SFBC Finds What SFPD Didn’t: Video of Crash That Killed Amelie Le Moullac

Soon after an SFPD sergeant harassed bicycle advocates at a rally for safer streets at the site where Amelie Le Moullac was killed, SF Bicycle Coalition Program Manager Marc Caswell found what SFPD investigators claimed they couldn’t: two surveillance cameras facing the street, one of which had footage showing the truck driver running over Le Moullac in the bike lane at Folsom and Sixth Streets on August 14.

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: Voce Communications

Worse yet, all five of the businesses Caswell surveyed said police had never contacted them looking for surveillance cameras or witnesses to the crash, according to the SFBC.

“Our own staff, who were obviously not trained in police enforcement, took 10 minutes walking around and found footage that may be used as evidence down the road,” said SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum. “We really wonder whether police are discounting cases in which people biking and walking are hit and killed based on some bias among officers.”

“When it comes to instances in which bicyclists are hit on our streets,” Shahum added, “there seems to be an alarming level of blame-the-victim attitude.”

In a blog post, the SFBC noted that had Caswell not discovered the footage on that day, it would have likely been deleted before the next morning, because the camera footage is only stored for a week.

Micha Star Liberty, an attorney representing Le Moullac and her parents, said that even though the investigating officer told her earlier this week that the initial traffic collision report had been completed, the SFPD has not released it to her. In her experience representing crash victims, she said, that’s unusual.

“I personally went to 850 Bryant [the Hall of Justice] today in an attempt to pick up the completed report, and was told the family could not obtain a copy,” said Liberty. “We eagerly await the release of this information by the SFPD, and welcome any additional information from the community about Amelie’s tragic death.”

The footage was captured by a camera on the property of Golden Auto, a shop located on the corner of Folsom and Sixth. SFPD has not returned an email requesting the department to confirm that it received the video from Golden Auto, and asking why it wasn’t found by SFPD during its investigation.

The spot where Le Moullac was killed, looking roughly from the location of Golden Auto. Photo: Google Street View

The video has not been released to the public, and is only known to be in the possession of Liberty and the SFPD. A Golden Auto worker named Tony, who declined to provide his last name, confirmed that he’d sent the video to SFPD and Liberty, and said they both instructed him not to release any information about its content while the investigation is active.

The video was found just a few hours after Sergeant Richard Ernst purposefully parked in his car in the Folsom bike lane at the site where the SFBC was rallying for safer streets in SoMa, in memoriam of Le Moullac. Ernst blamed the three victims who have been killed on bikes by truck drivers this year, and told Shahum that he refused to move until she understood that they were at fault because the onus was on bicycle riders to pass turning vehicles on the left.

The SFBC “has filed a formal complaint against this sergeant for his blatant disregard of bicyclists’ safety and for creating an unnecessary and hazardous situation,” the organization’s blog post says. Michael Redmond, captain of SFPD’s Southern Station, which covers SoMa, said he couldn’t comment on Ernst’s behavior because it’s a personnel matter.

Ernst asserted that Le Moullac was to blame for her own death when a truck driver made a right turn across the Folsom bike lane on to Sixth, despite SFPD’s claims that the investigation was ongoing. As we’ve reported, drivers appear to make illegal turns across bike lanes (instead of merging) routinely, based on widespread misconceptions about turning laws. It’s also unclear if there was any evidence that the truck driver was distracted while making his turn.

As the SFBC’s blog post noted, “It is shocking that a sergeant took the time to verbally harass and physically endanger people at the site where a woman was just killed; yet the SFPD could not take the time for a thorough investigation, and nearly missed critical evidence that was steps away from the site.”

“We are not asking for any special treatment,” said Shahum. “We just want the police to do their job.”

  • Todd Nelson

    A good idea, sure, but impossible to do from the bike lane when being right-hooked. Cyclists need to merge left into the traffic lane before the intersection so that passing or slowing for a right turning vehicle which has failed to merge into the bike lane is possible.

  • Don Marshall

    “Creating a traffic situation which keeps differently vulnerable traffic separate and safe is the only sane policy…The blame-game circle will go unbroken. We are fallible creatures prone to error. I cannot imagine the horror of being the driver who killed this girl, and I cannot imagine the grief of her family and loved ones.”

    I agree about improving the traffic situation as the ultimate solution, but there is also no excuse for careless errors by motorists–errors that cost lives should never be taken for granted and should always be investigated for punitive consequences. Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege and a huge responsibility. It is the motor driver’s responsibility (knowing that he or she is a potential danger to pedestrians and cyclists) to be extra careful, to not be in a hurry, and to be ready to give up his or her “right-of-way” to the vulnerable cyclist and pedestrian. It is this “laziness of the motorist” and this “always in a hurry/spoiled by the easy sit on your ass for a point A to point B travel mode” (this underlying road rage) that gets the motorist to usually hit and run/commit vehicular manslaughter towards cyclists and pedestrians. And this kind of driving attitude should not be taken for granted, and one way of solving this problem is by giving severe punishments to motorists when accidents such as this happens.

