◼ Hoopa driver now faces misdemeanor charge
The Thursday preliminary hearing for a Hoopa man accused of hitting and killing a cyclist last summer saw his felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
After the fifth preliminary hearing for 27-year-old defendant Alan Bear, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos asked the court to withdraw the charge of gross negligence in the matter.
A revised statement from the reporting officer was submitted to Gallegos, who then altered the charges.
”The facts didn't change ... but the officer's opinion changed,” Gallegos said after the hearing.
The death was tragic and “completely preventable” but the change in the officer's report was based on a reevaluation of the event, Gallegos said.
”Further investigation proved that it was not gross negligence or at least that we couldn't prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt,” he said.
Gross negligence, as defined in California statute, is an act done with such careless disregard for the safety of others' lives that it is likely to cause foreseeable injury.
Bear now faces charges of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, providing false information to a police officer and making an unsafe lane change that killed 42-year-old bicyclist and local botanist Gregory Jennings.
Local cyclists who attended the court session were unhappy with the decision.
Rick Knapp of the Humboldt Bay Bicycle Commuters Association said he was “very disappointed.”
”It's just hard to imagine that somebody is charged with normal negligence when he was completely off the shoulder (of the road),” Knapp said.
The large amount of space Bear drifted from the road should be considered a radical departure and thus gross negligence, Knapp said. With this reduction in charges, Knapp said cyclists seem to have the “same rights as a squirrel” on the road in Humboldt County.