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Deputy Who Fatally Struck Cyclist While Answering Email Will Face No Charges 463

Posted by samzenpus
from the off-the-hook dept.
Frosty P writes The LA County District Attorney's Office declined to press charges against a sheriff's deputy who was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when he fatally struck cyclist and former Napster COO Milton Olin Jr. in Calabasas last December. The deputy was responding to routine work email when he drifted into the bike lane and struck and killed Mr. Olin. An official with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said it is launching its own probe into the deputy’s behavior.
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Deputy Who Fatally Struck Cyclist While Answering Email Will Face No Charges

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  • yet if we did it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:11AM (#47800135) Homepage
    if me or you did this, we would be locked up on vehicular manslaughter
    • by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:13AM (#47800151)

      To be locked up over this is right. Whoever decide that this idiot could walk away from it without being sued should be fired. From a cannon. Into the sun.

      • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:17AM (#47800167) Homepage

        > sued

        *prosecuted, even.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by drewsup (990717)

          why do I hear Snagglepuss' voice when I read your post.
            heavens to murgatroid! Exit stage left...

      • Re:yet if we did it (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ganjadude (952775) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:19AM (#47800187) Homepage
        well to be fair, im sure a civil case is going to happen. Its just sick. I wonder if there will be any riots over this one
        • well to be fair, im sure a civil case is going to happen. Its just sick. I wonder if there will be any riots over this one

          Nah. It was wrong, but people generally don't riot over the death of a rich dude.

          • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:33AM (#47800297)

            well to be fair, im sure a civil case is going to happen. Its just sick. I wonder if there will be any riots over this one

            Nah. It was wrong, but people generally don't riot over the death of a rich dude.

            Rich white dude.

            Anyway it is slightly different that shooting some guy with his hands up, or shooting some guy running away - a pretty standard cop thing. The guy is just as dead, and the point is that the cop was negligent yet being held to different - much lower - standard that a citizen. One expects cops to be held to higher standards, but we find that it just isn't so.

            • by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:52AM (#47800437) Journal

              How many riots over rich black dudes have there been?

            • by MrKaos (858439)

              the point is that the cop was negligent yet being held to different - much lower - standard that a citizen. One expects cops to be held to higher standards, but we find that it just isn't so.

              Geek films cop - goes to jail

              Cop kills geek - goes home

            • Racism is over! Wooo! Yeeah!

              We only um... replaced it with a police state.

              What's that? We can have both? ..urk.

          • by plopez (54068)

            That's because rich white dudes, or their families, can afford to purchase justice.

        • This is going to be an interesting trial, too. For the first time, a deep-pockets plaintiff, rather than just another little guy easily crushed by the system.

      • by carld (460344)
        I'm sure there will be civil suits filed against the officer and his employer regarding improper training, supervision, etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by davester666 (731373)

        Clearly it was an accident.

        Police officers must get special training to be able to work computers, talk on cell phones, do all kinds of things while driving.

        Otherwise, it makes no sense that they are exempted from the laws that say drivers can't use these devices while driving.

    • by FSWKU (551325) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:20AM (#47800197)
      The funny (messed up funny, not amusing funny) thing is one of the suggested links I see at the top of the page: "33 Months In Prison For Recording a Movie In a Theater"

      That's right. In today's society, you can get more prison time for recording a movie than for killing someone through criminal negligence.
    • by Rigel47 (2991727) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:20AM (#47800199)
      Well, duh. Let's state the obvious. Police are not governed by the same laws that apply to you and me. *Technically* they are but time and again we see cops getting paid leave as their sole form of punishment for egregious crimes. Does anyone really think the cop that strangled to death the guy in Brooklyn who was pleading the whole time "I can't breath" is going to see a day in prison? Puh-lease.

      The only way to reign in the renegade and abusive behaviour of American police is to apply the law to them exactly the same way it is applied to citizens. That psychopath in Ferguson who pointed an automatic at people while shouting "I'm going to fucking kill you"? He should be up on charges for that, not allowed to quietly resign with pension.

      Anyways, that's enough day-dreaming.
      • by reboot246 (623534) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:33AM (#47800291) Homepage
        Paid leave is what really irritates me.

        Paid leave = paid vacation = reward.

        Why reward somebody who is under investigation? Would your boss pay your salary if you were being investigated?
        • by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:38AM (#47800323)

          Why reward somebody who is under investigation?

          Precisely because they are under investigation - to not pay them means the investigators and the employers have taken a particular stance, and also it would be extremely easy to harm someone by making a false accusation against them. Any accusation that leads to an investigation means the target is out of pocket, regardless of the end result.

