming that Larson said something so offensive as to justify a violent attack with a deadly weapon.

As if anything could.

Would they still feel the driver was justified if he had pulled out a gun and started shooting at the cyclist? Legally, there’s no difference; only the choice of weapon used.

And never mind what actually precipitated the event. Unless Larsen suffers from a rare form of Tourette’s Syndrome or mental illness that forced him to swear without any provocation, he was clearly responding to something the driver had done before the camera started recording.

What, we may never know, since the threat of criminal charges will now force him to remain silent. Which is probably the real intent.

Legally, there’s no valid case against him. So the question becomes, why is the OCSD trying so hard to intimidate the victim of a violent crime — while letting the primary perpetrator off scott-free?

And what does it say to every other bike rider south of the Orange Curtain when even video evidence isn’t good enough to get the authorities to give a damn about our safety — let alone threaten us for reporting it?

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and her department are sending a clear message to everyone who travels by two wheels that we remain second-class citizens in her jurisdiction.

And if something bad happens on her watch, just keep your mouth shut about it.

Or else.

Morning Links: New study shows benefits of protected bike lanes; OC cyclist threatened and harassed on PCH

Any debate over the benefits of protected bike lanes should end today.

In what’s being called a groundbreaking study of nine bike lanes (pdf) in five cities across the US, researchers funded by People for Bikes found big benefits for protected lanes.

According to Bike Portland,

The facilities included in the sample — hand-picked bikeways from Austin, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Chicago and Portland — showed a massive increase in bike traffic, received high marks for improving safety of all road users, and have won over the hearts and minds of people whether they use them or not.

The story goes on to say a quarter of riders say they ride more because of the protected lanes, while protected lanes increase bike traffic an average of 72% in the first year alone. In addition, 96% of people using the lanes felt safer, and 76% of people living nearby support building additional protected lanes, whether they use them or not.

Meanwhile, 10% of the riders switched from other modes of transportation.

And most significant of all, in an analysis of 144 hours of video footage, nearly 12,900 cyclists passed through the intersections under study without a single collision.

Or even a near collision, for that matter.

Game, set, match.

………

Caught on video: Despite riding in a separated bike lane on PCH, an Orange County cyclist is threatened and harassed by jerks in a pickup, who throw water bottles at him and try to run him off the road; KCAL-9 offers a detailed report.

Hopefully authorities will be able to make out the license and press charges for assault. And hopefully they’ll take it as seriously as they say they will.

Thanks to John McBrearty for the heads-up.

………

Local

Mayor Garcetti will announce the city’s first 15 Great Streets on Tuesday, one for each council district. Including North Figueroa, where Councilmember Gil Cedillo has been actively blocking the bike lanes and road diet that would help make it great.

Bicycling interviews LA Bike Train’s Nona Varnado, even though the LA Weekly says LA is still a car town, and it’s damn well going to stay that way. So there.

The LA edition of the World Naked Bike Ride rolls on Saturday, June 14th. I’d go but I don’t have a thing to wear.

Registration opens Thursday for Wolfpack Hustle’s Civic Center Crit 2 on July 12th.

A new white paper examines how Santa Monica’s school district can embrace bicycling; thanks to Dr. Michael Cahn for the link.

Evidently, Burbank Congressman Adam Shiff really is one of us; he’s on this year’s edition of the AIDS/LifeCycle ride as we speak.

A group of cyclists will depart from Malibu on Wednesday on a cross-country tour to raise money and awareness for Hope for Warriors.

 

State

Calbike releases their summer report.

Speaking of the AIDS/LifeCycle ride, four participants were right hooked by a driver Monday morning; fortunately, none appear to be seriously injured.

A high school exchange student learns the hard way that Shasta Lake is no Holland when it comes to bikes.

 

National

It’s been a bad week for Wyoming cyclists, as two riders are killed by suspected drunk drivers in three days, and a third rider — the wife of one of the victims — was seriously injured. The state is in freefall when it comes to bike-friendliness, dropping 25 spots in just four years.

San Antonio votes to throw $1.74 million down the toilet by removing new bike lanes, even though they don’t slow traffic flow.

Despite gloom and doom predictions, not one person has died using New York’s Citi Bike bike share program in over 8.75 million journeys.

Bike Snob astutely asks when the hell a bike lane ever stopped a cab driver from parking, and who do you think will police blame when a driverless car hits a cyclist, since they already blame the rider anyway?

A DC father invents an add-on kid seat for bike share bikes, and gets a cease-and-desist order for his trouble.

 

International

A new Canadian study says bike helmets do what they’re supposed to do, while an Aussie study says cyclists really do make better drivers, at least around other riders.

A road raging driver repeatedly punches a teenage Brit cyclist, who declines to press charges.

France experiments with paying commuters to bike to work; thanks to new LACBC board member Patrick Pascal for the tip.

Even in car-choked Rome, the new mayor promotes bicycling as a viable option.

Bike racing’s governing body enters bicycle advocacy. After all, they’ve done so well running the dope-free world of racing, right?

 

Finally…

When a father tries to teach his daughter to ride a bike, a neighbor comes out to offer his advice. Then threatens him with a shotgun when he doesn’t take it. And evidently, drivers aren’t the only ones who hate bikes, as a deer follows an employee into a bike shop before knocking him down and trashing the place.

………

Don’t forget to go out and Bike the Vote today. It’s only when bike riders stay home — or don’t vote their interests — that we get the sort of elected leaders who actively stand in the way of safer streets.

Update: Dana Point bike rider killed in suspected DUI collision

Yet another bike rider has lost his life to a suspected drunk driver.

According to the Orange County Register, the 30-something victim, whose name has been withheld pending notification of next of kin, was riding south on PCH in Dana Point around 11:14 last night when he was hit from behind. The car, a 2001 Acura, then overturned, injuring both of the people inside.

The victim was pronounced death at the scene, while the driver and his passenger were both taken to a local hospital with head trauma. And yes, alcohol use is suspected of playing a role in the collision.

The collision occurred on PCH near Green Lantern; a satellite view shows a clearly marked, if intermittent, bike lane, with a posted 35 mph speed limit. The story does not say which side of Green Lantern it happened on.

This is the 36th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eighth in Orange County; that compares with just two in the county this time last year.

At least three of the Orange County deaths have involved drugs or alcohol, compared to a quarter of the deaths throughout Southern California.

Update: The victim has been identified as 38-year old Dana Point resident Haitham Gamal. The driver has been identified only as a 19-year old Dana Point man; his passenger was 18.

As an underage driver, any alcohol in the blood would be a violation of the law.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Haitham Gamal and his loved ones.

Thanks to James Johnson of the Johnson Attorneys Group for the heads-up.

 

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