SFPD Won’t Hold Driver Responsible for Running Over, Killing Sleeping Man

On October 23, 55-year-old Elvis Presley was sleeping on a sidewalk on Third Street near Bryant when he was run over and killed by a 28-year-old woman pulling her car out of a garage. Contrary to media reports, police confirmed that the woman was driving forward, not backing out, onto the sidewalk.

Based on media reports, this may be the garage where Presley was run over. Photo: Google Maps

Presley’s death was ruled an “accident,” and the woman will face no charges nor receive a citation, said SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza. Her name will not be released, as she is not considered a suspect, he said.

The case seems yet another affirmation of the status quo: Killing another person is just fine, as long as it’s done with a motor vehicle, the driver isn’t intoxicated, and claims it was an accident.

“If you are behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle, it IS your responsibility to make sure your path is clear,” wrote Streetsblog reader Tami in an email. “In a densely populated city it is reasonable to expect for a dog, child or person to be in your path. It is insufficient to say, ‘I didn’t see him.'”

“Nobody deserves to die that way,” said Walk SF Executive Director Elizabeth Stampe. “I’d want to know more about what happened, and how on earth the driver didn’t notice that her car was actually running over someone.”

  • Eversonlarry

    I have known Elvis for several years. I treated him as a friend and supported him with both money and long conversations. He was an intelligent man that for some reason had lost his way in life. I will miss him. However I feel it is wrong to blame the driver of the car that ran over him. She is more than likely traumatized by the accident and possibly scarred for life. It is wrong to treat the homeless as victims every time something bad happens. Sleeping on a sidewalk in front of a garage exit was a mistake that Elvis made and it cost him his life. He is the cause of the accident not the driver of the car. Instead of accusing her of wrong doing we should be extending a sympathetic hand.   

  • Gneiss

    Yes, lets all feel sorry for the very much alive human being who ran over and killed another.  It really doesn’t matter if she meant to or not, if she were scarred for life or not.  Another human being is dead due too our love of 2 ton single person mobility objects and all we can say is ‘what a horrible accident’.

    We are conditioned not to think about the killing power of the machines that most people routinely step into every day.  We think of them as our living rooms or extensions of our legs – driving instead of walking – rather than as operating heavy machinery.  So when a death occurs from the sober operation of a vehicle we are shocked that someone could die, and do everything in our power to absolve the operator.  After all – it could happen to ‘anybody’, And by anybody, we really mean ourselves.  After all, who do you identify more with – the woman who ran over Elvis or Elvis?

  •  Gneiss: You’re basically arguing that operating a vehicle is wrong by itself, regardless of the behavior of the victim of putting himself at risk by sleeping on a driveway. Then you’re no different than “eating meat is murder” crowd.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I did a little experiment and went out at 7:00 AM. Most of the cars had their headlights on; a few did not.  But you know what?  It didn’t seem to make much difference whether they did or not.  Why was that?  Unlike full dark when headlights brightly illuminate the area in front of the car, in the dim light of morning, they don’t, not so much.  So, visibility conditions, with or without hedlights are  

  • Anonymous

    It’s no use arguing for the driver, @Eversonlarry:disqus.  @Gneiss:disqus and @Supertamsf:disqus would much rather demonstrate their moral superiority by pontificating about the evils of cars and drivers then consider the actual facts and circumstances of the case.

  • Gneiss

     Andy + p_chazz – your reading way to much into my statement.  I’m not at all arguing about the morality of cars.  What I’m arguing about it how people in the United State don’t think about them as dangerous.

    But consider – we don’t think much about industrial or construction injuries and deaths theses days because OSHA took an aggressive role in reducing them in factories and work sites over the last decades.  Fining and prosecuting the bad companies changed their behavior. 

    We used to have many more plane crashes and deaths – but now they are exceedingly rare.    Why?  Because the FAA investigated each and every one and airline and airplane makers were financially and criminally on the hook for them. 

    But deaths from cars – those have stubbornly stayed close to the same rates for decades.  Why? Because we as a society don’t take them as seriously as other deaths.  What we are seeing here is an example of that.  We are quick to absolve drivers of any responsibility because they could easily be us.  That’s what I’m arguing about.

  •  We have to remember that the safety standards for commercial transportation (whether it is airlines, ferry, train, or bus) is far higher than private automobiles. People insist on a higher standards because they don’t have to implement them.

    A restaurant or a market cannot sell just expired food and have to throw them away, but people can certainly dumpster dive and take those foods home. Those foods are more or less just as safe to eat.

