The Second-Class Citizen

The Second-Class Citizen

The death of a cyclist while cycling contains within it an inherent irony. We ride to see the world, to enjoy ourselves, to improve our health—in short, we ride to live. So when a cyclist dies while pedaling a bicycle, for those of us who identify as cyclists, the loss is tragic on a grand scale. What could be more opposite of enjoying abundant health than to be struck down by a car?

So it was for Milt Olin. As the former COO of Napster, and married father of two, he wasn’t a nobody, not some random gangbanger shot while riding through the wrong neighborhood, not some kid who darted from between cars and was struck by the next door neighbor. Olin was riding a road bike on Mulholland Highway in Calabasas, Calif., on December 8, 2013, when he was struck from behind by Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood. In the ensuing investigation we learned that the deputy was using his computer as he drove, an activity that’s tantamount to texting while driving, and veered into the wide shoulder where Olin was riding when the road turned slightly. Deputy Wood, fixed on his computer, went straight, straight into Olin.

Olinbike

Olin never stood a chance.

Cyclists are killed by cars every day. Reporting on all the deaths could consume a whole blog, a very depressing blog. So why should we pick up on this? It’s not because this is close to my home or his bike was made by one of my advertisers or any other trite detail. He serves as a tragic example of the way even as cycling advocacy has grown and gained traction, even as cycling infrastructure has improved across the U.S., cyclists themselves exist as some form of second-rate form of life, not entitled to the full protection of the law.

Consider this: Deputy Andrew Wood, who was effectively texting while driving, an act allowed for deputies, but otherwise illegal for the rest of the California driving public, will not be charged in Olin’s death. We are indeed second-class citizens.

The problem here is that for the district attorney to dismiss this as just some accident shows a complete failure to consider applicable law. A man died as a result of Deputy Wood’s inattention. We have a term for that: involuntary manslaughter.

From Wikipedia: Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought, either express or implied. It is distinguished from voluntary manslaughter by the absence of intention. It is normally divided into two categories; constructive manslaughter and criminally negligent manslaughter, both of which involve criminal liability.

MiltOlin

It’s not hard to grant that Deputy Wood didn’t desire to kill Olin. But that’s not the issue. Deputy Wood failed to exercise the basic caution expected of anyone operating a motor vehicle. And a man died.

That’s not an “Oopsies.” This was a man with a wife, two sons and a thriving career. His departure from this world will touch a great many people. The grief that will cause, the harm his absence inflicts, that’s a real, measurable loss, which is why “oops” is an unacceptable response from the district attorney. If we allowed every accidental death to go unpunished, the government would in effect be saying that exercising care isn’t necessary when operating a car, a chainsaw or any other device that can injure people. Mayhem would ensue.

To be clear, every day people are killed while riding bicycles. Milt Olin wasn’t necessarily a better person, doesn’t necessarily have a greater need to be remembered, but because he was a productive member of society and was struck down by the very people charged to “protect and serve,” he serves as a flashpoint. His death perfectly illustrates what is wrong with the law enforcement community’s attitude toward cycling accidents, an attitude that isn’t specific to California. If we can convince the DA that Deputy Wood should be held accountable, then perhaps they will see that they should hold other drivers accountable as well.

Years from now Olin may be most broadly remembered as a rally point for cyclists to petition law enforcement for greater attention, greater consideration. But for that to happen, each of you reading this need to act. Start by signing this petition with Change.org. And then join the Milt Olin Foundation; Olin’s widow, Louise, could prove to be one of the best cycling advocates to come down the road. For those of you who are in the area, there will be a ride and vigil on September 3.

It’s sad to think Olin’s greatest contribution to the world may come after he had left it (and I’m sure his wife and sons will dispute that idea, as they should), but if his death helps to change how law enforcement views accidents involving cyclists—especially fatal accidents—then he’ll have touched the lives of millions of people in a positive and lasting way. Let’s help him do that.

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69 comments

  1. Rich

    Woods was also texting from his cellphone:

    “Deputy Andrew Wood sent six text messages from his personal cellphone about the time authorities said the crash happened on Dec. 8, 2013 just after 1 p.m., the Daily News said, citing subpoenaed cellphone records attached to an affidavit in support of a search warrant filed with Los Angeles Superior Court in May.”