          • by Rigel47 (2991727)
            Please. Citizen complaints against cops go nowhere. These "accusations" that you refer to which result in the heavy-handed paid leave are often of the sort where the cop is filmed strangling, beating, or shooting someone. Were it not for cops being filmed I've little doubt that the guy who strangled the Brooklyn man would be back on the beat.
            • Re:yet if we did it (Score:5, Interesting)

              by amiga3D (567632) on Monday September 01, 2014 @01:10PM (#47801427)

              This is not always true. We've had several local deputies here that were disciplined, suspended or fired for not obeying the law and in one case lying to investigators. Right up the road in the city of Warner Robins, Ga the police chief and one of his lieutenants were sent to prison for thinking they were above the law and could blackmail people. Too many people concentrate on these cases where justice failed and say that nothing "ever" happens but I know from personal experience that this is not so.

          • Re:yet if we did it (Score:5, Interesting)

            by stoploss (2842505) on Monday September 01, 2014 @11:23AM (#47800655)

            Precisely because they are under investigation - to not pay them means the investigators and the employers have taken a particular stance, and also it would be extremely easy to harm someone by making a false accusation against them.

            Okay, fine. Presumption of innocence and all. However, if they are found guilty then I want to see a clawback of the pay.

            For example, Nadal Hasan, the Ft. Hood terrorist^W"workplace violence perpetrator" drew over $300,000 in salary while awaiting trial. That's swell. What makes it better is that his victims' families were being jerked around and not receiving death benefits, etc, from the government while this was transpiring.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by quantaman (517394)

              Precisely because they are under investigation - to not pay them means the investigators and the employers have taken a particular stance, and also it would be extremely easy to harm someone by making a false accusation against them.

              Okay, fine. Presumption of innocence and all. However, if they are found guilty then I want to see a clawback of the pay.

              For example, Nadal Hasan, the Ft. Hood terrorist^W"workplace violence perpetrator" drew over $300,000 in salary while awaiting trial. That's swell. What makes it better is that his victims' families were being jerked around and not receiving death benefits, etc, from the government while this was transpiring.

              So innocent cops under investigation can't spend the salary they're making since they have to save it for the off-change they'll be found guilty?

              You're thinking about the wrong problem. The problem isn't cops being place on paid leave while under investigation, it's cops under investigation never being punished regardless of the severity of their actions.

    • by kencurry (471519) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:22AM (#47800211)
      No, if you or I did this, we are violating the LAW.

      When the brave officer did this, he was just doing his VERY DANGEROUS JOB. /sarcasm
    • Re:yet if we did it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:26AM (#47800235)

      if me or you did this, we would be locked up on vehicular manslaughter

      That's not the point though, this isn't a case of "this deputy just hit a person and killed them".

      Facts:
      1. The deputy was operating an electronic device in a moving vehicle.
      2. This was within standard operating procedure for the deputy.
      3. While doing a prescribed activity, the deputy drifted and killed an individual.

      Therefore, if the deputy was not instructed or given the opportunity to answer his email in a moving vehicle this would never have happened. In this instance, you'll probably find that the deputies are overworked and are forced to juggle paperwork while moving between scenes. The only logical conclusion to be reached is that in the normal course of his duty a deputy broke a law. Generally, when it comes to law enforcement there are rules that allow them to do this and in this specific instance it is most probable there is some insidious political reason that the DA declined to press charges.

      LEOs are in a completely different boat when it comes to them being susceptible to certain laws and in this case I feel the law was not applied unjustly. The family will have a right of recourse against the state through the civil system and the procedure for answering emails has probably changed.

      Do not apply your emotions to the law, that is not how it works.

      • Re:yet if we did it (Score:5, Informative)

        by ganjadude (952775) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:36AM (#47800311) Homepage
        im not applying emotions to the law, im applying the law to the law. If you or I were texting or emailing in our cars, we get a fine, If we kill someone, its homicide.

        if this was SOP, than it shouldnt be any longer, and as such the training was bad if it allows cops to break the law in such a way and new training should be in place that says "stop driving to respond to an email, if you need to radio it in" cops have radios for a reason, use them

        I understand that the findings show that in this case he was following procedure, but said procedure caused the loss of life, whoever signed off on said procedure should also be held accountable.
        • by Livius (318358) on Monday September 01, 2014 @11:33AM (#47800713)

          I believe the parent was referring to the law as it applies to the police. What the rest of us would call rationalizing violations of the law.

        • by tysonedwards (969693) on Monday September 01, 2014 @12:27PM (#47801095)
          You may want to give a read over the police report itself. It paints a quite interesting narrative, including the officer continually texting his wife from his personal cell phone and lying about it, the officer lying about Mr. Olin swerving from the bicycle lane into his patrol vehicle and causing the accident, and that he was in no way at fault. In fact, the officer received an "instant message" from another officer asking if he was free (U C4 BRO) when the accident occurred. He made the choice to type a response when rounding a corner where there was poor visibility, and most importantly lie about it. http://bikinginla.com/wp-conte... [bikinginla.com]
      • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:37AM (#47800317) Homepage

        "This was within standard operating procedure for the deputy."