    As for road safety, it would involve in better road designs, among other things. However it won’t prevent all incidents, especially like this one in which someone chose to sleep on a driveway.

  • Gneiss

    I think we can change it too.  If that entryway had been engineered so it didn’t have an overhang where someone could sleep or was hidden from view, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  Much of the work that OSHA and the FAA do and have done is recommend new design standards after investigating deaths or serious injuries.  It certainly sounds like we’re not getting any of that review after the death of Elvis.  We just don’t take deaths from motor vehicles as seriously as other kinds of deaths even though they represent the most common way that people in their prime of life are killed.  And it’s because we simply don’t think of cars and light trucks as dangerous.  That’s the tragedy.

  •  How many cases can you recall others getting run over because of sleeping on the driveway? I can’t. Most homeless people pretty much know where is safe to sleep and where isn’t. Just one person out of thousands chose a wrong place to sleep doesn’t mean that we need to “run over proof” every driveway. If we run over proof every driveway, are we making more places for the homeless to sleep?

    If we have the money it is better to use it on programs to get the homeless off the street, not making driveways more homeless friendly.

    It is not necessarily motor vehicles. We allow people to own guns even though guns are designed to kill people. People play sports like baseball, football, and skiing that can cause serious injuries. We don’t force helmet or pad use for all cyclists, although we force seat belt use for people in cars.

    A lot of OSHA and FAA recommendations have to do with instructions/education/warning for employees not to do certain things, rather than redesigning something to make it idiot proof. A simple remedy is to place signs warning people not to sleep there because of a run over risk. I think it would be silly, but way more doable.

  • @andychow:disqus 

    “I don’t think it is fair to blame a single person (who I presume was acting reasonably)”
    “Who I presume was acting reasonably” <<<< That drives me crazy. You have no reason to to assume this. The fact that this woman ran over a human body directly in front of her would suggests otherwise. Since we're making assumptions driver could have easily been distracted, texting, talking, eating, drinking, plugging in GPS, or just plain not paying attention. If so = NOT acting reasonably and in fact falls under legal definition of reckless driving: "CA Vehicle Code 23103 (b) (b) A person who drives a vehicle in an offstreet parking facility, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 12500, in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving."

    And please explain how you don't blame the woman who killed Elvis ? Intentional or not this woman DID cause his death. To the degree she was culpable/or negligent  is up for debate. But she did kill him. 

  • Andy Chow

    That person was sleeping so he could very well be outside the visible range blocked by the hood.

    The victim chose a wrong place to sleep and put himself in danger. The woman wouldn’t have run over him if he had not been there. It is not as if he was sleeping in some place safer (like a bus shelter) and she ran off the street and hit him.

    If you choose to prosecute someone criminally, there shouldn’t be any doubt as to who is the sole contributor of his death, but the fact that he was sleeping is a contributing factor. You think that doesn’t matter, but I certainly do, and most likely a jury won’t convect her (you need a consensus and not a majority). If someone chooses to sue her insurance company in a civil court, that would be another issue.

  • @Seemoni “Check left, check right, check left. Check ahead all clear.”

     Except 2 ft beyond Elvis was a sidewalk with pedestrians. 6 feet beyond that cars. In order to check “right left” for pedetrians& cars she should have been stopped or at minimum slowly inching out exactly where she ran Elvis over.  Instead, she was going at least as fast to clear a human body. She had to have some speed.

  • @p_chazz:disqus  We get it. In summary your argument is. Lights/Off. Backwards /Forwards it makes no difference. The woman who ran over Elvis, is in no way responsible fro running over Elvis. 

    Explain to me how you know this woman: 
    1) Wasn’t distracted: Talking, texting eating, GPS plain old not paying attention? 
    2) Going faster than she should have out if that garage? 
    3) Couldn’t see him… actually scratch that one, because if the answer is she COULDN”T SEE then she should have stopped. If you can’t see, you can’t proceed. Period. Blindly pulling onto a sidewalk and into street traffic when you can’t see IS reckless driving.  So you’re proving your own pathetic point. Everytime you try and postulate other scenario of why she couldn’t see him is full on admission she had NO BUSINESS pulling out of that garage. 

  • Andy Chow

     My suspicion is that she drove up to the solid garage door (therefore wouldn’t be able to see him ahead of time regardless of time of day. It opened, but she couldn’t see the bottom of the garage door where he was sleeping. I believe this is a normal routine for her (and for many others) and they do not presume that there would be someone lying down there.

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