Sunday, June 30, 2013

The victim never gets to tell his story

Last week saw the death of yet another pedestrian in the Fresno area. As is the case in almost every death of a pedestrian in Fresno, no charges were filed. This particular story takes place on a two lane country road, near Sanger. The victim was a teen on his skateboard.

Last week, Greater Greater Washington posted a story about how the writer, who was on his bike, was in a collision when a motorists illegally turned in front of him. As he was taken away to the hospital, the responding police officer interviewed the driver, decided that the driver's story was fully accurate, and proceeded to try and get the victim to sign a ticket on his hospital bed.

No investigation was done. No security camera video was pulled, and no cell phone records were called up. The officer, who wasn't on scene when it happened, made a decision based on the testimony of the motorist, and his preconceived notions of what happens on the road.

If you read the full story, you'll see that the victim did some investigating of his own, did find a camera feed, and managed to get video showing he was 100% innocent and the motorist was 100% at fault. The video is at the link. Even though there was video evidence, the police refused to acknowledge their mistake and no criminal charges were perused. The victim did get compensated in a civil case.

Many questions were raised about the police department, and why the officer has not been fired.

But a question more relevant to the national discussion is this:
Why is the testimony of the person who has most to lose treated as gospel?

And when death is involved, and only one side is around, why are officers so quick to close the case?

Looking at the recent death in Fresno:

Sgt. Patrick Etchbarne said the juvenile was riding his skateboard about 5:20 p.m. heading west on North Avenue near Thompson Avenue when a car attempted to pass him. The juvenile made a sharp movement on his skateboard and collided with the car.
Fresno Bee

The article doesn't say it, but because the collision happened in a very rural area,  we know there were no cameras. We can also assume, based on other cases, that no cell phone records were pulled.

Which leaves us with the conclusion that the Sergeant's re-enactment of the collision was based on one, and only one factor: The testimony of the motorist. The kid is dead, and not around to tell his side of the story.

Does one expect the motorists to admit fault? Is the motorist going to say they were busy texting, speeding, and generally breaking the law?

Of course not. It will always be "He came out of nowhere officer!"  Even though it just seems so odd that the guy on the skateboard would WILDLY SWERVE left, we're to take it as a fact. Skateboards don't leave tracks, so the only person who is around to tell us what really happened is the one who will do their darnest to make sure they don't incriminate themselves.

As long as police departments inexplicably take the word of the person who might face years in jail for telling the truth, the true story will never be uncovered.

In another article about the collision, more details were added:
Sgt. Patrick Etchebarne said, "It appears that the Chevy observed the skate boarder well in advance, attempted to pass the skate boarder and the skate boarder traversed right into the vehicle that was passing it."
ABC Local News
Apparently in this case, the self-driving Chevy was well aware of a person in the roadway, skateboarding (there are no sidewalks). Instead of slowing down to pass,  the Chevy kept its speed and was could do nothing when the teen decided to veer left.

Here is the roadway
 photo sanger1_zpsc5ddf7a2.jpg

Theres no shoulder. The lanes aren't very wide. If the driver (not the chevy) had truly been attentive, they would have slowed down, and moved to the opposing lane to pass.

And yet the kind of damage pictured is not the kind of damage one sees when the vehicle is passing a pedestrian using the roadway at a safe speed.

 photo sanger2_zps5b49d6d5.jpg

So it's entirely possible that the skateboarder was moving as straight as an arrow, and the driver was looking at his phone and collided with the teen. Based on the crash reports we see every week in Fresno, I would find this to be likely.

It's also possible, unlikely but possible, that the teen was suicidal and actually jumped in front of the vehicle. Of course if that was the case, a prudent driver would be passing at a speed that would lessen the likelihood of death.

However, as long as the "investigation" involves asking the driver what happened, the police will find the victim is at fault. Every time.



Incidentally, this is the second time a teen on a skatebaord was killed on a Fresno County road with no sidewalk this year. In the January case, CHP also assigned full blame on the victim. In that case, he was accused of running a stop sign - an act impossible to do as a pedestrian, as stop signs are only for vehicles.

5 comments:

  1. I don't know the posted speed limit on that road - but the posted limit is irrelevant anyway. All drivers have the legal and moral obligation to pass others (motorists, cyclists, people on foot or skateboard) at a safe speed. Now, I don’t know what speed the motorist was going (the car's black box does) or whether he/she slowed at all approaching the victim (the car's black box does). I don't even know what would have been a contextually appropriate "safe speed".

    What I **do** know however is that if the motorist was driving at a safe speed, the victim would not have caved in the car's windshield and roof to that extent. And if such a thing is so obvious to the casual observer, a police officer should be thinking "I have probable cause, and it's my duty to check the vehicle's black box to either support or refute the driver's statement."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thats a good point. The black box exists, but is almost never pulled. I doubt they looked for skid marks to calculate speeds and such either.

      Delete
  2. The black box would not have a record unless the airbags deployed. That is the one defect in the automobile version of the black box is that unless you run into something that slows the vehicle down suddenly enough to cause an airbag deployment it won't save the data.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fresno PD is so busy and understaffed that to them this is just one more thing to cross off the list of things to do. They want whatever simple explanation allows them to stamp CASE CLOSED across that file so that they can move on to the next thing. Of course, that's not to say that they would care even if they had the time to. All evidence of past vehicular homicides would indicate that they simply want to close cases and move on as quickly as possible. I mean, we are talking about a police force that is so disinterested in the general public's welfare that they refuse to respond to traffic accidents unless someone is in danger of perishing on the spot,and they make you fill out your own reports online unless there's a dead body involved. Even then, they want to wrap it up and move on. Dead bodies are like abandoned vehicles on the roadway in their eyes. Clear the roadway and move on to the next obstruction.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said Anonymous. Every month you hear of some new FPD internet reporting systems where you make online reports. They state its the new thing to make the people feel more "involved" with the community. Thats all bullshit..its just another way FPD can cutback on their services because they are so short staffed.

      Delete