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.”

  • Aaron it’s not actually a “pedestrian safety” issue if you are sleeping in a known driveway… so drivers are now responsible for narcoleptics just crowding our nations roadways? I don’t even own a car… but get real… is it a tragedy?… yes…but is the driver supposed to be lynched ? be charged with murder?

  • voltairesmistress

    Note to self: don’t pass out or fall asleep across a driveway.  Can we concentrate on more systemic and structural pedestrian safety issues?

  • p4321

    ELVIS PRESLEY???

  • Andy Chow

    I don’t think sleeping across a driveway is or should be a typical street behavior. Once someone chooses to do something that’s not typical, then they face a much greater risk to themselves. That’s what’s called personal responsibility.

    You might as well blame Muni, BART, or Caltrain train operators for murder if someone chooses to jump onto the track in front of the train.

  • Divertiremos

    I’m with little Mike.  Of course it’s very sad that Elvis died and I am sure the woman feels horrible about this very tragic accident.  Locking someone up for an accident is solving anything.  

  • supertamsf

    Question: “Is the driver supposed to be lynched ? be charged with murder?” 

    Answer: The driver should be held accountable to the degree they were responsible. 
    2 feet beyond where Elvis was sleeping is a sidewalk with pedestrians. 6 feet beyond that, is street traffic. If she wasn’t looking out for obsticles in her path, what WAS she doing? How fast was she going that she couldn’t stop? Are you honestly making the argument that no one could anticipate that someone/something would be in their way while exiting a garage?  The case was closed in 8 hours. It happened at 7:00 am –  closed by 2:00 pm. At the very least you can agree that it would be impossible for police accurately determine that there was ZERO culpability on the part of the driver. This woman KILLED a man and doesn’t even have to pay a the price of a parking ticket.

  • Anonymous

    This is a tragedy for the victim and the woman who drove over him, but I’m sorry, it’s not a crime. There was no mens rea, “guilty mind” on the part of the perpetrator that would make it a crime.  It’s not as if she was cackling maniacally to herself as she drove out of her driveway, grinning with pleasure as she listened to the bones crunch under her tires. Something (or someone) at sidewalk level cannot be seen from the driver’s seat.

    Justice would not be served by giving the woman jail time; it would only mess up someone’s life by giving them a record, and contribute to the overcrowding in our prisons.

  • supertamsf

    Note to voltairesmistress: Quit being a vapid heartless d!ck. This IS a systemic & structural issue. The issue of safety & parking garages is one that affects every densely populated urban area. We all have a story of a close call with a driver exiting a garage. The fundemental issue in the above case is; WHY DIDN”T SHE SHE HIM? Either she wasn’t paying attention OR she was blindly pulling into traffic at a clip so fast she was unable to stop. 

  • supertamsf

    Thanks Aaron for giving some attention to this story. 

  • Anonymous

    The woman had an obilgation to look out for pedestrians as she came out of her driveway; the responsible thing to do would be to look to the right and the left.  She could not have seen something (or someone) who was not in her field of vision.  Further, the victim was using the sidewalks in a manner inconsistent with their use.  If he had passed out on a railroad track, whould it have been the engieneer at fault?

  • Anonymous

    No, because cars are always at fault on Streetsblog SF

  • Anonymous

    @supertamsf:disqus  The man was sleeping on the sidewalk.  From the driver’s seat, he couldn’t be seen over the hood of her car.

  • Davistrain

    As someone who keeps track of events in SF from far away, mostly because of my interest in Muni activities, I get the impression from some of the comments, and comments seen elsewhere, that some San Franciscans are tired of their city being “hobo jungle by the bay.”

  • supertamsf

    “It’s not as if she was cackling maniacally to herself as she drove out of her driveway,”
    How do you know? Yes, I know that sounds extreme but this is the worst case scenario. A man was killed. Anger towards the homeless is real. Those stupid jackass movies, ‘bum fights” The Chron article was littered with violent comments about this guy. “Good I’m glad he’s dead” She did everyone a favor by picking him off” Like you, my mind didn’t even go there until I read those comments.  In no way should it immediatly be dismissed or assumed that this woman wasn’t a psycho. 

    “Something (or someone) at sidewalk level cannot be seen from the driver’s seat.”
    Since when can you not see the road in front of your car? He was not sleeping under her car, he was in the driveway in front of the building. There are at least 20 cars in that garage. She would to have driven (at minimum)  20 feet before she got to the garage door.  You can’t see 20 feet in front of your car? And if you can’t you have no business exiting a garage.  

