Memorial for cyclist marred by SFPD harassment

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Shahum was still visibly disturbed by the behavior of Sgt. Ernst more than an hour later.
Steven T. Jones

A memorial and informational event this morning at the 6th and Folsom corner where a bicyclist was fatally run over by a truck last week was marred by a tense and unsettling confrontation with an SFPD sergeant who showed up to block the bike lane with his cruiser, lecture the cyclists, and blame the victim.

The event was organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to raise awareness of the incident and that dangerous intersection and to call for the city to make improvements. It included friends and co-workers of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was riding in the Folsom Street bike lane on the morning of Aug. 14 when an unidentified delivery truck driver turned right onto 6th Street, across her path, and ran her over.

SFPD Sgt. Dennis Toomer tells the Guardian that the department has completed the traffic incident report, information from which can only be shared with the parties involved, but that the investigation of the fatality is still ongoing and will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review once it's done.

But SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum said that SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up at the event a little before 9am, had already drawn his own conclusions about the crash and showed up to make his apparent disdain for “you people,” bicyclists, disturbingly clear.

Shahum said that she tried to be diplomatic with Ernst and asked him to please move his patrol car out of the bike lane and into an available parking space that was right next to it, saying that it presented an unnecessary hazard to bicyclists riding past.

But she said Ernst refused to do so for almost 10 minutes, telling the group that he has “a right” to leave his car than and that he was “making the point that bicyclists need to move around” cars parked in bike lanes, according to Shahum’s written account, which she prepared to file a report about the incident with the Office of Citizens Complaints.

“He then told me explicitly that he ‘would not leave until’ I ‘understood’ that ‘it was the bicyclist’s fault.’ This was shocking to hear, as I was told just a day ago by Commander [Mikail] Ali that the case was still under investigation and no cause had yet been determined,” Shahum wrote.

And apparently Ernst didn’t stop at denouncing Le Moullac for causing her own death, in front of people who are still mourning that death. Shahum said Ernst also blamed the other two bicyclist deaths in SF this year on the cyclists, and on “you people” in the SFBC for not teaching cyclists how to avoid cars.

“I told him the SF Bicycle Coalition does a significant amount of safety work educating people biking and driving about sharing the road, and that I’d be happy to share more information with him. I again urged him to move his car out of the bike lane. He again refused, saying it was his right and he wasn’t moving until I ‘understood,’” Shahum wrote.

Shahum said there were multiple witness to the incident, including three television reporters who were there to cover the event.

“In addition to the Sgt’s inappropriate and dangerous behavior of parking his car in the bike lane and blocking safe passage for people bicycling by, it was deeply upsetting to see him unnecessarily disrupt and add tension to what was already an emotional and difficult time for many people who lamented this sad loss of life,” Shahum wrote.

Asked about the actions and attitudes expressed today by Ernst, who we could not reach for comment, Sgt. Toomer told us he “cannot talk about personnel issues.”

Compounding Ernst’s insensitive and judgmental approach today, it also appears the SFPD may have failed to properly investigate this incident, which Shahum and the SFBC have been tracking closely, and she said the SFPD told her that there were no video surveillance tapes of the collision.

After today’s event, SFBC's Marc Caswell decided to check in at businesses on the block to see if they had any video cameras aimed at the intersection, and he found an auto body business at the intersection whose workers said they did indeed have revealing footage of the crash that the SFPD hasn’t requested, but which SFBC today delivered to investigators.

“He had the time to come harass us as a memorial, but he didn’t have the time to see if anyone had footage of this incident. It’s very unsettled,” Shahum told us.

Whoever was ultimately at fault in this collision and others that have injured or killed bicyclists in San Francisco, today’s confrontation demonstrates an unacceptable and dangerous insensitivity and animosity toward bicyclists in San Francisco, which was also on display in the comments to the post that I wrote last week about the incident.

