Skip to content

Posts from the "SFPD" Category

27 Comments

Legal System Fails Again: No Charges for Trucker Who Killed Amelie

Amelie Le Moullac. Photo: amelielemoullac.com

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 driver who hit and killed Amelie Le Moullac on her bike at Folsom and Sixth Streets last August will face no charges from District Attorney George Gascón, despite surveillance video showing the driver at fault in the incident.

Gilberto Alcantar, the truck driver, is shown making an unsafe right turn in the bike lane in the video found by an SF Bicycle Coalition staffer. SFPD investigators initially claimed they could find no such video, and blamed Le Moullac for her own death. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr later apologized for the botched investigation, as well as the behavior of the sergeant who purposefully blocked a bike lane at a rally for safer streets in her honor. Suhr declared that the video evidence showed the fault was mainly with the driver, but DA Gascón says prosecutors can’t make an adequate case to file charges.

The news was broken yesterday by KQED’s Bryan Goebel, founding editor of Streetsblog SF:

After watching the video, investigators concluded Alcantar was to blame for making an unsafe turn into the bike lane, killing the young public relations professional. Despite that key piece of evidence, prosecutors ultimately felt it wasn’t enough to convince a jury.

“Unfortunately, with the evidence presented, we are unable to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Alex Bastian, a spokesman for San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

Micah Liberty, an attorney for the Le Moullac family, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Alcantar and Milipitas-based distributor Daylight Foods. She said the family was disappointed and heartbroken that charges aren’t being filed, and that Alcantar wasn’t issued a ticket.

“After reviewing the evidence that we have, looking at the video of the incident, it’s really hard for this grieving family to understand how a driver can do what he did without receiving even a slap on the wrist for a minor violation of the vehicle code,” Liberty said.

“There is no issue about what happened. The video is clear, from what I understand — he made an unlawful turn across the bike lane,” said Shaana Rahman, an attorney who represents pedestrian and bicyclist victims in civil court. “It’s not all the time that you get such a clear piece of evidence in cases, either civil or criminal. There aren’t videos for every bike accident that happens — and here we have one.”

As frustrating as the lack of charges in this case may be, it’s par for the course when it comes to holding drivers accountable for killing people biking and walking. As the Center for Investigative Reporting found last year, 60 percent of the 238 drivers who killed pedestrians in the Bay Area between 2007 and 2011 were found to be at fault or suspected of a crime but faced no criminal charges, and those who did usually only faced a slap on the wrist. Drivers tend not to be charged unless they were drunk or fled the scene.

Even drunk drivers can get off easy. Kieran Brewer, who was intoxicated when he ran over 17-year-old Hanren Chan in a crosswalk on Sloat Boulevard, was sentenced to just six months in jail last month.

DA Gascón says he’s increasing efforts to prosecute traffic violence, and plans to hire a dedicated vehicular manslaughter unit of prosecutors to specialize in such cases, and it’s expected to be funded in the city budget this year. But his office claims that in Le Moullac’s case, there isn’t evidence to justify criminal negligence on the driver’s part — even with the video.

Read more…

3 Comments

Fundraiser for Nikita May, 3-Year-Old Boy Hospitalized by Driver on Fulton

Nikita May on Muni. Image via YouCaring

Three-year-old Nikita May remains in recovery at SF General Hospital, after being hit on his bike by a pickup truck driver at Fulton Street and 43rd Avenue on April 10. Friends, family, and community members have set up a fundraiser to help the family see him return to health.

May was making his way through a crosswalk on a green light at about 11:45 a.m. when the left-turning driver ran him over. May suffered life-threatening injuries, including brain injuries and brain stem damage, “the full extent of which is not yet fully known,” according to the fundraiser page. He also suffered a number of broken bones — his jaw, chin, fractured clavicle, femur, and several ribs, in addition to a “bruised/collapsed lung” and a ruptured spleen.

Although police took the driver in for questioning, according to media reports, there was no word on whether he received a citation or could be charged.

As neighbors told reporters after the crash, Fulton, a four-lane thoroughfare, serves as a speedway for drivers along the border of Golden Gate Park in the Richmond. May was run over at a park entrance, close to a day care center.

May’s bike after the crash. Image: KTVU

Rob Weir, a neighbor of the intersection, told KTVU after the crash, “We have always said it’s going to take somebody getting seriously hurt, probably a pedestrian, for something to happen. And that, to me, is too late already.”

