Skip to content

Posts from the "Carnage" Category

15 Comments

Six Months for Killing Hanren Chang: Even Drunk Drivers Get Off Easy

This post supported by

Lowell High School student Hanren Chang. Image: ABC 7

It’s hard to imagine a more egregiously clear-cut case where a driver deserves a harsh prison term than when drunk driver Kieran Brewer ran over and killed a minor inside a crosswalk. Surely, unlike other cases where sober drivers killed pedestrians and faced few consequences, these circumstances would spur the judicial system into action.

Yet Brewer was sentenced to just six months in jail for driving drunk and killing Hanren Chang in a crosswalk on Sloat Boulevard last year, as she was returning home from celebrating her 17th birthday.

Kieran Brewer. Photo via CBS 5

Brewer’s total sentence includes six months in jail, six months in home detention, five years of probation, 300 hours of community service, and a nine-month treatment program for people who have driven under the influence, according to the SF Chronicle. Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy also ordered Brewer to pay the family more than $4,700 in restitution.

In addition, Judge Conroy struck down a bid from the prosecuting attorneys to apply the state’s “three strikes” law in this case. Prosecutors argued that Brewer inflicted great bodily injury, a crime that counts as a strike under the law.

“I don’t think the interest of justice will be served if Mr. Brewer gets this strike,” Conroy said in court, according to the Chronicle. “He has been consistently remorseful and cooperative with law enforcement.”

Remorse and cooperation apparently go a long way in court. So, too, does committing manslaughter with a car rather than a gun. As pointed out in a blog post by GJEL Accident Attorneys, a Streetsblog SF sponsor, “Involuntary manslaughter shootings usually result in sentences of years, not months”:

Read more…

33 Comments

Fourth Pedestrian Killed by Driver on Deadly Van Ness This Year

Van Ness and Golden Gate, where a driver reportedly killed a pedestrian while traveling northbound. Image: Google Maps

A car driver struck and killed a man who was crossing Van Ness at Golden Gate Avenue at about 11 p.m. last night. According to the SFPD, “Early reports indicate that the pedestrian was not in the crosswalk,” but the crash is still under investigation. Police didn’t say how fast the driver was going, or how close to the crosswalk the victim may have been.

As SFGate reported, the victim was the seventh pedestrian killed in San Francisco this year, the fourth just on Van Ness — and the third just on a two-block stretch of Van Ness behind City Hall:

In January, a 38-year-old man was hit and killed as he tried to run across Van Ness near Grove Street. In early February, a man was struck near Grove Street and later died from his injuries. About a week later  a pedestrian died in a hit-and-run crash near the corner of Van Ness and Pacific Avenue.

Van Ness, like other street-level highways slicing through San Francisco, has a design that facilitates dangerously fast driving, and the result is an unconscionable number of pedestrian injuries. Although cases where the victims weren’t using a crosswalk tend to be met with victim-blaming, the long distances between crosswalks (which hardly ensure safety) and long wait times to cross Van Ness invite pedestrians to “jaywalk” instead. And since Van Ness is designed to prioritize high-speed through traffic, pedestrian crashes are likely to result in injuries and deaths.

After the hit-and-run crash at Van Ness and Pacific that killed 35-year-old Paul Lambert, who also lost his cousin to a hit-and-run driver in New York City last June, KTVU noted that Van Ness isn’t slated to get any substantial pedestrian safety improvements until Van Ness BRT is built. That project, set to be complete in 2018, will reduce the street’s mixed traffic lanes from six to four, while also adding pedestrian bulb-outs and other safety upgrades.

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?”

53 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?

8 Comments

Speeding Driver Arrested for Killing Pedestrian, Walking Away on Van Ness

Image: KTVU

SFPD has arrested 27-year-old Mageb Hussain of Emeryville for hitting and killing an unidentified pedestrian on Van Ness at Pacific Avenue at about 1 a.m. last night. Hussain was reportedly driving a rental car and attempted to walk away from the scene of the crash.

Mageb Hussain. Photo: SFPD

Police said Hussain faces felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run charges. According to KTVU and the SF Chronicle, Hussain was traveling at freeway speeds when the unidentified victim attempted to cross mid-block. The impact of the crash was so severe, the car’s hood and windshield were smashed in.

The Chronicle reported that Hussain has a “checkered driving record”:

In March and April of 2011, he was cited twice for speeding and once for driving on a sidewalk in three separate incidents. He later failed to make court appearances, records show, and his license was suspended in November of 2011 – an action that ended in October of last year. Hussain’s license is currently valid, the DMV said.

