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Jay Williams

Collision: Friday, 12-17-99, night time
APD Case No. 99-3511578, DA Cause No. 901-0031

Jay Williams was struck and severely injured by a hit-and-run driver. Even though witnesses got the license plate number of the vehicle, the police would not investigate or take any action until a City Councilmember asked the police chief for an explanation.
 
The victim's letter to a city councilmember.
 
Dear Mr. Daryl Slusher:
 
In the past you have shown a special interest in public safety and have also advocated for bicycle riders on many occasions. Because of this, I am writing to you to request help on a problem I have. Although the problem directly concerns me, I believe it would also be of interest to the public in general and definitely to other bicycle riders.
 
On the night of December 17, while riding my bicycle, I was run over by a hit-and-run car driver. I sustained two broken legs, a light concussion and numerous cuts and bruises. When admitted to Brackenridge Hospital, it was serious enough to be classified as a level two trauma incident. I am recovering (still not back to work yet) but this is not the problem.
 
The problem is that as of this date, the Austin Police Department has not taken any action on this incident-even though witnesses provided APD with a description of the driver, a description of the car and a license plate number. Even if the APD wasn't sure who the driver was, I'd think they could have impounded the vehicle. This isn't the case though. My brother, a lawyer in Houston, called APD shortly after the incident and inquired about it. He discovered that the case (#99-3511578) was assigned to someone on vacation. After a little pressure, my brother got APD to assign it to someone who wasn't on vacation (Det. Patrick South). My father also called several times and only recently received a return call. At that time, the officer would only state that my case was moving up the list.
 
I admit that this happened at a busy time for APD. I also realize that they have a lot of active cases to keep them busy. However, to me it seems like this might be an easy case. One in which if they couldn't get who actually did it, at least get his vehicle. As my friends tell me, by now the hit-and-run driver probably fixed the car, sold it to someone who took it to Mexico and the has moved to some other state. This doesn't seem fair.
 
So I was hoping you might be able to at least make an inquiry to APD for me. Perhaps if a city council member were to show an interest, the APD would too. Again, I admit that this problem largely concerns me. However, as a hit-and-run driver is still out on the streets somewhere, at least it also has some public interest.
 
I appreciate your time and wish you continued success on the city council.

Sincerely, Jay Williams Austin, TX 78751, 453-4236


Jay wrote to add the following on 1-15-00:

Unfortunately, I have no memory of much of the accident. My last true memory was riding south on the road just west of Hancock Golf course. I was hit on 38 1/2 street, although I don't remember turning onto it. The exact location is Liberty and 38 1/2, or one block east of Duval and 38 1/2. According to witnesses, I was on the right side of the road when the driver of the car hit me. I went up onto the car and hit the window. He got out, yelled something and then drove off. I don't know what he yelled, but I doubt it was an apology. My father went to the site the next day to take photos and estimates I may have been thrown up to 50 feet (I have some doubts). Parts of my bike definitely made it that distance. However, the only thing I remember is looking up and seeing four people looking down at me. I did have two lights on. Both were blinking red lights. One was attached to the back of my bike, the other I wore on my left arm so people can see it in front, back and left side. According to witnesses, the lights were working even after the accident. No headlight though. No helmet either. I admit, I was extremely lucky. I was also lucky as the witnesses were right behind the guy who hit me and I believe they called EMS and APD as those people seemed to show up pretty quickly. Although time didn't mean much to me. In fact, I don't even remember being loaded in the Ambulance or the ride to Brack. The more grisly details: I had four breaks in my right fibula, two breaks in the right tibia, one break in the left tibia, lots of bruises, including a few to the head, and a light concussion. I was in the hospital and live-in rehab for 12 days and still haven't returned to work (at UT), although I hope to hobble in next week. I'll try to keep you up to date on the police progress--nope, nothing yet, even though witnesses gave description of guy, car and license plate. Sheesh.


Ed. note, 1-23-00: Based on the license plate number provided by Jay, we were able to identify the vehicle and the driver (name, address, etc.). However, it's not yet clear whether the license plate number was seen by just one witness or multiple witnesses, so it's not certain whether we have the right car and driver. Also, Jay's attorney has advised him to have no contact with the alleged driver while the police "investigation" is pending, though as of today when we called Jay, he had still heard nothing from the police (or from Slusher's office).


Ed. note, 1-24-00: Slusher's office informs us that Mr. Slusher is very concerned about Jay's case, and has forwarded Jay's letter to police chief Stan Knee, asking him to respond to both Jay and to Slusher's office.


Jay wrote to add the following on 2-3-00:
A few days ago, I received a phone call from a woman from APD. Although she didn't identify what department she was with, I assume she was either an assistant to the chief or worked for him in some capacity as she referred to him. Basically she said that she had gathered the info she needed (it's almost like they don't read their own reports) and was passing my complaint about inaction on to a field commander. The next day I got a call from a Lt. Calvin Smith (he left a message), so I called him back today. He's not the guy investigating the case, he's apparently just following up on my complaint about the lack of action. He stated that they had made an initial contact with the guy who owns the car and were in the process of getting his picture so the APD can make a photo line-up to present to the witnesses. If they can identify the guy, then we have something and they will prosecute. So at least there is finally some progress. If it means anything, Lt. Smith said he thought APD should have done more sooner.... He also said the investigating officer would get in contact with me soon. What "soon" means in APD language is beyond me. So that's the latest word. Thanks again for your interest. I think your inquiry to Daryl Slusher's office helped get this thing going a little bit, so thanks for that too. Got my 2nd copy of your E-newsletter and really enjoyed it. You do a good job of getting the biking word out. Keep it up.


Ed. note, 2-17-00: Jay wrote to tell us that the police arrested the driver on Feb. 8th and charged him with Failure to Stop and Render Aid.


Jay wrote to add the following on 3-7-01:
Here's the latest scoop: The suspect, Reyna, skipped bail one time, was rearrested, and made bail again. Interesting how the system works. For the most part, he had been pleading innocent, but at least one of the witnesses was able to make a positive ID. He eventually decided to plead no contest and so the case was headed toward a plea hearing. Then somebody discovered that he had previous DWI's and so the county decided to pass it along to the District Attorney and bump it up to a Felony.... Unfortunately, nothing more has happened since then (January). Those old, cranky wheels of justice are turning, but in their own sluggish way. I'm told that by being a felony now, this guy could get some serious prison time, instead of just a county lock up. However, judging from the other cases on your web site, I sort of have my doubts he'll do more than some community service. But who knows, one of these days we may be biking along a road and see him picking up trash on the shoulder.


Ed. note, 4-2-01: The District Attorney's office tells us that the case is pending (i.e., no court date has been set.). This is over a year after he was arrested and charged.

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