Exactly one month earlier, a five-year-old boy and his babysitter were hospitalized after being struck by a driver just six blocks away, at Fulton and 37th. SFPD reportedly issued that driver a citation for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The fundraiser, organized by Creative Arts Charter School, has raised $71,660 as of today.

27 Comments

SFPD Tickets to Peds, Cyclists, Grow 7X Faster Than “Focus on the Five”

On Bike to Work Day yesterday, SFPD conducted yet another sting on bike commuters on the Wiggle. Meanwhile, another pedestrian was hit by a driver at Sunset and Yorba. Photo: Matt Matteson/Twitter

The SFPD may be working towards its “Focus on the Five” goals — focusing traffic enforcement on the five most dangerous violations, all by drivers — but meanwhile, it’s really ratcheting up its ticket enforcement against those walking and bicycling.

This counterproductive use of limited enforcement resources was highlighted at a Police Commission hearing this week. There, Walk SF and the SF Bicycle Coalition praised SFPD’s stated commitment to pursue Vision Zero, including new quarterly reports on its increased traffic enforcement efforts. But the new data revealed that, between the first quarters of 2013 and 2014, tickets for pedestrian and bicyclist violations saw ”by far the greatest increase,” as SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum pointed out, although they have nothing to do with “Focus on the Five.”

As if to highlight the mismatch between the SFPD’s enforcement priorities and the real dangers on the streets, officers conducted yet another sting on bike commuters rolling stop signs on the Wiggle yesterday, during Bike to Work Day – even though there has never been a known report of a collision caused by a bicyclist there. On the very same day, yet another pedestrian was struck by a driver within the crosswalk at Sunset Boulevard and Yorba Street. Three pedestrians have been struck there so far in 2014, including 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon, who was killed in February.

Granted, SFPD has targeted enforcement along dangerous streets like Sunset, charged the driver who killed Berenzon, and cited the driver in yesterday’s crash. And department officials report a substantial increase in traffic enforcement overall — 34,000 tickets were issued in the first quarter of this year, compared to 22,000 last year — and the efforts may already be bringing results.

Overall traffic collisions this quarter were down by 8 percent compared to last year, bicycle collisions down 16 percent, and pedestrian crashes down 3 to 4 percent, SFPD Chief Greg Suhr told Streetsblog yesterday. ”We’re not going to achieve [Vision Zero] this year, but we are committed to achieving that,” he said.

Read more…

3 Comments

SFPD Finds SUV in Crash That Killed Oi Yeung, 82; Driver Still at Large

Police investigating the scene of the crash on Bayshore last Thursday. Image: KRON 4

SFPD has found the SUV in the crash that killed 82-year-old Oi Yeung in a crosswalk at Bayshore Boulevard and Visitacion Avenue Thursday morning, after which the driver fled the scene. The SF Chronicle reported that police located the white Dodge Durango seen by witnesses and in video footage near the intersection where the crash occurred, but that no arrests have been made.

A video still of the SUV involved in the crash. Image: SFPD

“We’re working on making a case for the suspect,” SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told the Chronicle:

Yeung was crossing Bayshore Boulevard in a crosswalk at Visitacion Avenue when a Durango, moving in the same direction on Visitacion, turned left into the northbound lanes of Bayshore without yielding to her, police said.

The driver continued for a block to Leland Avenue, did a U-turn, drove back slowly to observe the result of the collision, and then sped away south, police said.

The car was towed and was being processed Tuesday for evidence, said Officer Albie Esparza. Investigators were conducting interviews with the car’s registered owners, and everyone else who lives at the address connected to the SUV.

“This is yet another reminder of how much further we need to go to put an end to traffic violence in San Francisco,” said Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider, who pointed out that streets like Bayshore are “dangerous by design.”

“In fact, in 2011, the Senior Action Network led a demonstration on this street just one block down,” she said. “They submitted their recommendations to the SFMTA, but no changes were ever made.”

Although a section of Bayshore to the north received a traffic-calming road diet earlier this month, with two of the four traffic lanes north of Paul Avenue converted to buffered bike lanes, the Visitacion intersection was not included in the project.

Yeung is the sixth pedestrian killed by a driver in SF this year. As the SFMTA Board of Directors considers approval of the agency’s two-year budget next month, Schneider said increasing funds for the pedestrian safety upgrades called for in the city’s WalkFirst plan is crucial to work towards the city’s official Vision Zero goal of ending traffic deaths.

“New figures from the city show that the economic and health related costs of pedestrian injuries total $564 million per year,” said Schneider. “Compare that to the $3.4 million per year that is secured for pedestrian safety in MTA’s budget. How many more people have to die before we start re-prioritizing?”