Hussain is the fourth driver to be arrested by SFPD for killing a pedestrian since New Year’s Eve. The drivers in the previous three cases stayed on the scene. Prior to those incidents, it was unusual for police to arrest drivers who were sober and didn’t attempt to flee. But this year SFPD has adhered to its recent change in policy, which allows officers to arrest drivers in fatal crashes when there appears to be probable cause.

In the most recent crash on Sunset Boulevard last Tuesday, 71-year-old driver Jenny Ching was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. In Hussain’s case, it appears the manslaughter charge may have been elevated to a felony since he attempted to flee.

The victim, whom police haven’t identified, is at least the third pedestrian killed by a driver this year. Today’s KTVU report said a fourth pedestrian, who was previously reported to have suffered critical injuries, has died after being hit by a driver in a crosswalk at Van Ness and Grove Street last Wednesday. That driver fled and evaded police.

7 Comments

SFPD Arrests Driver for Manslaughter for Killing Man on Sunset Boulevard

Photo: CBS 5

The SFPD has arrested, cited, and released a driver for killing 78-year-old Isaak Berenzon as he crossed Sunset Boulevard at Yorba Street in the Outer Sunset Tuesday at about 11 a.m. This is the third known instance of the SFPD arresting a driver who killed a pedestrian, and wasn’t drunk or fleeing the scene, since New Year’s Eve. Previously, such drivers typically faced no legal penalties.

Jenny Ching, 71, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter and cited for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, police told the SF Chronicle:

Berenzon was walking east across Sunset Boulevard at Yorba Street in or near a crosswalk just before 11 a.m. when Ching, traveling south, hit him with a Toyota Corolla, police said.

The road has three lanes in each direction, separated by a median. The crosswalk near where Berenzon was struck features warning lights that flash when a pedestrian hits a button to cross, but police have not said whether the lights were in use at the time of the crash.

Berenzon was pronounced dead at the scene. Ching and her two passengers were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Read more…

7 Comments

“Pissed-Off Voters” to Mayor: “Be Nice, Look Twice” an Insult to Victims

The League of Pissed Off-Voters says the mayor’s message to drivers to “be nice” and not run people over is an insult to victims of traffic violence. Here, a Lyft driver injured an elderly woman in a crosswalk at a stop sign at at Larkin and Jackson Streets last Friday. Image: ABC 7

The League of Pissed-Off Voters is, well, pissed off about Mayor Ed Lee’s lighthearted tone in his “Be Nice, Look Twice” campaign — his answer to the maiming and killing of San Franciscans by reckless drivers.

Mayor Lee at his “State of the City” address last week.

In an open letter to Mayor Lee, titled “Don’t be a Zero: We need public service, not lip service,” the League — a non-profit that works to increase young people’s involvement in politics — posited whether the mayor would ever take such an offensively blithe approach in addressing gun violence:

A cute rhyming slogan is not only worthless, it is deeply offensive to the hundreds of victims of traffic violence and shows that the Mayor is clearly not taking this issue seriously. Imagine how the you would react if Mayor Lee proposed a plan to reduce gun violence with a Public Service Campaign called “Give a Hoot, Don’t Shoot.” We need leadership from the Mayor – not pandering to the vehicular class.

Will you join the rest of the city and call for zero deaths in the next ten years? And will you prioritize the funding in your budget to get the engineering, education and enforcement necessary to save lives? It WOULD be nice, wouldn’t it, to not have to worry about getting killed every time you step into a crosswalk on a green light.

Note the difference between the city’s message to drivers and what it tells pedestrians. While drivers are asked to “be nice” and not run people over, pedestrians get flyers from SFPD depicting a body lying on the street, alongside the words, “It’s of little comfort to know you had the right of way, while you recover from serious injury in the hospital.” How nice.

6 Comments

The Life-Altering Impact of Traffic Violence: Jikaiah Stevens’ Story

Reminder: Today at 5 p.m. at City Hall, a hearing on the SFPD’s treatment of pedestrian and bicycle crashes will be held by the Police Commission and a Board of Supervisors committee. You’re invited to share your thoughts at the Board of Supervisors Chamber, Room 250.

We’ve heard the story too many times. A reckless driver strikes a person, at no fault of the victim’s, and the motorist faces no legal repercussions. It happens even in cases like that of 31-year-old Jikaiah Stevens, who was hit in a crosswalk by Wren Coe in September as she crossed on a green light. Even though witnesses attested to Coe running a red light, and Coe herself admitted fault, she didn’t get so much as a ticket.

Dolly Totes and her team produced this superb mini documentary, “Walk at Her Own Risk,” which tells Stevens’ story in the broader context of pedestrian safety in San Francisco. Stevens was also featured in an SF Chronicle story yesterday.