It’s fine to debate what happens on the streets of San Francisco, and you can even harbor resentments toward bicyclists and believe that we deserve your ire. But when you endanger people’s lives to make a point, or when you threaten violence against vulnerable road users, then you’ve gone too far.

Yes, let’s talk about what happens on the roads and how to improve behaviors, but let’s not forget our humanity in the process.  

Comments

is that he's a cop. Cops can do what they want because they're cops. If he wants to park in a bike lane even when there's a parking space nearby, that's his prerogative. If he wants to come spit on a memorial service, we need to respect that. He's an authority figure and he must've had a good reason for that. Or not. As long as he's a cop, I'm comfortable with that. If he had wanted to shoot someone in the face, I'm comfortable with that too. We shouldn't be second-guessing our brave heroes in uniform. They have a tough job, so anything they do is OK by me.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:38 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

That's why I'm comfortable with cops shooting whoever they want. They generally don't shoot people who like cops, and if they do sometimes, well, them's the breaks. Cops have a tough job and if they kill somebody then we should give them the benefit of the doubt. As far as people who don't respect cops, they deserve everything they get. If you show an authority figure that you don't like them, they have every right to punish your disrespect with death. Of course they can disrespect anybody they like, because they're our brave protectors in uniform and they have a tough job you know. I'm comfortable with that.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

But personally I have a lot more time for cops than I do for those who rationalize breaking the law because they think that they know better.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

so you'd be A-OK if a cop were to "shoot someone in the face" that you know and love? someone who may not have been breaking any laws?

you honestly think cops should be able to kill with complete impunity and no oversight?

Posted by derp on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

When was the last time a nun was hot by the cops?

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

I know they won't shoot anyone I love because no one in my family is a criminal. If they do shoot someone I love, then it must be because they committed a crime. And then I won't love them anymore. Anyone who gets shot by a cop must be a criminal. Anyone who is a criminal is no relative of mine. If the cops were looking for my mother, I'd turn her in no questions asked, because we need to respect authority.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

who was just walking down the street minding his or her own business? And who fully co-operated with the police and any request they made?

Answer? Never.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

Sean Bell

Oscar Grant

Those two women delivering newspapers in LA when the cops decided to riddle their vehicle with bullets because they erroneously thought the truck they were driving looked like that of someone else they wanted to kill (they were wrong about the make, model, and color of the truck as well, but when you're a cop you can shoot first and ask questions later).

Oh hell, there are too many to count. Just read this link, for starters:
http://www.innocentdown.org/

Never, indeed.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

Take a deep breath. Enjoy the moment and the spoofing.

Meet the new anon, better than the old anon.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

He had a rap sheet as long as your arm, and was causing trouble on the night in question.

If I had been on that same train, I would not have been shot, because I would have fully co-operated with the police.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:46 am

I thought Peter Shih was clotheslining the bike nazis.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

Yeah Sgt. Ernst is a total anti-cycling bigot and completely insensitive to boot.

What about the revelation that SFPD DIDN'T EVEN TRY TO INVESTIGATE THIS KILLING??? This is totally insane. This woman was run down on the street on her way to work and they can't even be bothered to do basic police work?

Complete and utter outrage.

Posted by Morgan Fitzgibbons on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

It was an accident.

Where was the criminal intent?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

"Killing" does not mean murder. Intent is not required for a killing to take place. When one person's actions take the life of another, they kill them... no matter who is at fault. Someone died -- someone did it, under some circumstance or other -- hence, they were killed -- therefore, it was a killing.

You need to work on your language skills if you expect anyone to take your alleged point seriously.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

Someone died in an accident. nobody "did it". It just happened.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

This wasn't a natural disaster, this was human error and someone is dead. We'll see what the video and investigation shows, but the basic fact is a driver turned across the path of a young cyclist and killed her. If he had been more aware of his surroundings, she wouldn't be dead. When you operate a deadly weapon around vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians, you need to be careful and pay attention. Le Moullac's death didn't "just happen" -- an insulting absolution -- she was killed by this driver. The only question now is whether he should be punished for taking that life.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:44 am

Sounds like every teenager surprised by a pregnancy...