        So what you are saying is there are at least two people who should go to jail for manslaughter. The person or people who said to do this, and the officer who was negligent enough to follow the procedure.

      • by crakbone (860662) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:42AM (#47800363)
        distracted driving is against the law. As well as hitting someone with your car. Just because he did it while reading an official email should not exclude him from the other laws. Ultimately he is the only one who can determine if the environment is safe for him to operate that computer and drive. He failed. It cost a life. He needs to pay a price for that.
        • by ultranova (717540) on Monday September 01, 2014 @12:07PM (#47800941)

          Ultimately he is the only one who can determine if the environment is safe for him to operate that computer and drive. He failed. It cost a life. He needs to pay a price for that.

          Alternatively, we could decide that the blame resides partially - probably mostly - on the police department and current social climate as a whole. After all, the latter has all but declared police to be above law or even the very concept of accountability, while the former certainly took advantage of it. People planted into a poisonous cultural atmosphere cannot help but internalize and treat it as a baseline for what's "normal", and can individually only decide whether they're better or worse than that. And assigning all the blame on that individual lets the system that spawned them off the hook, thus ensuring the same thing will happen again, and again, and again.

          • by Kjella (173770) on Monday September 01, 2014 @02:24PM (#47801957) Homepage

            Nobody else would get away with breaking the law because they were following orders. You try telling that story in court when you run somebody over because your boss wants every email replied to within five minutes and they'll put you behind bars in an instant. If you want to make this sting upwards in the system, do that. But don't pretend he shouldn't be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NatasRevol (731260)

        LEOs are in a completely different boat when it comes to them being susceptible to certain laws

        What the fuck are you talking about?

        Is distracted driving illegal? Yes.
        Is it illegal if you're a LEO? Yes.
        Is vehicular homicide illegal? Yes.
        Is it illegal if you're a LEO? Yes.

        Are the laws different if you're a LEO? No.
        Will you be *prosecuted* differently if you're a LEO? Yes.

    • if me or you did this, we would be locked up on vehicular manslaughter

      I had said that in the story submission, but the "editors" took it out.

  • makes sense (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    He was on his mobile digital computer at the time, it's hardly his fault.

    • Why did parent got modded down?
      You did not find the 'sarcasm' mod option?
      he is rather insightful, if not funny!

  • Legalized Murder (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How many times is the police going to get away with murder this month?

  • I mean, doesn't the person whose rights were infringed on have to make that call? And since that person is apparently now dead, how can they just somehow arbitrarily decide that charges should be dropped?
    • by ultranova (717540)

      And since that person is apparently now dead, how can they just somehow arbitrarily decide that charges should be dropped?

      Because dead men tell no tales. Which rises a question of what incentive does any officer have to ensure that the merely wounded survive? Delay calling help a little and there won't be any confusion over conflicting testimonies.

  • To Be Fair (Score:5, Funny)

    by hduff (570443) <hoytduff&gmail,com> on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:26AM (#47800239) Homepage Journal

    The deputy did put a knife in Olin's hand, so it was self-defense.

  • It's sad, it's ridiculously two-faced, but the sad truth is in the USA people in cars / trucks kill cyclists quite often -- and seldom are charged. Even rarer is for an alleged "motorist" to get jail time for it.

    • by itsenrique (846636) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:35AM (#47800305)
      It's hardly any better on a motorcycle (or as a pedestrian). A lot of people never rode bikes or motorbikes *seriously*. They may have taken the huffy for a spin down the block as a kid, but never as an actual commuting tool. So, they don't take seriously the position distracted drivers put them in. I'd rather have someone drunk, or speeding behind me than someone using a fucking laptop, tablet, or cell phone as a cyclist of any stripe. Pedestrians get treated with disrespect and their right of ways get violated regularly too. Maybe if the police actually did pull people over and just *educate* them on these issues instead of being a force used mostly to extract money from the people we could make some progress. Or perhaps if getting and keeping a drivers license in most states wasn't one notch easier than simply turning 16. Like in Germany where a decent % don't make it every time. But alas, I think for some they think driving poorly is some kind of inalienable right.
  • by BrianSoCal (1519721) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:28AM (#47800253)

    From the article -> “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”

    So by this same logic - if he was typing on his computer and rammed his car into a McDonalds and killed 10 people, this would have been lawful too???

