On Aug. 25, 2008 Greg Jennings was killed by a motorist while riding his bike home from work. For reasons that still aren't clear, Alan Bear, the motorist who killed Greg, crossed through the shoulder, and ended up on the grass off the road, striking Greg in the process. Bear repeatedly lied to officers about his passenger, what distracted him, and where he hit Greg. On Sept. 3 Bear was sentenced to one year in jail for misdemeanor manslaughter. At the sentencing, Bear delivered his final blow, blaming the victim for being on Highway 299 on a bicycle.
I can't imagine the pain, sorrow, and repeated frustration Greg's family and friends have been through. The Highway Patrol haphazardly investigated Bear's obvious lies, and as the case was going to trial the investigating officer changed his recommendation from a felony to misdemeanor offense. The District Attorney repeatedly switched staff during the case, resulting in poor follow through with witnesses and their investigation.
What can we learn from this tragedy? The investigating authority, media, and prosecutor often implicitly assign partial fault to the cyclist before they have the facts. Officers at the scene should collect and review all the evidence and witness statements before filing their report. The media should fairly report the facts without innuendo. Finally, the DA must prepare a complete and thorough case for prosecution. If there are holes in the report, they need to find the witnesses, collect more information, and do their best to get the whole story.
Humboldt Bay Bicycle Commuters Association
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