In Calabasas, a suburb of Los Angeles, Deputy Andrew Wood was electronically communicating with another deputy at the time he hit and killed bicyclist Milton Olin, and therefore couldn’t be prosecuted for vehicular manslaughter, the L.A. County Prosecutor’s Office concluded.
Wood was using his work laptop while driving along a quiet stretch of suburban road. The deputy said he failed to see the bicyclist, a music industry attorney, and did not brake before hitting and killing him. Olin, 65, was riding in a clearly marked bicycle lane on a Sunday last December.
Wood also was texting with his wife a minute before the crash, the prosecutor’s report said. His personal cell phone was not in use at the time, but he had exchanged nine text messages with his wife just before the crash, the prosecutor’s letter said. There was “no evidence” the cell phone was in use while the officer’s car was in motion, the report on the distracted driving death said.
California’s texting and handheld cell phone laws provide exemptions for law enforcement personnel.
“Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (laptop computer),” a deputy district attorney wrote in the report, released Aug. 27. “Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning, causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking Olin,” who flew into the air and smashed into the windshield.
The autopsy report says Olin died almost instantly from the impact.
Olin’s family filed a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department in July.
“Once again we see the government protecting its own despite its behavior,” family attorney Bruce Broillet said in a statement of Aug. 28. “That is why it is so important that we have an independent civil jury that demands public entities answer to incidents of wrongdoing.”
Broillet said upon filing the lawsuit, “The negligence of a sheriff’s deputy caused this terrible tragedy.”