The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office will not press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who struck and killed a cyclist while allegedly typing on his mobile digital computer at the same time he was driving his patrol car.
District Attorney Rosa Alarcon made the announcement Wednesday. She said her office did not have enough evidence to pursue charges of vehicular manslaughter against Deputy Andrew Wood and prosecutors would not be able to prove Wood was criminally negligent in his actions.
“The People cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wood’s momentary distraction in the performance of his duties constituted a failure to use reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm,” Alarcon wrote in a statement quoted by KTLA.
Wood admits to hitting prominent entertainment attorney Milton Olin in the fatal Dec. 8, 2013 crash. Olin was riding in a bike lane on Mulholland Highway when Wood’s patrol car veered into the lane, striking and killing the 65-year-old married father of two.
Alacron said that because the deputy was communicating with another officer in the course of his regular duties, his actions were legal.
Court records indicate that Wood was typing, into the car’s mobile computer, a text message response to a fellow officer’s question after responding to a fire call at a nearby high school.
“Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning, causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking Olin,” a letter from the District Attorney’s office stated.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports the prosecutor’s office also said it was “reasonable” that Wood would feel the need to respond immediately to the officer’s query so that the officer wouldn’t unnecessarily respond to the high school.
Olin’s two sons and his wife said Thursday they plan to go ahead with a civil lawsuit that alleges negligence and wrongful death. The suit names the sheriff’s department, Los Angeles County and Wood as defendants. The family’s attorney, Bruce Boillet, said in a statement Thursday he was disappointed a criminal case would not proceed.
“Once again we see the government protecting its own despite its behavior. That is why it is so important that we have an independent civil jury that demands public entities answer to incidents of wrongdoing,” Boillet’s statement read.
Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, agreed with Boillet’s sentiment.
“Just because the law allows someone to do something while driving doesn’t mean they are allowed to do something unsafely while driving,” Bruins said. “Hitting someone from behind is very clear evidence that whatever was going on in that car was not safe and should have been considered negligent.”