Stevens was left with medical bills of $143,000 and has suffered ailments like brain injury that caused a loss smell and taste, “extreme unexpected social anxiety,” and short-term memory loss. Police say they can’t cite or charge the driver because they didn’t witness the crash themselves. Stevens says no lawyer will take her case to sue Coe because Coe doesn’t have enough assets. An online fundraiser has been set up to help pay her bills.

“I say, I got hit by a car in a crosswalk, and they go, oh, so that person’s in a lot of trouble now, huh?” Stevens says. “I go, actually no, none. She doesn’t have to pay anything, and she got her license, and she can go hit anyone else she wants.”

24 Comments

SFPD Arrests Two Drivers After Holiday Spate of Pedestrian Deaths

Uber driver Syed Muzzafar’s SUV at Polk and Ellis Streets, where he ran over a family of three, killing Sophia Liu, 6. Muzzafar was later arrested. Photo: KTVU

In what could be a departure from the SF Police Department’s usual failure to penalize reckless driving, officers have arrested two of the five motorists who have killed people on San Francisco streets since December 20.

In the last hours of 2013, the year’s pedestrian death toll increased to 20. Both of the crashes in which the drivers were arrested took place on New Year’s Eve, and appear to be the fault of motorists who failed to yield to people in a crosswalk. Last year, none of the other sober drivers who killed pedestrians without fleeing the scene are known to have been charged.

Syed Muzzafar (left) and Giampaolo Boschetti (right) were both arrested for killing pedestrians on New Year’s Eve. Photos: SFPD

In one incident, at about 3:30 p.m., 86-year-old Zhen Guang Ng was run down in a crosswalk at Naples and Rolph Streets in Crocker-Amazon by 69-year-old Giampaolo Boschetti, who was booked on charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and failure to stop at a stop sign, according to police.

In a later crash at 8 p.m. in the Tenderloin, an Uber ride-share driver, 57-year-old Syed Muzzafar of Union City, ran over a mother and her two children in a crosswalk as he turned right at Polk and Ellis Streets, according to reports. All three were hospitalized, and six-year-old Sophia Liu died from her injuries. The SFPD said Muzzafar was arrested on charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

Before the arrests were announced, SFPD Traffic Company Commander Mikail Ali told the SF Examiner that he mainly attributed the recent rise in pedestrian deaths — a six-year high — to the increased walking and driving that comes with job growth. He also appeared, however, to take a more serious tone towards “grossly negligent” drivers than the department has conveyed in the past.

“We’re bringing more and more people into our city and with that is a challenge of managing and getting better behavior on the part of our drivers and in some cases on the part of pedestrians,” Ali told the Examiner. “When you behave in such a grossly negligent way, you’re going to find yourself unfortunately going to jail when you take someone’s life on the roadway.”

Read more…

5 Comments

Artist Kurt Dalen, 30, Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver on Valencia Near Duboce

Kurt Dalen, a 30-year-old Mission District artist, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Valencia Street south of Duboce Avenue at about 2:45 a.m. last Thursday.

Kurt Dalen. Screenshot from a 2009 video about his work on Vimeo.

The SF Chronicle, describing Dalen as “a painter whose work has been heavily influenced by the Mission’s street culture,” reported Friday:

He was struck near Clinton Park, an alleyway, by a dark, four-door sedan that fled the scene, police said.

He was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he later died of his injuries.

Investigators have been looking for leads, but the driver and his whereabouts remained unknown Friday, said Officer Gordon Shyy, a police spokesman. Police have not detailed exactly how Dalen was hit.

According to SFist, a friend of Dalen’s said he had “left a nearby bar and was trying to hail a cab when he was hit in the street.”

Dalen is the 14th pedestrian known to have been killed by a driver in San Francisco this year. Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider pointed out that Dalen is one of six people hit and severely injured or killed by a driver in the past two weeks.

“Unfortunately, the holidays will mark a time of mourning, rather than celebration, for too many families this year,” Schneider said. The city shouldn’t wait to build out the permanent safety infrastructure called for in the SFMTA’s Pedestrian Strategy before taking action, she added. Walk SF is “calling on the city to step up efforts to protect people who walk by building more temporary projects on our most dangerous streets that prevent traffic crimes now.” Last month, the SFMTA installed the city’s first sidewalk extensions using paint and other temporary materials on Sixth Street.

Dalen went by the name ‘Vote’ in street art circles, according to SFist, and his moniker can be seen on memorials placed on Valencia. The Chronicle continues:

Read more…