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Deputy-Who-Killed-Napster-Exec-Was-Texting-Report-267084511.html

    Note- the texts were erased from his phone. Records were obtained from Verizon. Funny the DA isn’t considering obstruction of justice.

    1. Butts

      He should be punished for negligence. Operating a car comest with the highest responsibility.

      It doesn’t matter to me if he can be proved to be distracted or not. You make a mistake and kill someone, you should be punished.

    2. Gary Chambers

      I don’t know why you folks don’t accept/understand gov’ts MO…circle the wagons and protect each other.
      Ya’ll are upset in this case b/c it’s a fellow cyclist yet in other instances gov’t behaving in this manner might be overlooked if it’s the right party.

  2. Marshall Perkins

    The crime is to allow special exceptions for law enforcement when THEY are the ones that say an act is so dangerous that it’s reason for being elevated to a criminal act. I go ballistic when I see cyclists riding and using the phone. That is totally unacceptable as well.

  3. Russell

    No DA seems to want to punish drivers appropriately whether they are law enforcement or not. I’ve seen lot’s of social media posts on this particular case with some even calling it murder, which I believe is way over the top. I’m not even sure that the officer should do any jail time if the DA did in fact charge and prosecute him. I’m not sure what purpose that would serve. Perhaps the appropriate punishment for these individuals who do not take operating dangerous equipment seriously should simply be to not let anymore. I’d be in favor of removing their driving privileges for say 15 years, 25 years, Life? There will always be careless and dangerous people in society of all degrees. We just need to figure out how to get their attention.

    RIP Milt Olin and all the other souls who have suffered such a tragedy.

  4. Carlos

    As Rich mentioned above, it is not clear if the accident happened while he was typing on his computer or texting. Prior news focused on the texting aspect, and the deletion of the texts makes everything quite more suspicious. I am very upset at this entire episode of apparent attempt to cover up or mislead. What is also interesting is that a few weeks ago I got involved in a traffic issue while riding in the area (a driver attempted to scare me by going by me way too close and insult me and then I caught up to it on a traffic light) that this same police department acted with diligence, understanding and berated the driver. Even when they did not know all the facts. It was almost as if they had a chip on the shoulder. Really?

  5. Bikelink

    It doesn’t matter whether he was typing on anything or not. He drifted into the cyclist lane and killed him. End of story. That has to be a crime. If it’s not the law needs to be changed.

  6. Shawn

    You guys have seriously lost it. It’s a tragedy, not a crime. The accident was caused by classic negligence. Do you want to turn every car crash into a criminal prosecution?

    Handle it in the civil courts. Hit Woods with punitive damages, if available. Olin’s wife and children probably don’t need money, and money can’t replace Olin, and any money Woods could afford to pay would be a rounding error on ther check ledger, but do you really think Olin’s family would want to take Woods away from his wife and children and send him to jail, as opposed to using the civil process to determine what punishment is correct?

    1. Scott

      Shawn said: “Do you want to turn every car crash into a criminal prosecution?”

      Absolutely…..if it involves someone dying. To do otherwise is to in effect legalize ‘accidental’ death.

    2. Tim

      Shawn – no one is saying you criminalize every accident. Just the ones where there is extreme negligence and horrific results. This qualifies.

    3. Les.B.

      It’s a crime.
      If it were you who accidentally killed someone through negligence you would be charged with manslaughter. That’s the law, like it or not.

    4. Shawn

      You guys are way less correct than you are sure you are. Maybe you can get Pelkey to explain it to you.

    5. Anonymous

      Not every accidental death involves negligence, so I disagree that being in an accident where someone dies is automatically murder. However, if negligence is proven then it is manslaughter and should be prosecuted. That’s obviously the case here. I also feel that a civil case is needed here but not just against Wood. The LASD should also be named in the suit as the policy of using a computer while operating a squad car is theirs and should be changed. Texting on his phone aside, if they are claiming he was using his laptop per LASD policy then they are just as much to blame in this.

    6. Mark

      No Shawn. It really is criminal. A person’s life was taken because Officer Woods was negligent in the operation of his car. He is a driver first and a policeman second. How can the public be expected to follow the laws that the police are supposed to enforce, when the police are not prosecuted for breaking those same laws. Let’s suppose that instead of a policeman, the driver of the car was an average citizen, driving, using a computer and texting on their phone. They kill a cyclist. What would be the result?

