Bob Mionske is a well know lawyer who writes a weekly column for VeloNews. This week, he discusses Bikes vs. Cars and the recent apparent rise in tension between these two groups. I’m sure you’ve all heard about some of the high profile cases of late and I won’t bore you by repeating what Bob has to say in his article. However, I do want to highlight something Bob mentions.
On July 4th, two cyclists were injured when they collided with the back of a car, driven by a Dr. Christopher T. Thompson. They cyclists claim that Dr. Thompson purposefully slammed on the brakes of his car, thus causing the accident. However,
Speaking on behalf of Dr. Thompson afterwards, his attorney emphatically denied “that there was any road rage incident. It was a very unfortunate accident.” Unfortunately for Dr. Thompson, the “accidental” nature of the alleged assault was quickly called into question when it was revealed that he had been involved in a strikingly similar incident a few short months before, in March of 2008.
Cyclist Patrick Watson, one of two cyclists involved in the March incident with Dr. Thompson, recalled that, as on the July 4th incident, the driver had braked suddenly and hard, sending a cyclist to the ground; the driver “then ran me off the road and as I jumped back onto the pavement he slammed on his brakes right in front of us.”
According to Watson, the driver then drove straight at the fallen cyclist, then again “drove straight at me.” The quick-thinking Watson entered the driver’s license number into his cell phone and reported the incident. Although the Los Angeles Police Department promptly investigated the March incident, the Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley declined to file charges against Dr. Thompson, saying the case wasn’t “a winner.”
If this coddling left Dr. Thompson feeling enabled to continue assaulting cyclists, the feeling didn’t last long. His luck with prosecutors ran out after the second assault in Mandeville canyon; in connection with the July 4th incident, he has been charged with two felony counts of reckless driving causing injury, and two felony counts of battery with serious bodily injury. Although no charges have yet been filed in the March assault, Patrick Watson’s quick-thinking and subsequent complaint to the LAPD present a serious obstacle to any defense claims that Thompson’s actions on July 4th were just “a very unfortunate accident.”
Bottom line, whether you think the police will take your complaint seriously, it’s important to file a police report. At the time, I suspect Mr. Watson was frustrated that charges were not brought against Dr. Thompson. However, it could turn out to be extremely fortunate for the cyclists in this recent case that Mr. Watson followed through and filed a police report in March as it might help to establish a prior history of such behavior.