11 Comments

SFPD Traffic Citations Increasing Towards “Focus on the Five” Goals

This post supported by

The SF Police Department is issuing more traffic tickets, and a greater share of them are going toward the five most dangerous violations, according to early SFPD data on traffic citations issued so far this year.

This week, a driver was cited for hitting a child and his babysitter in a crosswalk at Fulton Street and 37th Ave. SFPD is issuing more of its citations to the top five causes of traffic injuries. Image: CBS 5

With a new, more efficient database, the SFPD began posting monthly citation data on its website starting in January [PDF] (monthly data on crash reports still isn’t available). The citation reports provide an easy way to track the department’s progress toward meeting the goals set in the “Focus on the Five” campaign, which prioritizes limited traffic enforcement resources for the five violations most commonly cited as the cause of crashes on the streets, all of which are driver violations.

So far, progress on “Focus on the Five” appears promising.

In January, SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali announced a goal of having at least 50 percent of traffic citations going toward the top five violations: running red lights, running stop signs, violating pedestrian right-of-way, turning violations, and speeding. Last year, 22 percent of citations were issued for those infractions. In January, the share increased to 33 percent, according to the new data posted from that month.

As the SF Examiner reported today, the SFPD is also dramatically increasing the number of tickets issued overall:

From January 2013 to January 2014, the Police Department reported 43 percent more citations citywide, and from January 2013 to preliminary numbers for last month there was a 54 percent increase, Police Chief Greg Suhr said.

“All the stations are up. Across the board, they are writing more tickets,” Suhr said. “Whereas we might have been exercising more discretion and some sort of counseling, now there’s less counseling and more citation issuing.”

Catching traffic violators has become highly emphasized at all 10 police stations, regardless of what other individual issues they face, said Cmdr. Mikail Ali, who works with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

“In every unit, every officer has been given the directive that transit safety is a priority,” he said.

Read more…

11 Comments

SFPD Park Station’s Most Dangerous Intersections: Not on the Wiggle

The SFPD Park District listed six problematic intersections in its most recent newsletter, and none of them are on the Wiggle.

New SFPD data indicates that the Park District’s most dangerous intersections have nothing to do with the Wiggle, where Captain Greg Corrales has devoted his station’s limited traffic enforcement staff to ticketing bike commuters who roll stop signs.

Park District’s “highest collision location involving bicyclists” has nothing to do with stop signs — it’s Fell and Masonic, where drivers notoriously run the red light during a bicycle/pedestrian crossing phase. Photo: Aaron Bialick

Under SFPD’s “Focus on the Five” campaign, captains have pledged to target the five most dangerous intersections in their districts. The latest Park Station newsletter [PDF] listed five intersections with high numbers of collisions attributed to certain traffic violations. The newsletter also lists the intersection with the “highest collisions involving bicyclists.” None of these locations are on the Wiggle, or even in the Lower Haight, the neighborhood that the bike route runs through.

When I asked Captain Corrales if he still plans to regularly post officers on the Wiggle to ticket bicycle riders who don’t fully stop at stop signs, he said in an email that “we will continue to be responsive to community concerns.”

The list confusingly names two different intersections as having the most crashes caused by red light running and speeding, and there is no time frame given. (Corrales said he would try to find out what period is covered by these stats.)

Read more…

19 Comments

Avalos’ Eyes on the Street: SFPD Blocks Crosswalk During Traffic Stop

Supervisor John Avalos posted the above photo on Facebook with the following explanation:

Ironic traffic stop on Mission and Ocean. Police vehicle stopped in the middle of the intersection blocking the cross walk and sending the 49 bus into the next lane. We have a ways to go to coordinate our pedestrian safety effort.

Indeed. Avalos, the chair of the SF County Transportation Authority Board, posted this on the same day he joined Mayor Ed Lee and other city leaders at a press conference announcing the five-year WalkFirst plan. The same day, a Board of Supervisors committee held a hearing on Vision Zero, the city’s goal of ending traffic deaths within ten years. It’s worth noting Avalos launched the Vision Zero campaign at City Hall along with Supervisors Jane Kim and Norman Yee.

If SFPD is going to lead in those efforts, as Chief Greg Suhr has pledged to do, the department’s officers are going to need to start with some basic awareness of how they can stop contributing to the problem.