    7. Stuart

      Absolutely it’s a crime. The problem with car “accidents” is that society has been conditioned over decades to treat car crashes and deaths as not the same as injuring or killing somebody using a different weapon. The car industry has been very successful in conditioning the populace to thousands of deaths and millions of injuries a year and it’s all accepted as being a bi-product of motor vehicle ownership. This has got to change. The cop should be charged with manslaughter and do considerable time and lose driving privileges for 10+ years. Driving should not be seen as a right.

    8. Gildas

      I consider my car to be an holstered gun.
      Should I be negligent while driving, that’s means I’ve unholstered it.
      If I hit something, that’s negligent discharge.
      If I hit someone, that’s gross negligence or worse.
      I I kill someone, then it’s involuntary manslaughter.

      A car is a big loaded metal weapon and should be treated as such.
      It is your responsibility to use it in a way benign to others.

    9. Gary Chambers

      Shawn,
      Looks as though Woods wanted to take Olin away from his wife and children….with no return…no chance of parole.
      Is this the part where someone writes: “well, these things happen.”

    10. Marc

      Clearly fear of taking a human life was not enough for this driver or other drivers to drive safely. He was careless and killed someone. If fear of murder isn’t a good enough motivator, we need to make drivers afraid that they”ll be taken away from their family and put in jail. Maybe that will motivate them to take driving seriously and people will stop dying.

  7. kurti_sc

    I also think the article is a little bit off in suggesting that this is more of a tragedy because Olin is considered a proper cyclist, riding a proper road bike, riding along a popular cycling route etc. Those may be things to illicit more surprise, shock, and irony; and those things can be used for a rallying point, but the tragedy is the same. We all have one ticket to punch. It doesn’t matter if we are only a toddler than hadn’t yet made some big contribution to our society (maybe we celebrate the wrong things too much). It doesn’t matter if we are a ‘gangbanger’ who draws on our culture and runs in the prisons (seriously, you made this point, too??). We all have a role to play and we all only have one chance at it. There’s equal amounts of tragedy to be found in all of those people losing their lives, and perhaps before it’s even lost. If not, then you indeed are creating and fueling your own 2nd, 3rd, etc. class within society.
    As for the legalities go, well, yeah, it sure sounds negligent and like the DA is favorable towards the police officer. Shawn’s comments offer an interesting balance. However, I think finding that balance is something for the legal system to do. Not just one DA. Charge him with some level of manslaughter. Find him not guilty if need be. And for gosh sakes, reconsider the policy of using technology when rolling around in police cars.
    You never know what might happen. You might hit a child that was going to… Whatever God intended him to do which could be big or small in our eyes.
    thanks for the leniency.
    kurt

  8. Rich

    Shawn, Padraig has it right. Just because there are negative consequences for Deputy woods family doesn’t give him a free pass.


  9. Author
    Padraig

    Kurti_sc: I’m not suggesting that Olin matters more than any other cyclist who is run over by a car. What I am suggesting is that for all those who minimize cycling and cyclists, he’s harder to dismiss. Every person who is killed out on the road matters to someone, but because Olin wasn’t someone at the margins I think he makes a good example to demonstrate how all cyclists matter; the point here is to show to the rest of the world that cyclists aren’t nobodies.

  10. Hoshie99

    Sorry to read about it. At the very least, is this officer still employed? If so, that would seem unacceptable at a minimum regardless of how you categorize the accident given the magnitude of the lack of care while on the job regardless of the legality.

    Ugh, a simple web search shows he transferred him to a desk job meaning I, as a CA taxpayer, am still paying that guy’s salary. That makes me ill.

    The other troubling thing is that based on a few articles I just read, it is lawful and allowed for deputy’s to use their computer whilst driving. That ought to be revisited for obvious reasons.

    j

  11. Pat O'Brien

    The NSA collects meta data on a massive scale without a warrant, yet it takes a warrant to get it in an accident investigation. Why? We don’t need to know the content of the speech or text, just the time that the phone use, or computer in this case, was occurring. In an accident investigation, especially where injury or death occurs, it should not require a warrant. This was negligence pure and simple and law enforcement should not get an exemption. There is NO training that allows anyone to drive while distracted. Multitasking ALWAYS results in a degradation of performance. I am tired of this debate because the facts are established. As cyclists we witness distracted driving virtually on every ride. I believe cell phone use, especially texting, while driving should carry the same penalties as DUI in all states. More distracting technologies in cars should be banned until the cars drive themselves. Why legislatures haven’t done this can be boiled down to one statement. Money talks. Or more directly, bribery works. Why else wouldn’t laws preventing this exist? Cyclists who use cell phones while riding are simply stupid.

