Los Angeles County sheriff's investigators say they will be turning over their findings regarding the deputy-involved collision that resulted in last month's death of cyclist Milton Everett Olin Jr. to the District Attorney's Office once the probe is complete.
The 65-year-old entertainment attorney was riding his bicycle in the 22400 block of Mulholland Highway in Calabasas when he was struck by a deputy's patrol car in the bicycle lane on the afternoon of Dec. 8, authorities have said. The former A&M Records and Napster executive reportedly landed on the windshield and shattered the glass before rolling off the patrol car. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Because there is a fatality, I will take it to the District Attorney," said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Joseph Jakl, who is the lead investigator on the case. "If the deputy driving is deemed to be at fault, he would be charged with vehicular manslaughter, unless something comes up in the investigation that there was something completely negligent, then we could be looking at felony manslaughter. I won't know the specifics until I have everything in hand."
Deputy Andrew Wood, who was returning from a call at Calabasas High School when his car struck Olin, is still a deputy but was transferred following the incident to the Sheriff's Department's court services division. Wood had made the request to transfer more than a year ago, according to a spokesperson.
Jakl, who is still interviewing witnesses in the case, said he hopes to present the case to the District Attorney's Office in the coming weeks.
Investigators are looking at several possible factors, including whether Wood may have been distracted and how a slight curve in the road, in which a portion of the curb line protrudes, could have played a role, Jakl said.
"It's nice to hear that something is going on; this is the most information we've gotten," Olin's wife, Louise, said Wednesday. "I feel like there's movement perhaps and that maybe we'll have a resolution soon."
Jakl said the department has retrieved records from Wood's mobile digital computer but he declined to say what those records showed. Wood's cellphone records are also being retrieved as part of the investigation. There was no dash-camera in the car, he said.
Wood has been "very forthcoming" in the probe, Jakl said, and the deputy is "very sad about what has occurred."
Olin, of Woodland Hills, had earbuds of some sort with him but Jakl would not say whether he was listening to something at the time.
Jakl said the first report, a traffic collision report, has been completed, but he is waiting for supplemental reports to be finished before giving it to the DA's Office. Jakl said he would not be able to release the traffic collision report or the other materials until the DA's Office has a chance to review the entire case in order not to affect the investigation.
"It's not special treatment," Jakl said. "If you were to see the first report, you would see it's not special treatment but all you have is my word."
The investigation is being handled by Sheriff's Department's Traffic Services Detail at headquarters rather than by personnel at the Malibu/Lost Hills station, where the deputy was based, to ensure an unbiased investigation, Jakl said.
The number of bicycle accidents reported in the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department's jurisdiction has seen an uptick in recent years. In 2009, there were 507 bicycle traffic collisions and one fatality. In 2010, there were 538 bicycle traffic collisions and two fatalities. In 2011, there were 650 bicycle traffic collisions and six fatalities. In 2012, there were at least 708 bicycle traffic collisions and at least four fatalities, according to Glenn Callaway, a traffic investigator with the department.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill last year that requires vehicles passing a bicycle going in the same direction to do so at a distance of at least three feet. Violations will be punishable by a $35 fine or a $220 fine on a driver if a collision occurs between a vehicle and a bicyclist that injures the cyclist. That law will go into effect Sept. 16. The current law only specifies a "safe distance."
While it may not help in the case of a distracted driver, the three-foot law is important because it does raise awareness as to what a safe passing distance is, said Eric Bruins, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition's planning and policy director.
"What a driver might think is a safe distance is really not safe, especially when you're talking about someone's emotional well-being," Bruins said. "It's really unsettling and you can get spooked into swerving or doing something else that's unsafe."