  • Anonymous

    Not in the least. I strongly encouraging advocating for better street design and improving safety for all road users. I’m saying that we have such a low standard here that it’s something of a lost cause.

  • Anonymous

    Not that we shouldn’t try.

  • Anonymous

    And since you specifically mentioned the Netherlands, and not a lot of people know there’s an option for US citizens to live and operate a business there which is more attainable than the usual “spend a million bucks and get residency” schemes, I thought it might be helpful to share.

  • Melissa Eller

    I would take small comfort as a cyclist knowing that the law that would punish my vehicular killer after I’m dead might—just might—make the next guy think twice. No comfort at all, actually, cos I’d be dead.

    I do not disagree with your premise that drivers “should” be punished for vehicular manslaughter. I also agree that lives “should never be” taken for granted. However, I hope we agree that we do not live in the land of “Should”. People should brush their teeth, wear condoms, wipe their ass, take showers, be kind to old people, not kill folks, etc. Punishment is not the solution to the problem of motorists killing cyclists and pedestrians.

    And you give one more “should”: “and this kind of driving attitude should not be taken for granted.” And this is where I disagree, as it is already granted that this behavior occurs! Simply saying “should” is not going to make it go away, 10 years of hard time will not make it go away–hell, the death penalty wouldn’t make it go away! Nor will holding your breath, stomping your feet, and getting outraged that these things “shouldn’t” happen. They do happen and happen everyday, despite your Thy Shall and Shall Nots.

  • Don Marshall

    I disagree…it will make the motorist be more careful and patient when knowing there is strict consequences for negligence. 

    Just because she is gone does not mean there is no point in taking action against the driver. The legal action and its consequences will have a positive outcome in the long run and will help the cycling community. It is always better to be an activist than being passive with a “why bother” attitude. 

    The cycling community wants not only a better and improved bicycle infrastructure, but also wants to fight for justice against negligence by motorists. That is what the SFBC is doing right now and I am all for it.

  • friend

    ruling is in. trucker at fault. ernst is an arse.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been on an electric bike in my mobile business since 2010 and have noted there is little to no enforcement of traffic laws in the city. It’s really the wild wild west out here and people do whatever they so please. Pedestrians have gotten worse with iPhone technology however and don’t look up nor care what’s happening around them.

    It’s extremely dangerous and I’ve noted bicyclists have nearly hit me due to aggressive behavior and a scooter also came in my lane a 45 mph nearly clipping me.

    Everyone’s out of control, everyone’s a sinner on the streets. I ride on the sidewalks occasionally myself but only for a genuine purpose of safety from no bike lane or not wanting to walk.

    So last year a red light runner clipped my front tire causing $255,000 in hospital bills.

  • Anonymous

    P.S. As for the police, don’t even try to understand them, they’re a secret brotherhood society of evil for the most part.

  • Nathanael

    According to legal precedent, you can’t prosecute the police for failing to do their jobs, lying to the public, atempting to get security footage destroyed before it’s available as evidence, etc.

    You should, however, be able to get them fired. The police union contract does not protect police from being fired for lying to the public, atempting to get security footage destroyed before it’s available as evidence, etc.

    Police departments routinely ignore “personnel complaints” in favor of protecting the criminal thugs in their ranks. Perhaps the district attorney’s office will take police misconduct more seriously. If not, the next step is the election campaign.

  • Nathanael

    “Saying they looked for video when they clearly didn’t”

    It would be good to trace down who, exactly, claimed to have looked for video. This would allow for targeting of the individual criminals within the police department.

  • Nathanael

    And then the SFPD decided “correctly” to lie about it?

    That’s what really gets me about this. SFPD have gone beyond blatant unwillingness to investigate crimes, into the business of defrauding the public.

  • Owen

    “As we’ve reported, drivers appear to make illegal turns across bike lanes (instead of merging) routinely, based on widespread misconceptions about turning laws.” Yes, but the bike lanes on Folsom are responsible for putting bicyclists in an unsafe position at intersections, and make right hooks all but inevitable. Simply put bikes shouldn’t be in the bike lane at intersections, it’s incredibly dangerous and a leading cause of collisions. You can blame drivers for turning unsafely, but really given that some simple education about safe riding at intersections could make a huge impact, why not be focusing on that? Has SFBC addressed how bike lanes are incredibly unsafe at intersections? It seems like you have everything invested in infrastructure fixes and nothing in rider education. Why aren’t you out there teaching cyclists how to avoid these accidents (by defensively merging out of the bike lane at intersections, and by being especially cautious around large trucks and even getting off the road if one pulls up next to you to turn.)