  12. Don rycroft

    Let’s be clear. This was not an “accident”. This was Inattention resulting in a collision that killed a person. It is unacceptable for anyone to avoid prosecution for such an incident. In Canada we could have a personal prosecution if the DA (our equivalent is the Crown attorney) would not prosecute. Certainly a civil action should be undertaken and the officer ought to be fired for professional negligence.

  13. Bill

    I’ve often thought “Why not just disable all cell phones, etc. if the device is moving at above, say 5 mph?”
    You can’t call, receive a call, text, etc. until you stop. I mean, there’s an app for every damn thing these days, so why not? If that would cause a huge loss to the revenues of the cell phone companies, then just charge $20 a text or whatever, regardless if you have an unlimited plan or not
    Road cycling has become a LOT less enjoyable for me the last couple of years it seems to me that more and more of us are getting creamed, and there’s no accountability. Every time I drive, I see idiots weaving, randomly braking, etc. and when I dare to get close enough, they’re staring DOWN at t he phone on their lap, or jabbering away, not a care in the world.
    We need to make drivers in the US understand that you are RESPONSIBLE for controlling your vehicle at all times. Drivers education is a joke, just another money maker.
    See you in the woods, boys. Riding my mtn bike.

    1. Steve

      Bill…exactly…very well stated !
      See you on the Singletrack or on the Rail Trail…..
      Road riding has become more like Russian Roulette….
      I miss the road…been riding since 1971….but not willing to commit suicide by negligent motor vehicle operator…. :-(

  14. Jay

    I am somewhat surprised that this hasn’t gained traction and mobilized people within the cycling community as much as the Specialized-Cafe-Roubaix debacle. It just hasn’t sparked the same degree of outrage, which is sad.

  15. DavidA

    Cop Or NO-Cop…..He killed someone. If he was a stand -up Cop/citizen, he would have admitted to killing Milt. He is an asshole and took a coward’s way out. Maybe a 17yr old texting his girlfriend will strike him will strike him down as he is crossing the street from getting donuts.

  16. MarkP

    I think it should be harder to get and keep a driver’s license. I took a free bicycle traffic safety class, shortly after a rider was struck and killed by a north county transit bus on Camp Pendelton. The class presented a lot of good info about rules, regulations, statistics, strategies, and tactics for cyclists. I think all drivers should be required to have and to maintain an in depth knowledge of the rules of the road, And this knowledge should include the rights, responsibilities, and limitations of the other users of the roadway. Other users include bicyclists, walking and running pedestrians, and even horseback riders that may be along the road in rural areas. The knowledge about these other users should be along the lines of the material presented in the bicycle traffic class. If it is determined that a driver will not or can not drive responsibly, they should not have the privilege of driving on public roads. The deputy was not driving responsibly. My perspective is that he committed negligent manslaughter. His department needs to find him a non-driving job or better yet, let him go. There should be other legal consequences as well.

  17. Lara Lavi

    I was Milt’s good friend and he was my mentor. I know his family and I can tell you Mrs. Olin is a force to be reckoned with in the wake of her husband’s UTTERLY AVOIDABLE death. Louise Olin and her sons deserve to know the truth. They and all of us deserve to have an impartial investigation not LA County investigating itself and determining its own culpability here or as it clearly seems lack thereof.

    Deputy Woods was a distracted driver. He killed someone hitting him from behind as his car went into the bike lane and that someone didn’t stand a chance. The Milt Olin Foundation’s meaning and purpose is for this UTTERLY AVOIDABLE violent death to never happen again.

    Please do go to Change.org and sign the petition. The California AG’S office and the CA legislature need to take this matter head on now. We need to speak loudly here. The next victim could be our child, parent or dear friend.

    Meaning and purpose people. This is what Mrs. Olin and her foundation are all about.
    Please go to MiltOlinFoundation.org and opt in. The foundation can make a difference with your support and this is a chance to really be heard and help create needed change in law and policy as this issue builds momentum.

