A California sheriff’s deputy won’t be charged in the death of a bicyclist he struck while he was distracted by a mobile digital computer in his patrol car.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood fatally injured entertainment attorney Milton Olin Jr. as he rode Dec. 8 along Mulholland Highway.
The deputy entered the bicycle lane while typing into the mobile computer in his vehicle and hit Olin, a former executive with A&M Records and Napster, who died at the scene.
Wood, a 16-year veteran, was on his way back from a fire call at Calabasas High School, and he was responding to another deputy who asked whether the investigation was complete.
Investigators said Wood had sent six text messages on his personal cell phone prior to the collision, but prosecutors said there was no evidence he sent any messages from that phone while he was driving.
Although California prohibits texting while driving, the law makes an exception for law enforcement officers who are using electronic communications devices while performing their duties.
“Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully,” the district attorney’s office said.
Prosecutors said it was “reasonable” that Wood would have believed an immediate response was required, even if he was driving at the time.
“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,” prosecutors said.
The driver the car directly behind Wood said the patrol car’s brake lights did not come on until the witness saw Olin’s body in the air.
Prosecutors said they would have been required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wood was criminally negligent to establish a crime of vehicular homicide.
[Image: Man In Black Shirt Is Typing A Text Message On His Smartphone, Close Up Image, Focus On Hands And The Phone Device via Shutterstock]