Clovis CA investigates fatality initially dismissed as “just an accident.”

The call came in to the California Highway Patrol dispatch at 6:12 A.M. on the morning of Wednesday, April 20, 2016. Patrick TeNyenhuis was riding his bicycle in the shoulder of Shaw Avenue in Clovis, CA when he was hit from behind and killed by the driver of a Toyota Camry.

The story should be familiar to you: The driver stayed at the scene, cooperated with the investigation, no criminality, no charges filed. The Clovis PD statement, however, that the driver of the Camry “accidentally bumped” TeNyenhuis outraged the cycling community in Fresno County. How can a death on a wide open road where the cyclist did absolutely nothing wrong be an “accident”?

Apparently these local cyclists were able to encourage the District Attorney and Clovis PD to do more than a cursory investigation. According to the Fresno Bee, the DA has hired an “expert witness” of some kind to determine what, if any, felony charges can be filed against the Toyota Camry driver.

It should be interesting to see where this leads. Prosecutors in many California counties routinely ignore traffic fatalities involving vulnerable road users because they consider such cases unwinnable. A notable case in Santa Clara County, for example, involved a man driving with a suspended license who tested positive for methamphetamines; Luis Felipe Hau allegedly drove his Nissan Quest minivan into the bike lane occupied by a 12 year old boy on a bike. Cindy Hendrickson from the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office said at the time, “We could not find a single case where similar driving was found to be ‘reckless.’”

Santa Cruz County is a notable exception; Attorney Greg Peinado routinely (and successfully) prosecutes drivers who maim and kill pedestrians and cyclists.

Via the usual excellent collection of bicycle-related news over at Biking In LA.

One Comment

  1. I am amazed. I would think prosecuting the killing a vulnerable road users with a four thousand pound machine would be unlosable. Specially when a kid is involved.

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