  18. Liz

    I think one place to start would be to stop calling these things “accidents”. An accident isn’t just something that someone didn’t intend to happen — an accident is something avoidable. What happened in this case was caused by the driver’s inattention to the road and his driving, and was _entirely_ avoidable. It was a crash; it was a driver rear-ending another vehicle resulting in another person’s death. Please don’t call it an accident. (And please do everything you can to change the vocabulary of what it is when cyclists are hit by motor vehicles.)

  19. Patrick

    I recently got into a heated debate with coworkers (nurses) about a car vs. runner death. After expressing sadness for the loss of the runner, the coworkers quickly and unanimously dismissed fault from the driver who was an elderly man. “He was driving into the sun and with the glare there was no way he could’ve seen her” they cited, in an effort to excuse him and argue that his age wasn’t a contributing factor. I asked if, all of a sudden the lights went out on our nursing floor (think lots of people, equipment, stretchers, etc…) would you continue to move the same way, or would you slow down/stop and proceed with extreme caution? Interestingly, they all chose the latter. Appropriately called automobiles, auto means self and people become selfish and disconnected with their surroundings when they mobilize in them.

  20. Peter W. Polack

    The prosecutor’s office and the police scratch each other’s backs.

    I believe the prosecutor’s office intentionally chose a crime for which they would not find legal grounds to charge the officer.

    Ignoring the texting while driving charge, I see no reason why Deputy Wood could not have been charged with felony or even misdemeanor manslaughter charges. Or how about violating California’s 3 foot rule?

    This smells of an inside job. Fortunately, Olin’s family has the financial resources to try Wood and the police department in civil court, where they’ll certainly win. While insurance will pay out and there will likely be no financial pain inflicted on either Wood or the police department, along with all the public spin about “settling without admitting guilt”, a civil decision in Olin’s favor may be a step in the right direction toward getting the laws changed or at least exposing the prosecutor’s office to corrupt practices.

  21. Bill Mulger

    By the act of strapping on the badge and gun, police proclaim themselves just that little bit better than the community they claim to serve.
    Why does this not mean that, when things go bad in ways like this, they do not fall further and harder.
    RIP Milt, another velosibling I’ll never get the chance to ride with.

  22. James Del Balzo

    I am a cyclist. I realize that in a manner of speaking I take my life in my hands every time I get on the road. While this accident is tragic I don’t believe it was a crime. Would another driver who was texting and killed someone be charged with vehicular manslaughter? The officer was not committing a crime when he struck Milt. He was violating a traffic regulation. The officer should be liable for any civil penalties, but I am not sure putting him in jail would be justified or would solved anything.

  23. Brian

    So every person that has left a comment here about what has happened has never once in the entire time of driving a vehicle or riding a bike has used the phone in anyway what so ever?

    1. Pat O'Brien

      I took a call once while driving through Tucson years ago. After I hung up, I could not remember any of the exits I passed or where we were. I haven’t done it since.

    2. Gary Chambers

      Brian,
      Ya got me…yes I have. By virtue of that Officer Woods should be exonerated…dare I say feted.
      Withering logic on your part. I’ll take that logic head on: ok, I’ve done it but to date haven’t killed anyone; your turn.

  24. Mickey

    It shouldn’t matter if he was using a computer, or reading a book, or picking his nose, or driving with great care–he left his lane and killed someone. How is that not a crime?


  25. Author
    Padraig

    Khal Spencer: Yes, there is a civil suit pending.

    James Del Balzo: To my understanding (and I respect that reasonable people may debate this point) drifting into the bike lane was a traffic violation. Being so inattentive as to hit a cyclist and kill him is a crime. Putting him in jail won’t solve Olin’s death, but it will demonstrate that carelessness that results in the death of another human being won’t be tolerated in a civil society.

    Brian: None of that matters. It’s irrelevant. The issue is really cut and dried: Does killing someone with a motor vehicle merit prosecution for that death? Most reasonable folks think it is.

  26. s

    Why the diversion to this being a all about a cycling accident? The simple fact is the officer was driving 48 miles an hour while typing on a keyboard and killed someone..just like texting on a phone while operating a train…the officer could have hit a dog, a pedestrian, or even another vehicle with the same horrific consequences…Got to text? Pull over. He was not above he law…if his job mandates that he do this kind of hing while driving then those who allowed such practice to occur are also responsible and should be punished. Don’t make this about cyclists, make it about safety and common sense for all of us.

