There was much joy and happypantsing when laist.com reported that Douchey McDouchebag a/k/a Dennis Reed finally got his comeuppance for trying to kill a pair of cyclists, then compounded murderous intent with suicidal stupidity by dancing a jig of “They punched my car first!” in front of the TV cameras and following it up with a fresh sprig of perjury by filing a false complaint with the police.
Douchey’s fancy driving video and his performance on the small screen earned him a walk down the perp carpet and a “Misdy Award” in the form of an arraignment set for May 11. The charges? Misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and filing a false report. Whether anything will come of it remains to be seen. My advice to Douchey is that he mortgage his apartment, return his keys to the Audi leasing office, and lawyer fucking up.
But what about you? What about me?
We get buzzed all the time. Mostly people are trying to kill us through benign neglect. They have pressing updates to like on Facegag, or they’re responding to a crucial text message about how Pooky told Dipsy that Donkey wasn’t going to be the third starting pitcher in next Saturday’s Little League game, and bam! They *accidentally* whack us and it’s an *accident* and we’re *accidentally* on life support for a year or five. Oh, well.
Other times, though, there is evil, bad, life-taking intent. You know the drivers. They target you. And they either miss, or they pull out at the last minute, or you pull off the escape of your life, or you get flat fucking lucky, and after the exchange of a few middle fingers everyone goes on with his life until the next time, when someone doesn’t. And the someone who doesn’t is always the cyclist, never the cager.
For most riders, there is a fairly good roadmap for what to do when you get hit, and by now we all know that it’s usually a very good idea to call a lawyer. Me, for example.
But what about when you don’t get hit? What about those times when the driver tries to hit you but fails? Is there anything you can do about it?
The short answer is “yes,” but it’s not easy. Sometimes you’re really angry and then the anger recedes and you feel lucky to have survived. But other times the anger doesn’t go away, or you’re reminded of the rider who took the time to file a complaint against the infamous Dr. Thompson. Dr. Thompson intentionally hit Ron Peterson while descending Mandeville, and the doc got jail time because of the prior report.
In other words, when the violation is egregious enough, it really does make sense – sometimes – to not simply roll over and get on with your life because the person who tried to kill you may well kill or injure someone else.
What follows is a rough re-wording of a very excellent email I received from a cop who’s been in law enforcement for over twenty years, and it’s well worth filing this away if you ever find yourself the victim of some jerk who thinks that your life is as disposable as a candy wrapper. As a lifelong adherent of plagiarism and stealing the good work of others, I’ve taken his email and changed it enough to avoid a cease-and-desist letter but not enough to take away from his excellent work.
“If it’s so excellent,” he even asked me, “why the hell’d you rewrite it?”
“Sorry, dude,” I told him. “If Homer sent me his final draft of the Iliad and the Odyssey, I’d rewrite that, too.”
So the first question you have to ask yourself regarding any buzzing incident is this: Was the act of “buzzing” intentional? This is key because with few exceptions only intentional acts are crimes.
If you have video or solid witness testimony that shows the driver really did intend to buzz you, then that constitutes assault with a deadly weapon, and it’s a violation of California Penal Code Section 245(a)(1). In your case, the deadly weapon is the car.
Based on many descriptions of such events, not to mention my own close shaves with cager crazies, it is often clear that the answer is “yes, the action was intentional.” But you have to be sure of that on your own, and it’s extremely beneficial to have witnesses or video. Once you’ve concluded that the driver intentionally tried to hit you, go to the police station whose jurisdiction includes the location of the incident and file a report.
- Do not call.
- Go there in person.
- Be prepared to wait.
- Be prepared for them to do everything in their power NOT to file a report.
If you’re at the station, you have decided that you want to involve the police. It’s not easy and it’s a hassle; despite constantly telling people to contact the police, few do. But ask yourself this: How are you going to feel if you read an article a week from now that a cyclist was mowed down by the same driver who buzzed you? If you believe that society is only safe when we look out for each other, then you have a duty to do this.
Once you have decided to do this, don’t waver. Do, however, be nice. And most of all don’t try to cut any slack for this unknown driver who almost killed you. Stop feeling like a bad person because you are calling out someone else’s conduct, and don’t feel bad about the negative consequences that will occur to the driver of the car. The driver was a big enough boy or girl to try and kill you, now he or she will be big enough to deal with the fallout.
If you begin to waver, the police will immediately detect this and do everything they can to avoid taking a police report. Face them firmly, politely, and with the same calm resolution that you’d defend your spouse or child. If you have to, hum a few lines to yourself of “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty.
So now you’re in the station and you have to demand a report. Not ask for one. Not suggest they write one. Not beg for one. You have to demand it. And you have to demand it politely and without hesitation. Do not leave the station without what is called a DR number for the report. Statements by the police such as, “We will keep an eye out for the guy,” or “I will give you an incident number” are unacceptable. You’ve gone to this much trouble to get a DR number and you owe it to yourself and everyone else not to leave without one.
*Important note: The term “DR number” is a term specific to the Los Angeles Police Department. The LA Sheriff’s Department calls the same number a “URN number.” Other police agencies call them varying things. What you need to do is get assurance that the officer handling your complaint is going to provide you with a police report and you should probably get the name of a detective or detective supervisor who is going to follow up on the police report.
When you demand the DR number, it’s practically guaranteed that you will be told one of several things, all well-practiced moves by the police to send you home and keep them from having to do their job.
#1. “Why didn’t you report the crime at the time it occurred?” Your answer should immediately be, “Can I speak to your watch commander? I won’t allow you to blame me, the victim of a crime, for my conduct, when it is clear that a crime occurred.” Do not engage any further with a police officer who asks you questions like this. It is inappropriate. When you do speak with the watch commander, make sure you tell the boss about the conduct. And remember, you’re in a police station. Any escalation of tone or hint of violence or threats on your part will wreck your endeavor.
#2. “This is not an assault with a deadly weapon, you need to report this to the Traffic Division as it is a traffic matter.” Your answer should immediately be, “Can I speak to your watch commander? You are incorrect, but I do not want to argue with you about the law.” Do not engage any further with a police officer that asks you questions like this. It is inappropriate. It is also abundantly clear that he does not know the law. When you do speak with the watch commander, make sure you tell him about the conduct. Direct the watch commander to the following case: People v. Wright, 100 Cal.App.4th 703. If the watch commander doesn’t understand what that is, you are going to have to insist on talking with his boss.
If all of that fails and you’re here in LA, call me. I’ll go with you to the station and we can jointly explain the basics of PC245(a)(1) as interpreted by People v. Wright, 100 Cal.App.4th 703. We’ll get the DR number and we’ll get the wheels of justice turning.
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