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SFPD Faults Trucker in Le Moullac’s Death, Apologizes for Ernst’s Behavior

SFPD Chief Greg Suhr gives a thumbs up at a stop light on Seventh Street on yesterday's bike-share celebration ride to City Hall. Photo: Aaron Bialick

San Francisco police have determined that the truck driver who killed Amelie Le Moullac on her bike this month was at fault for the crash, after footage of the incident was found by the SF Bicycle Coalition. SFPD Chief Greg Suhr has also apologized in statements to the press for the behavior of Sergeant Richard Ernst, who stopped by at a rally and memorial held in Le Moullac's honor to harass bicycle advocates and blame victims killed on bicycles this year for their own deaths.

The determination of fault in the crash at Folsom in Sixth Streets, first reported by the SF Chronicle's Chuck Nevius, apparently confirms that the driver made an illegal right turn in front of Le Moullac, failing to yield and merge into the bike lane. The SFPD, which had initially indicated that there was no wrongdoing on the part of the driver, says that it will submit the case to District Attorney George Gascón's office, who will decide whether or not to press criminal charges, according to the SF Examiner. The DA's office has reportedly not received the case yet.

"We're satisfied with the conclusion because we believe it comports with the evidence that Ms. Le Moullac did nothing to contribute to this collision," said Micha Star Liberty, an attorney representing Le Moullac's family. Liberty said that while the family "looks forward to a decision being made" by the DA, "it really doesn't impact the civil rights of the family, which is geared towards ways to compensate victims."

When I asked Chief Suhr why surveillance video footage of the crash wasn't found by SFPD investigators -- bicycle advocate Marc Caswell tracked it down instead -- he said that "there's often times when there's an investigation and, very fortunately, citizens make us aware of things that we might not have found on our first pass. We make mistakes. Obviously, we're super, super happy we have this video now. I've seen it myself, and I think it demonstrates clearly what happened with the accident."

The SFBC said in a blog post yesterday that although it's relieved to see "justice" in the case, "We are still concerned that the lack of initial investigation into this crash raises concerns about other cases where people biking or walking have been killed."

"We want justice to be fair and equal," said SFBC Deputy Director Kit Hodge. "We're happy to see that the case is being treated accordingly."

As for Sergeant Ernst, who deliberately blocked a bike lane at an SFBC rally at the location of Le Moullac's crash to call for safer streets in her honor, Suhr said "any time a member of the San Francisco Police Department is a distraction from the person being remembered at a memorial, it's not okay."

"I feel very badly about it, and I can't tell you how sad the department is that this young gal lost her life, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family," he said.

Still, Liberty said Suhr hasn't returned her phone calls offering him the opportunity to apologize to the family personally.

"Solely making a statement to a reporter seems a little like damage control when the family is here and available, and would love to hear from the chief himself," she said.

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