    “Justice would not be served by giving the woman jail time; it would only mess up her life ” You’re concerned about messing up this woman’s life? How about the life she took? The person who texts & drives didn’t “mean” to kill someone, none the less they are responsible for a person’s death. How do you know the driver wasn’t distracted and at least partly responsible? And justice is most definitely NOT been served as this this case was closed in less than 8 hours with ZERO responibility assigned to the driver. ZERO. No way the police conducted a thorough investigation. 

  • supertamsf

    “I am sure the woman feels horrible about this very tragic accident.” 
    How do you know?  Know what else would be discribed as an “accident”? Someone who is texting while driving. Sure they may not have intended to kill somone, but if they were driving while distracted they are responsible for a person’s death. If this woman was distracted or otherwhile negligent she should be held accountable. No way the police could have determined that in 8 hours.  Saying “whoops  sorry” after you killed   someone is unacceptable.

  • supertamsf

    Yes the man shouldn’t have been there. But it is absurd to say no one could antipate somone or somthing being in your way while exiting a garage. The driver should have been inching/rolling out slowly looking fo obstacles because 2 feet beyond where Elvis was there is a sidewalk, another 6 feet, a busy street.  The ONLY thing the driver should have been doing is looking in front of her and going at a slow speed to stop. Why didn’t she stop the minute she felt something under her wheel? 

  • supertamsf

    If you can’t see a human body on the ground in front of you, you’re not paying attention. 

  • mikesonn

    What if he wasn’t there but a child was? Or an elderly person with a walker?

  • Gneiss

    Let’s say once again for the record – negligent vehicular homicide doesn’t require intent.  It doesn’t matter if you were cackling maniacally or not – if you didn’t take steps that another reasonable person would take to insure the safety of those around you, then you can be charged with a crime.

    People need to take a moment, particularly in a city where sidewalk sleeping is quite common, to look around their vehicle and make sure they don’t run over anyone.  The real shame here is the sham investigation by the police, and the blatant driver bias.  The very statement “anyone could have done it”, which I’m sure is the rational they used to absolve the driver shows how we decide who is normal and who is not.

  • supertamsf

    @pchazzz:disqus I’ve been to the site. It’s 549 Third St. Flat surface. No incline. At least 20 feet from nearest parking space inside garage to door. Pathetic that you try to make the argument that it would be  “impossible” to see a human body, on the ground,  20 feet, directly in front of you. Not UNDER your car. 20 feet IN FRONT. (at least) 

    Initially this was reported as the woman backed up and rolled over the man. People wrongly assumed he was asleep under her car and it would have been impossible to see. Now we know he was outside the building 20 feet in front of her … and it’s STILL impossible to see? She could see things to her right and left but not DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF HER?

  • Was there a witness that he was sleeping, and not walking down the sidewalk?

  • Most of the people talking about SF being a hobo jungle are “keeping track of events in SF from far away”

  • Mom on a bike

    Go away.

  • Andy Chow

    If you absolutely insist that drivers are always liable even beyond what is reasonable, custodians might as well mop the floor without any kind of wet floor sign. If you slipped and fell it is because you weren’t careful enough to see the water on the floor. You should’ve walking slowly and expect wet floor at any time.

    I don’t think the drivers was acting any different or any less careful than at any other time, but that obstacle was very unusual and could easily be blocked by shadow or be confused as something else.

  • Gneiss

    In our city sidewalk sleeping is pretty common.  It’s entirely possible that this man had slept in that driveway before and only shooed away by someone who was more responsible.  But, because the police closed the case after mere hours of investigating (did they interview any neighborhors?  Track down any video? check the driver’s cell phone records?) we’ll never know.  To me, that’s the greater tragedy.  The willingness of the police to so quickly close the case on a death by car shows how little we as a society treat people who get in the way of the dominant mode of transport.

  • PRE

    Hobo Jungle by the Bay.   That’s exactly what it is – and I’m not keeping track from far away but from across the Bay.  Most of these (crazy) people need to be in institutions, and perhaps the newly installed 2/3rd legislature majority will spend the money to finally take care of these poor people, but there are a ton of people that I’m not afraid to call bums.  Of course nobody deserves to be run over like that, but don’t sleep in driveways.  Why do we accept a situation where sleeping on the street is acceptable.  It is not.

  • Anonymous

    We don’t know what the time of day it was or the weather conditions were when the accident occurred. If it was dark or foggy out the person could easily have been obscured. The picture that accompanies this article shows a driveway engulfed in dark shadow at mid day. Think how much darker it would be inearly morning or twilight.

  • Anonymous

    Gee, next people will say that I’m responsible for not running over people who faint or trip while crossing the street. I say, if they’re on the ground, they’re fair game. 

  • Andy Chow

    If the guy slept on the same driveway before but got away without harm, then he was lucky, it doesn’t make his behavior safe. A bike rider can run most stops signs and red lights without getting into trouble, but once is enough to get himself killed, does that mean that running stop signs and red lights a good behavior? Or do we blame others who have the right of way for not yielding to the bike that was running stop signs and red lights?

