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DPS blames cyclists for getting hit by intoxicated driver, fails to investigate properly (Tomball, TX)

Amanda Smith sent us this report on 6/10/00
 
My father, Conrad F. Anderson, was struck and killed May 7, 2000 on FM 2920 in Tomball, TX at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning by a drunk driver. He was riding his bike on the shoulder and was hit by a 16 year old driving an 83 Cad. My father's girlfriend was hit first sustaining two breaks in her leg and a severe head wound. She was life-flighted. My father on the other hand was killed on impact. He was not wearing a helmet and although he should have worn one we were told it would not have mattered. His neck was broken and his body had either been launched or dragged 26ft. from original impact. His body was in such bad shape he was not suitable to view in an open casket funeral -- not just because of his head but due to the fact the funeral home could not patch all the leaks in his body.
 
We were told by DPS that my father should not have been riding on the shoulder. Just a little way from where he was riding is a posted sign for a bicycle lane. We are outraged that this thought could even be uttered considering the blood of the criminal in question contained cocaine, pot, and a 0.04 alcohol level. This person not only ran down two cyclists but he completely ran down a ditch and into a residential fence. In other words, due to the blood content, the driver completely lost control of his vehicle. Also, what good is a bike lane if you're not supposed to be using it?
 
At this point we do not have an accident report, but it is rumored that this individual ran down these two cyclists doing about 80 mph on a 55 mph road. [The criminal] case is being handled by the 314th district court in Houston by DA Barbara Twig.
 
We are doing a civil lawsuit [ourselves]. I would be very interested in what I can do to change this attitude that cyclists are at fault when they are hit by a drunk driver in a bicycle lane or shoulder. If you have any further questions or if you are interested in the case, feel free to e-mail me.
 

Ed. Note:
 
I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. The attitude expressed by the DPS officer is, unfortunately, not surprising. But as for what you can do to change society's attitude that cyclists are always at fault when motorists hit them, you might as well be asking how to eliminate any other kind of societal prejudice, like racism. There's no easy answer to either question. In fact, if there were easy answers, then I wouldn't need to spend my time documenting all the cases in which cyclists DIDN'T get justice.
 
I understand your frustration, and I feel it myself -- that's why I started the "No Justice" web page to inform the public about what's going on. (In fact, I'm not even sure anybody else is doing similar work.) But changing people's minds -- that's a tough one. The struggle continues...
 

Fred Meredith's suggestions
 
Amanda,
 
I read with sadness your post that Michael has passed along to the rest of our cycling community. It looks like another of the tragic instances that are all too frequent on our streets and roadways. There seems to be no easy way to keep people from operating their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. What happened to your father and his girlfriend happens regularly to pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists when someone drives under the influence.
 
However, from your description of what has happened IN RESPONSE to this tragic crash is an inequity that seems to be visited mostly on cyclists.
 
I recommend that you try to round up support and a courtroom presence for the criminal trial by taking your story to the press and to the bicycle community of Houston.
 
HABA (Houston Area Bicycle Alliance) is an advocacy group in your area that may be of help. Also, there are groups like the Houston Bicycle Club, Inc. Send your story to Charlie Rodriguez their newsletter editor and see if he will print it in their monthly publication.
 
You need to do what you can to raise support and put cyclists in that courtroom. Send a message to the court that cyclists are watching how the criminal case proceeds.
 
As for the civil case. find a good attorney. If that attorney does not ride a bike, suggest that a consultant on bicyclist behavior be enlisted to analyze the circumstances. It probably wouldn't hurt to have an expert witness in that regard.
 
Find someone with credentials the court will recognize. In Houston there are several experienced cyclists who hold credentials in proper bicyclist behavior. I know, I trained them. They are instructors in the League of American Bicyclists' Effective Cycling Program which is the only nationally recognized bicycle skills and safety education program. I am the regional trainer for that program and for the Texas SuperCyclist children's education program. I have trained at least six instructors in Houston area and can think of two who would be good choices and much closer to you geographically than I am. I do not know that they have ever served as expert witnesses, but they are qualified in my opinion.
 
Seriously consider these options. I have served as a consultant or expert witness in several cases and know that even the court is often ignorant of the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists.
 
Please do pursue a civil action as it is the only way to effect change and inform the public. Also, at this stage (I lost my first wife in an automobile accident in which I eventually resorted to a civil suit to correct a defect in the automoile manufacturer's design.), it will be the only compensation you or anyone else will ever receive for your loss.
 
Take care, and I'd like to know how it goes if you would keep me apprised.
 
Fred Meredith
Effective Cycling Instructor #343
EC Regional Trainer
P.O. Box 100, Manchaca, TX 78652
Amanda sent this update on 6-18-00:
 
Quite honestly the public was allowed to know more than I was by simply watching the news the day this happened. It was quite irritating to call the police and other officials to try and get information but no one would give us anything...
 
We attended the first release hearing but were unable to attend the second because on that day we were sprinkling my father's body in Oregon, but my father's girlfriend and my uncle stayed and went to the hearing. It was at that point they learned cocaine and pot were also found in the driver's system. However, this info is not found on the accident report although the police officer did arrest this guy for intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault.
 
I questioned the DA but [she didn't seem to be convinced that the case was strong without the driver being over the legal limit for blood alcohol.] This worries me and I'm not quite sure I understand. I'm hoping she was just tired. Every time I try to call her she is either in court or gone for the day because she had been up all night the day before.
 
My sister-in-law is a police officer. I showed her the accident report, which is marked as "complete", and asked her if she felt it was complete. She looked it over and said "no". This report does not show how fast the guy was going although it does say he had been speeding. The accident report does not show where my father's body was tossed or where the vehicle finally rested. I had been told by witnesses that this guy went down the ditch and into a fence, but this is not shown on the report. The only thing the report shows is who was hit and at what point, and where on the road they were hit. The report also shows no measurements though it should. (The report does clearly show my father was not on the road outside the shoulder stripe.) My lawyer will request this additional information (he also agrees there should be more) and if there is not we will take action concerning this as well.
 
According to the report my father's girlfriend had been hit first and thrown over the car into the road. My father was the second to be hit and was thrown into the windshield and then over the car. The death report states that my father died due to trauma to his head and upper body. The only thing that bothers me about this is if they will use the fact he was not wearing a helmet to lesson any charges filed against this guy. I called the medical examiner's office to discuss this with him. I did view my father's body and talked to the funeral home regarding the condition of his body and was told helmet or not, he would have died. After viewing his bod I know this is true because his neck was clearly broken. I will hopefully have a clear answer on this by either Monday or Tuesday.
 
This Monday my family will again attend another release hearing. We are hoping this guy will again be detained. We have been told that this should be the last release hearing and that the next court case should deal with wither or not this guy will be charged as an adult. This is very frustrating because we had originally been told we'd know if he was to be charged as an adult almost a month ago. Because this guy is a minor he might only be charged as a minor and be released with only 10 years probation and nothing more.

Amanda sent these further updates:
 
7-22-00: Good news for today! Juan has been certified as an adult. We will be attending Juan's arraignment Monday at the 177th court in Houston (adult court). Starts at 9:00 a.m.
 
12-3-00: On November 28th Conrad F. Anderson's killer plead guilty to intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. He was sentenced to five years prison time.
 
 
(Back to No Justice for Cyclists)





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