1 Comment

What SFPD Could Take From NYPD: Monthly Crash and Citation Reports

As illustrated in this graph by Streetsblog NYC, the New York Police Department’s January report on traffic citations showed a 66 percent increase in failure to yield summonses over the previous year. SFPD could highlight its enforcement efforts by releasing monthly reports as well.

Here’s a good practice the SFPD could adopt to help the public keep track of the department’s progress toward Vision Zero: monthly reports showing the department’s traffic crash and citation data. It’s already a practice at the New York Police Department, where it was mandated by law.

Now that SFPD seems to be turning a corner with recent policy reforms and pledges to pursue Vision Zero, these monthly reports could show people what’s changing. As Streetsblog NYC reported today, NYPD’s latest report showed a 66 percent increase in citations in January for drivers failing to yield to pedestrians, though the department has received a lot of press attention recently for its crackdown on jaywalkers.

Currently, the SFPD only releases crash data on an annual basis, and full collision reports released by the SFMTA take up to two years to be released, since the data has traditionally had to go through the California Highway Patrol’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System. The SFPD recently changed this by adopting a database allowing for far more efficient data delivery within a month or two, which should provide the department the ability to publish monthly reports on its website, as NYPD does.

The Board of Supervisors certainly has an interest in seeing recent crash and citation data. Acting the SF County Transportation Authority Board, the supes created a subcomittee yesterday to monitor the city’s progress towards Vision ZeroMonthly data releases would go a long way towards making those efforts more transparent policymakers and the public.

See snapshots of what the NYPD’s most recent collision report looks like after the break.

Read more…

54 Comments

SFPD: No Charges for Trucker Who Killed Woman, 91, on Fillmore Street

Police have declared no wrongdoing on the part of a cement truck driver who ran over and killed a 91-year-old woman on Fillmore at California Street last Thursday afternoon. According to reports, the woman was crossing Fillmore mid-block, in front of the stopped truck, when the driver began driving forward and ran her over. She was taken to SF General Hospital where she died of her injuries:

Image: KTVU

Investigators found that the truck driver, who stayed at the scene and cooperated with officers, was not at fault, [SFPD Sergeant Eric] Mahoney said. The driver had just crossed through the intersection at California Street when he came to a stop behind a couple of other vehicles, according to police. As the other vehicles started moving again, the woman stepped in front of the truck and was hit.

Of the four other drivers who have killed pedestrians in San Francisco this year, the SFPD has cited three, except one who fled and evaded police.

SFPD won’t cite or charge the driver in this case because, as Mahoney told KTVU, he “did not do anything to violate the vehicle code.” The victim was apparently jaywalking (an offense which, as the BBC recently pointed out, was invented by the American auto industry, and is not illegal in most countries, including the UK)

There are, however, two sections of the CA vehicle code that the driver may have violated.

The cement truck was partially blocking the crosswalk after the driver hit the woman. Image: KTVU

The cement truck was partially blocking the crosswalk after the driver hit the woman. Image: KTVU

CVC Section 21954 is the clause that requires pedestrians to yield to vehicles when crossing outside of a crosswalk, but it also says, “The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”

In addition, CVC Section 22106 says a driver may not “start a vehicle stopped, standing, or parked on a highway… until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.”

KTVU footage also shows the truck stopped with its rear encroaching on the crosswalk, indicating that the trucker could have been blocking it when the woman attempted to cross.

What it comes down to is this: Does the SFPD really believe this truck driver, before stepping on the pedal, exercised all due care to look for people crossing a bustling, two-lane shopping street like Fillmore?

45 Comments

Eyes on the Street: SFPD Tickets Illegal U-Turners in the Castro

Photo: Bryan Goebel

Here’s another sign that the SFPD is continuing to make good on its pledge to increase enforcement against reckless driving.

This update comes from Bryan Goebel, Streetsblog SF’s founding editor, who lives in the Castro. He said he’s noticed a recent uptick in enforcement in his neighborhood against illegal u-turns. Illegal turns are on the SFPD’s list of the five violations most commonly cited as a primary cause in pedestrian crashes.

Goebel said he spoke to one of the officers, who confirmed that the enforcement efforts are a response to the recent rise in pedestrian injuries. He told Goebel that drivers pose the greatest danger on the streets.

“Pedestrians are distracted, yes, but cars are what’s going to get you,” the officer reportedly told Goebel.

“It was refreshing to hear,” Goebel said.

Richmond Station officers have also been spotted recently performing crosswalk stings against drivers who violate pedestrians’ right-of-way on Fulton Street along Golden Gate Park.