    Perhaps some people in the same situation could be careful enough to avoid running over him, but I believe that other reasonable and careful drivers might not have caught him.

    What I am against is the guilty before proven innocent attitude.

  • Andy Chow

     A reasonable person would stop if he or she sees some kind of obstacle. The issue is that the person might not see the obstacle for a variety of reasons, or not able to react in time when seeing such obstacle. Why are we automatically assume that the sleeping person must be visible to every reasonable person, or somehow that the driver wasn’t being reasonable.

    If you think the sleeping person should bear no responsibility, would you be willing to sleep on a driveway entrance to make a point?

  • supertamsf

    p_chazz it was 7:00 am on a partly sunny day, Wednesday Oct 24, 2012. I have been to the site at this time in the morning. I have pictures. The sun does not glare in at that time.  Flat. No incline. If it were dark her headlights would have been on, which would have light up an object 20 feet directly in front of you EVEN more. Keep going. What other excuses can you think of? 

  • supertamsf

    Andy Chow What I’m against is someone is dead and there is a complete lack of investigation. Event happened at 7:00 am. It was in the paper by 2:00 pm, same day, less than 8 hours. Cased closed. ZERO liability assigned to the driver. Doesn’t even have to pay the price of a parking ticket. There is no way there was a proper investigation. Maybe at the end of the day, she won’t be held accountable BUT that couldn’t have been properly determined in less than 8 hours. 

  • Bike_lawyer

    The mens rea is recklessness.  Check your criminal law treatise – that’s sufficient mens rea for criminal sanctions.  If you drive your car across a sidewalk without checking to see if there may be someone there, that’s recklessness.  It’s like shooting a gun at a target and not checkin to see if there may be someone behind the target who might get hit.  If you did that and killed someone, you’d get criminal charges.  But it seems with a car things are different.

  • Slee

    I know nothing about the case, but:

     Maybe the car was parked just behind the door and the guy was just outside, leaning at one of the walls with his legs on the driveway. A driver could get to his garage from the inside of his house, hit the ‘open’ button and climb in the car. If the guy is on the opposite side from the drivers door, it’s quite possible to not see someone in front of the car even when standing by  the car door, let alone while sitting on the drivers seat.

  • Anonymous

    @Bike_lawyer:disqus I think you are failing to discriminate between negligence and gross negligence:

    http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Gross+negligence

    An indifference to, and a blatant violation of, a legal duty with respect to the rights of others.

    Gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both. It is conduct that is extreme when compared with ordinary Negligence, which is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care. Ordinary negligence and gross negligence differ in degree of inattention, while both differ from willful and wanton conduct, which is conduct that is reasonably considered to cause injury. This distinction is important, since contributory negligence—a lack of care by the plaintiff that combines with the defendant’s conduct to cause the plaintiff’s injury and completely bar his or her action—is not a defense to willful and wanton conduct but is a defense to gross negligence. In addition, a finding of willful and wanton misconduct usually supports a recovery of Punitive Damages, whereas gross negligence does not.

  •  Why would we assume that someone would see a person lying on the ground? We already assume that if they are driving into the same direction as the sun, and the sun blinds them, that it’s ok if they run someone over who is standing…

    If you can’t see where you are going – STOP.

  •  That is an amusing situation, those of a more “conservative” bent are very upset about the hobos, and are also unwilling to pay the tax money to get them services.

  • supertamsf

    Andy Chow – 
    “The issue is that the person might not see the obstacle for a variety of reasons,” 
    What could the variety of reasons be? Texting? Talking on the phone? Eating? Drinking?  Applying make-up? Fixing hair? Plugging in directions on GPS?  Music? Plain old not paying attention? Think any of those could be a factor? If not those things, explain how you don’t see a body on the ground 20 feet in front of you, on a perfectly flat surface?  2 feet beyond the door there is a sidewalk with pedestrians,  6 feet beyond that street traffic.  If the driver couldn’t see for other reasons then they had no business exiting garage.  Blindly pulling out onto a sidewalk and into traffic when you can’t see IS reckless driving. Since when is the rule “I couldn’t see, so I just went ahead?”   If it were dark, her lights should have been on, which would have light up an obstacle even more. That’s what headlights do. Was she driving in the dark without her lights on? If so, negligence on her part. I’ve been to the site at the hour it happened 7:00 am before daylight savings time. It it just starting to get light out. It happened Wed. Oct 24, 2012  on a partly sunny day. Sun does not hit that building at that time so she would not have been blinded by the sun.  Can you think of any other excuses? 
     