  • Anonymous

    You’re right about the lack of the focus on defensive bicycle riding but not charging drivers with manslaughter isn’t helping either. The message sent to drivers is that it’s ok to run over someone because you didn’t know there was someone there. Cars and trucks weight so much more than a bicyclist and are protected by steel. They cause so much more damage so there should be manslaughter charges in order to help drivers think twice about taking right turns without clearing their right. A person in a car or truck will always be safer than an exposed bicyclist or even a pedestrian. We can’t just allow drivers to get away with killing even though it’s unintentional. Cover your ass, pedestrian, cyclist, and driver!

  • gneiss

    A little enforcement of CVC 21717 would certainly help. The fact that the police are perfectly happy to ticket cyclists who roll through empty 4 way stops but not address truly dangerous behavior by motorists, like not signally right turns and failing to turn through the bike lane safely give motorist the false sense that it’s not something they need to be aware of. Making cyclists have to be jedi masters of misbehavior by motorists is not only misplaced, but flies in the face of creating more safe environments on our streets.

  • While I strongly agree that we need strong enforcement of CVC 21717, I think we all need to do our part. We can’t put all of the responsibility on any one group or the other.

    Of course, any enforcement of CVC 21717 AT ALL would be an improvement. I have never heard of anyone being cited for violating CVC 21717 even though I see it violated numerous times every single time I’m out on the roads.

  • Don Marshall

    The majority of American motorists are spoiled and lazy (and I am guessing that 50% of motorists will commit a hit and run when possible). I see motorists running red lights, running stop signs, and speeding. Drivers are always impatient and prone to road rage. I am assuming that these drivers already know that they are a weapon and are deadly to pedestrians and cyclists but yet they go around like they own the road and some are so impatient about a cyclist getting in the way. Isn’t it obvious that it is the motorist that has to be extra careful? For example, I was cycling in highway 35 and I signaled to move over to the left in order to continue on a straight course and the car about 100 feet behind me did not slow down. The driver in fact sped up as he wanted to exit right and was going at least 40+ mph and ignored my signal–he drove passed in front of me and would not let me move over and I was already in his driving lane. Ridiculous!!! I am the vulnerable one but the idiot driver’s impatience nearly had me killed.

    Looks to me like it is the motorist that need some education and therapy.

    We, the Americans, have a long way to go to get to an intelligent, common sense courtesy and patience like the people in the Netherlands. Instead, we are spoiled by the “lazy point A to point B motor vehicle transportation”, and we are programmed to eat fast food as we are destined for obesity. We need to get active, get on a bike and lose some fat. But maybe there is no hope–maybe the majority of motorists are just a bunch of angry lazy fat ass drivers ready to accidentally kill someone.

    Be careful out there cyclists! Always be ready and alert!

  • Don Marshall

    Hear! Hear! I definitely agree. Very well put and very correct!

  • Jessie Jewitt

    I will be playing the organ / piano for the Sunday worship service at Stanford Memorial church on 9/15 at 10am. In particular I will play the “Valse d’Amelie” to honor my beautiful daughter Amelie who was killed while riding her bicycle to work

  • Edna Bambrick

    You’re no longer a human being when you ride your bike. You’re an obstacle, a hazard, a nuisance and sometimes a victim. But never a human, that’s reserved for the jackasses in the SUV that get to tell the story how the dead cyclist infringed on their right to be on time to work and has now burdened them by being even later.

  • Jessie Jewitt

    Dear Friends-
    We will meet at 6th and Folsom on 2/14 at 12:30 in remembrance of our beloved Amelie who was killed 6 months ago. Please join if you can.

  • OtherOther

    I think you posted the wrong link under the text “harassed bicycle advocates at a rally for safer streets.” That was the wrong video and didn’t show anything of the sort. Do you have the appropriate link?

  • Terry

    Either SFMTA or the SFBC need to do a public education campaign to teach motorists how to safely make a right turn on a street with a bike lane. A bike lane is stripped with a solid line but approximately 25 yards before the intersection the line becomes broken. Motorists turning right must merge into the bike lane and thus be as far to the right before making their turn. I watch for motorists and when I see their turn signal come on I move to their left or pull behind them. Never stay along side. Occasionally I see a motorist actually do it correctly. It’s just common sense but most drivers are just not informed on how to deal with bike lanes.

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Note: Amelie Le Moullac’s mother, Jessie Jewitt, and other Bay Area musicians will perform at a benefit concert on Friday in Palo Alto at 7:30 p.m. Proceeds will go to Amélie’s Angels, “a fund dedicated to bringing the gifts of education, food, clothing, toys, and most importantly love and laughter, to the children of Haiti.” The truck […]