Given the burgeoning number of cyclists who have been hit, assaulted or killed locally this year, it's not surprising that to many bicycle riders it seems as if it's open season on Orange County's mean streets.
Recent incidents in Dana Point and Laguna Beach have particularly raised peoples' hackles. As far as I've been able to glean from the law enforcement agencies conducting the investigations, here's the latest new
Dana Point Gatorade bottle update: the "B" side
As you are probably aware, a cyclist got nailed by a Gatorade bottle hurled from a Dodge truck last month. The incident as it occurred was pretty much "all" caught on the rider's iPhone camera. Aside from the bottle careening into view and audio of words being exchanged, there was a very clear still of the truck's license plate.
The posted video made the rounds of social media, probably going viral (however that is technically determined).
It was also picked up by various news media. OC Weekly columnist Gustavo Arellano noted in his reporting, "…the plate is from 'ol Virginny," and that the OC Sheriff's Department was on the case.
And KCAL 9 news produced a more in-depth piece, including an interview with the cyclist. The video was edited slightly, and the piece closed with a statement confirming that the OCSD was investigating. KCAL cut the shot of the license plate. Which was kind of pointless as that information was already public.
The story seemed to fade from view within a few days, and to local riders this was symptomatic of the feeling that you'd have to run down a celebrity who happened to be cycling to get the authorities to pay any serious attention. After all, with databases on just about everything being just about everywhere on-line, how hard could it be to track down the truck?
"We need a little vigilante-style justice," was a thought that was vocalized by more than one frustrated rider. Imagine: it could be just like the scene in Frankenstein where the villagers, with torches and pitchforks, take matters of security into their own hands, except with Lycra.
"Problematically, course, who could be sure if the driver was the registered owner?" another rider observed. "What if we picketed the wrong person? What if all he was guilty of, as Arellano opined, was in his choice of large, oversized vehicles and friends?"
But the case didn't fade away, according to the OC Sheriffs public information officer, Lt. Jeff Hallock. The truck was located, and investigators have concluded their research and interviews.
It is expected that that the Sheriff's Dept. will recommend that the DA bring charges against the passenger of the truck.
And the cyclist.
The investigators found that the incident captured on video started before the camera's record button was activated. The bottle throwing and cursing was probably instigated by the cyclist, somewhere in Laguna Beach. The rider allegedly made an extremely disparaging remark ("Obscene," in the report relayed by Hallock) about the driver, to the driver and his wife and kids who were in the truck.
I think it kind of boils down to the principles about Free Speech found in one of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.' opinions, specifically that it's not permissible if it's designed to provoke a panic ("Shouting fire in a crowded theater."). Maybe this is a reach, but questioning the manhood of a man out with his family in a graphic way can be interpreted to violate California Penal Code (CPC) 415.3.
The driver's wife, who allegedly flung the Gatorade, is accused of being in violation of codes related to Assault, Battery ("Hard to have one without the other," noted Hallock), which are CPC sections 240/242, Throwing an Object from a Vehicle (CPC 23110(a)) and Littering (CPC 373.3 (a)).
Accusations against the driver are not supported my evidence strong enough to warrant charges being filed, mostly as it's very difficult to prove intent in a manner that a jury would probably find compelling or that the District Attorney would want to argue.
Of course, its up to the DA's office to accept the recommendations in full, in part, or refer the case back to the Sheriff for additional investigation.
Laguna Beach Hit-and-Run
John Colvin, avid cyclist and Laguna Beach resident, was struck by a white Toyota Prius on PCH at Emerald Bay on June 17th. The 19-year-old driver fled the scene, and either pulled over on his own or was forced over a mile up the road at El Morro.
Colvin was transported to Western Med where he succumbed to his injuries.
The collision was noted by the Orange County Register and got play in social media. But the most in-depth reporting has so far been from the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot, which detailed the incident and reaction from Colvin's family and friends.
The driver was questioned but as yet not charged or arrested. Laguna Beach Police Captain Jason Kravetz supplied the following information:
Because this tragic incident resulted in the death of a cyclist, the investigation becomes much more intensive than a minor injury traffic accident would. There is still much more for the investigators to do before they submit the investigation to the District Attorney’s Office. Some of these items will include thorough diagrams of the area, additional interviews and examinations of the vehicle and bicycle. Once all of this has been completed, it will be submitted to the Orange County District Attorney for review. I cannot say what will take place, but we always conduct these investigations impartially and have the review as part of the legal process.
Meanwhile, other pending cases involving cyclists killed after being hit by vehicles are winding along with no particular end in site.
On one hand, if it's due to the lugubriousness of procedures designed to ensure accuracy and justice for all, maybe it's a good thing. What's another week or month or year if in the end the "right" verdict is rendered?
Would any of us want it any other way?
Then again, it's hard not to think that the defendant's legal defense teams are banking that delays may just bring leniency or acquittal as the immediacy of the deaths fades from the public's awareness and interest.
Speaking of hot issues that burn out, anybody remember the angst and hoopla over bicyclists in the Back Bay?
So, now it's July, and we're on the verge of having California's 3-Foot Rule going into effect. It's going to be interesting to see how it is enforced, or if it's at all practical to try and cite drivers in violation of the law.
No doubt there will be a test case, probably sooner rather than later.
But will it be from a proactive warning, or an added afterthought to charges brought after a fatality? Like the apparently bizarre count of "Littering" in the Dana Point incident?
Maybe we need another "Ride of Silence." But with torches—metaphorically speaking—as maybe silence doesn't make enough of a statement.