     “or not able to react in time when seeing such obstacle.”  

    This wasn’t a highway on ramp. This wasn’t even moving traffic. How fast are you driving from a stationary parked position inside a garage, 20 feet to the garage door?  Driver should have been rolling/inching out of garage to look for 1) Pedestrians on the sidewalk 2) Beyond that street traffic.  If she was driving so fast from a PARKED position, 20 feet to the garage door that she didn’t have to time to react, THAT IS RECKLESS DRIVING. 

  • Anonymous

    Her headlights may or may not have been on in early morning.  Also, by sleeping in front of a driveway, Mr. Presley failed to exercise reasonable caution to protect himself.  He was also in violation of the city’s sit/lie ordinance.  Really, the proper venue for this is in the civil court where the burden of proof is lower. 

  • “Her headlights may or may not have been on in early morning.”

    If she was driving while dark without her headlights on = negligence on her part.
    See, a driver must put their headlights on when it’s dark out otherwise they can’t see and might, you know, run over and kill someone. If the excuse is “It was dark and I was driving without my headlights on” Then she is DEFINITELY negligent. If she DID have her headlights on they would have lit up an object even more. Because that’s what headlights do. Next excuse?

  • @pchazzz:disqus ” Mr. Presley failed to exercise reasonable caution to protect himself.” 
    Mr. Presley was a homeless man well known in the neighborhood who, like many homeless, struggled with demons. So yes, no kidding, a person sleeping in a doorway is not exercising reasonable caution to protect himself. He shouldn’t have been there. That in no way, absolves the driver who must make sure they have a clear path before pulling onto a sidewalk and into traffic. In addition she should have been crawling out of that garage at a snails pace so that she could react if there were an obstacle.  Why didn’t she stop the minute she felt resistance of a human body under her wheel? How fast was she going from a parked position, 20 feet to the garage door that she couldn’t stop in time? 
     

  • Anonymous

    @supertamsf:disqus Quit calling people vapid heartless dicks. Your ad hominems do not serve you well.

  • Anonymous

    @supertamsf:disqus I think you are failing to discriminate between negligence and gross negligence:
    http://legal-dictionary.thefre
    An indifference to, and a blatant violation of, a legal duty with respect to the rights of others.
    Gross negligence is a conscious and voluntary disregard of the need to use reasonable care, which is likely to cause foreseeable grave injury or harm to persons, property, or both. It is conduct that is extreme when compared with ordinary Negligence, which is a mere failure to exercise reasonable care. Ordinary negligence and gross negligence differ in degree of inattention, while both differ from willful and wanton conduct, which is conduct that is reasonably considered to cause injury. This distinction is important, since contributory negligence—a lack of care by the plaintiff that combines with the defendant’s conduct to cause the plaintiff’s injury and completely bar his or her action—is not a defense to willful and wanton conduct but is a defense to gross negligence. In addition, a finding of willful and wanton misconduct usually supports a recovery of Punitive Damages, whereas gross negligence does not.
    show more

  • No, we wouldn’t want to force people into being careful while driving lest they kill someone and go to jail or anything.

  • @pchazzz:disqus  “The man was sleeping on the sidewalk.  From the driver’s seat, he couldn’t be seen over the hood of her car.” 

    Your argument is: It is impossible for a driver to see what is directly in front of them. Again, Elvis was approx 20 feet in front of the car, outside the building. 

  • mikesonn

    s/The man was sleeping on the sidewalk/that toddler was too short/

  • Anonymous

    In the early hours of the morning and at twilight, the sun is low.  It’s not necessary to turn on your headlights.  The sky is light but the ground is dark.  Look at the deep pools of shadow in the picture.  A person wear dark clothing laying on a gray sidewalk that is in deep shadow would be very difficult to see.

  • mikesonn

    Which is why you turn on your lights…

  • Andy Chow

     How did you know there was no investigation? And what level of investigation would satisfy you anyway? A type that you see on TV shows like CSI?

    If you want to have sympathy toward the homeless, that’s fine. If there’s anything really wrong, I think it is the failure of the society as a whole to allow this person to sleep on the driveway rather than giving the resources and treatment he needed. You might as well blame the weather if some homeless was freezed to death sleeping in the street on a cold night.

    I don’t think it is fair to blame a single person (who I presume was acting reasonably) when there are many factors that put the victim in the situation of sleeping on a driveway.

  • Seemoni

    Everyone keeps saying she had 20 feet and should have seen him. Have any of you used this garage? It’s very likely that the garage door doesn’t start rolling up until the car is a few feet in front of it. It’s very possible that she didn’t see him because he was lying down almost directly in front of her. Check left, check right, check left. Check ahead all clear. Now let’s climb out of the car and make sure no ones lying just beneath.

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