I believe the term you're looking for is "involuntary manslaughter", which is a very serious crime.

Posted by Jonathan on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:21 am

There is no evidence of that here.

Posted by Anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:38 am

a cereal box. No criminal intent is need for involuntary manslaughter; negligence is enough.

You might be thinking of voluntary manslaughter, but in your case, the word thinking rarely applies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manslaughter

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:53 am

Criminal intent doesn't mean that you intended to hit a cyclist. It merely means that the level of indifference to the cyclist's safety rises to the level of being criminal.

There is no evidence here that the truck driver committed any crime or acted illegally in anyway.

Sometimes an accident is just an accident and, for all we know, this might have been 100% the fault of the cyclist e.g. the truck stalled and the bike ran into it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

intent. Intention is willful action; negligence is neglect or carelessness.

Maybe you were raised Catholic and would better understand crimes of omission and commission.

That's all for today's contribution to remedial education

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

the negligence rises to a level of indifference and carelessness that can be used to prove intent to harm through acts or failures to act.

In this case it is moot because nobody is alleging that the driver did anything wrong, and there appears to be no evidence for any such claim.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

Another bully on a power trip who shouldn't be a cop.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

...but I have observed Ms. Shahum participating in a dozen or more public events in her role as a bicycling advocate. While I have seen her being quite emphatic and heartfelt in making her points as she debates others, I have never found her to rude, undiplomatic, unkind, or to be the person who elevates the temperature when a disagreement arises. Rather, I've found her to be a person who works hard to elevate the discourse.

So in response to the anonymous commenter who made the aggressive/inflexible/strident/shrieky statement: I wasn't there, but I don't think you're gonna be proven right about your perspective.

Posted by Alex Clemens on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

Here's the best part: this whole thing was on camera.

Posted by Morgan Fitzgibbons on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

give the attendees some tips on road safety.

The attendees prefer their own version of advice and didn't like where the cop parked his car.

So freaking what?

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:49 pm

she isn't getting her way. Although she may well be better than most of the bike lobby.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

I'd like to make a suggestion, as someone who rides a bike, a car, BART, sometimes a bike on BART, and particularly as someone who has lost a dear friend in a hit-and-run incident while my deceased friend was riding his bike.

I don't know which party was at fault in this incident. Bless the soul of the woman who has lost her life. We have to remember unless evidence comes out otherwise, that it could have been either party. And whether or not it was the trucker, we also must remember that he or she now lives with the fact of a human life lost in an incident he or she was involved with. This is a burden to the normal feeling human being, no matter the culpability.

When on a bike we humans are not perfect as we are not when behind the wheel of a car.
Responsible bikers like myself who understand both perspectives are aware that auto drivers generally drive in a state of constant vigilance - negotiating driving space, monitoring road signs and lights, trying to keep a safe distance from each other, watching each other's movements and adapting correspondingly, out of concern for themselves, of course, but as a general rule of conduct on the road which protects themselves and others - both bikers and the drivers of other vehicles, as well as pedestrians.

Those on a bike who would like to leave all responsibility for their own safety to the drivers of automobiles are playing Russian Roulete. When I am on my bike, the first rule is that I must make sure that I have first tried to anticipate, as car drivers must with each other, and no less with other bikers, The Unexpected.

We must anticipate extra hard as bikers, because it is a fact that all drivers can behave unexpectedly, but also, because it is not easy to see bikers travelling in an auto drivers's blind spot, or to see bikers who wear dark clothing, or perhaps without lights on, and finally, and most importantly, because a biker is roughly 150 pounds of unprotected flesh, moving at speed, in an environment of several ton chunks of metal flying along right next to us. We are responsible for protecting ourselves. No matter how much we would like it to be otherwise.