  27. Alana Aldrich

    No words. What a waste of a great mans life. When you start to think a silly message is more important than your fellows life you should start by reexamining your priorities immediately !

  28. Pingback: Weekend Links: Protected bikeways bill and four hit-and-run bills await Governor Brown’s uncertain signature | BikinginLA

  29. Opus the Poet

    For the person that compared a motor vehicle with a firearm, the comparison is apt, but insufficient. A motor vehicle is artillery with the comparative caliber that varies depending on speed of the vehicle at impact. At 30 MPH your average American mid-size sedan is a 20mm bullet in destructive power, but at highway speeds (60 MPH) that vehicle has the destructive power of a 155mm Howitzer.

  30. Gerb61

    In my opinion those who are sworn to uphold the law should be held to an even higher standard than the rest of us. Bottom line here is a husband, father and fellow cyclist dead because someone, a sheriff’s deputy no less, was performing an illegal act behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. There is no doubt in my mind that, had I committed the same offense, I would be behind bars right now.
    Padraig, could you persuade Mr. Pelky to weigh in on this one, as was suggested earlier? I would certainly like to have this one explained. Mr. Olin was mowed down while minding his own business, antagonizing no one, according to the witnesses. Why was deputy Wood not arrested at the scene and charged accordingly?

  31. danger

    At least the sheriff department could change their policy of using a computer in a moving vehicle. They should have to be parked of there should be a second deputy in the car who is not the driver who operates the computer.

  32. Steve

    There is or should be a disclaimer on the MDC screen frame that states NOT to use the equipment while driving….
    It should also be against Department Policy to use the MDC while the cruiser is moving….
    Then on top of it he was using his personal cell phone….
    If this is not involuntary manslaughter…then I do not know what is !!
    Such blatant negligence….
    This is why I have stopped riding the roads….there is little to NO justice for cyclists …. We are third class citizens !!
    Such a shame…but the culture in the USA allows this….the system is totally broken.

  33. Gary Chambers

    Is this the part where we hear/read about how Deputy Wood will have to live with this for the rest of his life?…blah, blah…Well, Mr. Olin will have to live with it for the rest….oh, forgot,…his life here is over.
    Question for the group here: odds are ya’ll are ok with rules for us plain folk that don’t ever seem to apply to the privileged or those in “authority”…how quaint. But consider this: “Deputy Andrew Wood, who was effectively texting while driving, an act allowed for deputies…”; the rules apply to thee but not to me. What makes these deputies seemingly better than the rest of us?

  34. BronzeStar

    In the Netherlands, they changed the law to protect cyclists. “the law treats pedestrians and cyclists as weaker participants in traffic… The driver of the motor vehicle is liable for the accident, unless he can prove he was overpowered by circumstances beyond his control (overmacht). The driver must thus prove that none of the blame falls on him, which is extremely difficult in practice.”

  35. Anonymous

    Good write up but “he wasn’t a nobody, not some random gangbanger shot while riding through the wrong neighborhood, not some kid who darted from between cars and was struck by the next door neighbor.” seems kind of insensitive to others killed, but I’m sure your realized that before you published.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      As I explained in an earlier comment, one of the problems we have faced is that law enforcement agencies have typically viewed the death people at the margins of society as no big deal. While I personally think all cyclists matter, the issue with Olin is that it’s much more difficult for law enforcement to ignore his death, though they are trying.

  36. AG

    Revisiting this story has been very sad and this outcome is also tragic and most frustrating. I’m not exactly sure that the main issue here is whether Wood was texting or using his computer, both of which law enforcement is allowed to do while driving in the California. I believe the main issue is that law enforcement has to be held to a higher standard than the rest of us to be allowed the opportunity to use those devices while behind the wheel. Wood needs to be prosecuted not because he was texting or using the computer, but because he did not make damn sure that he was in an area and condition that was safe to do so (being able to carry and use a handgun is a parallel). He wasn’t, he didn’t check and he killed someone. Those details are what make this horrible event NOT AN ACCIDENT and Wood should be prosecuted for manslaughter on the grounds that he was willfully negligent for not verifying the conditions prior to acting. To make things even more frustrating, any monetary results from any civil actions will be paid by the taxpayer and will not come from Wood’s pocket. Most likely Wood will keep his job, his nice pension and will retire very soon and live a normal life cloaked by this decision comfortably believing he did nothing wrong.