    If I'm not mistaken, if you do a first act lawfully, and you do a second act like reckless driving as a result of the first - you're still liable for the second act. If you drink a coffee lawfully and spill it on yourself and then jump lanes and hit a bicyclist - you don't think you'd get hit with vehicular manslaughter?? And your argument would be, "I was drinking coffee lawfully, so lets throw this case out of court?"

    Geez...

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:29AM (#47800269)
    ... that can be cited in any and all other distracted driving cases.

    .
    And the precedent is that distracted driving laws are not valid and can be ignored.

    or is the real precedent that police are above the law, and can do whatever they want with impunity?

    • And the precedent is that distracted driving laws are not valid and can be ignored.

      I don't see how that's true, for three reasons. First, the featured article states that the vehicle was stopped while the phone was in use. Second, a DA's decision not to prosecute isn't exactly a "precedent" in the common law sense. Third, even if the officer had been found not guilty in a court of law, another judge could apply the narrower precedent that police are above the distracted driving law but not necessarily above other laws.

  • by Skynyrd (25155) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:39AM (#47800333) Homepage

    Once again (still) cops are above the law.

    They demand respect, yet show none. Departments overlook and hide massive crimes committed by their officers.

    This is just typical cop behavior.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:39AM (#47800337)

    we can see both at the local and federal level that District Attorney and Attorney General should not be members of the formal executive branch but rather should be members of the judiciary or possibly some other branch of government. By putting them in the same administrative house as the police it means that the police or other government officials are shielded from prosecution. This creates a two tier legal system at the very least where there is one set of rules for everyone out of government and apparently almost no rules at all for those that are in it besides be loyal and obey your masters.

    This needs to be dealt with.

  • You should not get preferential treatment in the eyes of the law based on your place of employment. It really is that simple.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Monday September 01, 2014 @10:44AM (#47800381)

    It appears that operating the mobile computer while driving is "routine procedure" for this police department. That's clearly a dangerous policy, so the department is liable and if they don't pay up the family should file a wrongful death suit.

    This particular officer probably didn't break any criminal law. You could argue "reckless driving", but reckless has a very specific meaning in law. The fact that the driver's vehicle continued in a straight line as the bike lane curved suggests that he wasn't any less careful than many people are on a regular basis. "Reckless" requires a wanton disregard, a level of carelessness well beyond what a reasonable person would do.

    Therefore I think it may be correct that the police department that established the dangerous policy is held responsible. I don't see any serious crime commited by this particular officer, based on the facts available.

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Civil lawsuit will be brought. Civil lawsuit will be won. Taxpayers will pay the civil lawsuit award. Those responsible will be unaffected.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Therefore I think it may be correct that the police department that established the dangerous policy is held responsible.

      This.

      Sadly, the courts have eliminated all expectations of judgement in the performance of police duties. So we should expect officers to comply with the letter of department procedures rather than applying common sense. And if an error occurs, it is the result of flawed policy rather than an individual's responsibility.

    • by genner (694963)
      The problem is more then just a bad department policy. It's the very concept that police should be immune to certain laws in the first place that needs to change.
  • While a death did not occur in this case in SW VA, a deputy shot his own daughter who was sneaking back home in through the garage at 3:30AM,

    Deputy hear's noises in garage at 3:30AM .. check
    Deputy draws gun .. check
    Deputy has no idea who was in garage .. check
    Deputy blindly shoots said person .. check
    Deputy not charged with anything .. WTF?!??!?!

    Loudoun deputy won’t face charges in accidental shooting of teen daughter [loudountimes.com]

    I want to know HTF this was classed as "Accidental". Talk about different rules for

  • Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zmooc (33175) <zmoocNO@SPAMzmooc.net> on Monday September 01, 2014 @01:34PM (#47801601) Homepage

    What's ridiculous here is that charges will not be pressed *because* the officer did not violate Vehicle Code section 23123.5 (which prohibits operating electronic wireless communication devices while driving) since it "does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle".

    Apparently they totally failed to check whether the dude might have violated the law that says you should not kill people by driving over them with your car, which he obviously did violate.

    Apparently killing people with your car is illegal UNLESS you're doing it while operating an electronic communications device in a police car; in that case you actually get a reward: the job you applied for over a year ago. How odd...

  • by jodido (1052890) on Monday September 01, 2014 @02:51PM (#47802135)
    The deputy should be arrested and charged with homicide (not murder--"homicide"=killing someone, charge could be manslaughter or whatever). Case should be investigated and brought to trial and allow a jury to decide. Should not be left to the DA--which is simply the cops in a different building--to decide the case in advance.
  • by LifesABeach (234436) on Monday September 01, 2014 @08:07PM (#47803641)
    Law Enforcement is allowed to easedrop on anyone for no reason, Law Enforcement is allowed to take any possession, and finally, Law Enforcement can take my life. What have I left to lose?

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