When I bike, I default to the maxim of anyone who's been on this planet at least 20 years: I understand that no matter what, "S*** happens."
If you anticipate that, you're generally going to have better luck than the idealist who wears a halo of unreality through their life.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:15 pm

This story wasn't about any of that which has been said/lectured umpteen times now as part of the smug "motorist versus cyclist" script. This was about a memorial and what unfortunately happened at the memorial. Can't even have a memorial without some cop fucking it up.

This is the smug and condescending part: "If you anticipate that, you're generally going to have better luck than the idealist who wears a halo of unreality through their life."

(roll eyes upward and back down)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:32 pm

The memorial could have been held in a less emotive and obstructive location, if it really was just a memorial.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

Good to see the SFBC hold this event. I hope they soon stage a few events on sidewalks crowded with pedestrians, as cyclists go whizzing by on the sidewalk. Other than saying on their site that the law requires bikers to not ride on sidewalks, how are they taking action on the streets and sidewalks to make sidewalks again an area for pedestrians?

Posted by MPetrelis on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

cars and not to bikes. Steven here has admitted that he routinely disobeys traffic laws that do not suit him and that cops have to "earn" his respect.

Yet he wants zero tolerance for corporations who technically breach any alleged law.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:03 pm

@MPetrelis - I guess you missed the joint effort of the SFBC and the Senior Action Network to address your issue. I have to wonder, though, why you think the tragic death of a young woman and shocking police behavior is a good time to grind your axe about something entirely different.

(Me personally, I'm deeply deeply concerned about not being allowed to take YouTube videos of Supervisors using restrooms, but I can tell when something is off-topic, you see.)

Posted by Jym Dyer on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

If most people in SF hold the view that cyclists have no respect for the law of the road, and in my experience that is the case, then it means there will be less sympathy to go around when (as appears in this case) a cyclist dies who was not at fault.

Bucchere (or whatever his name was) has set your cause back years, not just for killing a pedestrian on his bike, but for being so glib and sanguine about it.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

@anon - I am, of course, aware of this misperception. My point is more about the timing and sensitivity of bringing up gripes. When a driver is killed, would it be at all appropriate for someone to barge into their memorial (or onto their obituary website) and complain about motorists in San Francisco hospitalizing 2-3 people a day and killing somebody every 3 weeks? And how the AAA should do something about that, and also about my neighbor's broken muffler? Because that's basically what's going on here.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:11 pm

demanding this change and that change. Where is their dignity?

And it's not a misperception that cyclists are angry and aggressive - they actually are.

And why do they not stop at stop lights and signs, ride the wrong way down one-way streets, and ride on sidewalks.

Be the change you want to see, and start showing respect for others. Then you'll get some back.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:22 pm

If you've ever ridden on the rough and pot-holed streets in this city---rather than using your bike as a prop to take into bike shops to see the hot guys working there and pretending you need your bike repaired---you would know why cyclists ride on the sidewalks, idiot. Go try riding your bike for once---wherever you want---rather than sitting on it and whining about cyclists on the sidewalks. It might help your disposition.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:25 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:35 pm

Just like with an iron and the flat side goes down, the seat of a bicycle goes in the middle. Just so you know.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

I'm imagining something very social realism-based...

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:59 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

This story and the comment section confirms that everyone sucks! Thanks to all! Drinks are on me.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

Who are these psychopaths defending the cops in this situation? Sick sick human beings.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

against an allegation that he might have parked inconsiderately.

That's a death sentence offense, surely?

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

If people got this outraged every time a cop parked inconsiderately the internet would be permanently broken. Do you seriously believe your own posts? Or are you just trying to type out the dumbest thing you can think of?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

That's his alleged "crime" here.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

Actually, he's charged with using his power and endangering lawful protesters to further his personal political agenda.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

He stopped off to give some friendly advice to some cyclists and, as usual, the cyclists get all high and mighty.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

I would believe a cop slightly more than bicycle activist when it comes to events at hand, no comments by cop in article.

Believing a bicycle activist in this case is like believing a Frenchman about his bathing habits.

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

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