  37. SusanJane

    I’m saddened and horrified the same with any cyclist getting killed by a car. For my measly 2 cents I am most angry that any death is not treated equally under the law. A school kid in a sidewalk, a family man on a bicycle, a punk on a skateboard, a little old lady with a walker. A life is a life. The person driving should be legally accountable for killing them just the same as it were anything else that resulted in someone’s death. Am I ignorant of the law? Yes. Am I capable of knowing right from wrong? Killing some is always always always wrong.

  38. Robot

    The problem I have with that evaluation is that it presumes “returning to his normal patrol” constitutes an urgent enough task to enter data into his computer while driving, which I think is patently false. He was not responding to a call. He was not under minute time pressure to return. And so, the idea that he should be using his computer while driving, rather than pulling over to do so safely, is the root of the problem. Under emergent circumstances, you could easily argue that computer use is necessary, if not ideal, but in a non-emergent situation, what is the rationalization?

    This can’t be policy, can it?

    Too often we hear, “I did not see him/her,” as if that is anything other than a confession of negligence. I am fairly certain that, while driving a 2,000 pound (or more) vehicle, it is not safe to proceed when you “can’t see” something that is directly in front of you. Whether he could see Olin or not is irrelevant, since he drove directly through the bike lane, where he ought not to have been to begin with.

    I also take issue with the idea that the road curved “unexpectedly.” We know the roads we travel.

    The deputy didn’t need to be driving while he was using his computer, regardless of whether he actually needed to use his computer at all.

    1. Shawn

      By the way, where exactly did I _defend_ this guy? All I said was that he shouldn’t be criminally prosecuted.

  39. Gerb61

    O.K. Shawn. Why are you so convinced that that this deputy should be able to walk away scot free? Are you also a lawman who thinks he is above law? As a husband, father, and cyclist myself, I’m not sure which is more disturbing, seeing this ” officer of the law” walk free or the callous attitude that allows you to defend this sort of atrocity. Lets hear what you have to say.

    With apologies to RKP and Padraig. Sorry but I couldn’t hold it in any longer. This could have been anyone of us.

    1. Shawn

      I’m not convinced he should walk away scot free. He should be brought before the civil justice system and be made to compensate the victims of his negligence. If his employer/department was complicit (for instance, by promulgating policies that made this incident more likely), then it too should compensate the victims.

      I am not a peace officer, although you might say I am a “lawman” of sorts. I am aware of the elements of the homicide offenses in California, and I am aware that the officer’s conduct does not fit within them. So all of the clamor for throwing away the cell keys on this guy is wasted effort. If you want to put cops in jail for accidents that happen when they use MDTs or cell phones while driving, then change the law. Until then, this is yet another tragic accident that should be addressed in the civil justice system; calling for jail time is an exercise in frustrated impotence.

      Criminalizing conduct like that which took the first class citizen’s life is not an unreasonable option. Taking a life is a serious matter. However, a confined person has no way to compensate his victims for the harm he caused. Consider an accident in which the victim is a second class citizen who was the sole breadwinner for her family. Her survivors would have a certain vengeful satisfaction in the incarceration of the driver, but what does that matter if they are hungry? That’s why I think the civil justice system is preferable for homicides caused by vehicular negligence.

  40. DavidA

    It’s funny, i remember an incident in Portland, OR a few years ago where a Police officer pulled a young women over into the parking lot of a Plaid Pantry for a traffic violation. She backed up and started to leave the parking lot, the officer pulled out his gun and shot her 4 times in the chest and neck. He said she was trying to back over him and he had justifiable cause to kill her. I don’t believe the officer was ever charged and the case dismissed.

  41. Gerb61

    Shawn, thank you for taking time to elaborate on your position regarding this story. While you may not have “defended” deputy Wood in so many words, your insistence that there was no reason to criminally prosecute him sure looked you were defending his actions.
    Trying to look at this from your perspective I think I can understand where you are coming from now, although I still don’t agree. But that’s o.k. I guess we can agree to disagree.
    Why doesn’t the law apply to everyone regarding the use of mobile devices? Distraction is distraction regardless of who is behind the wheel, no? Returning to his normal patrol would not constitute an emergency situation.
    Again as a husband, father and cyclist myself this just hits way to close to home.

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