John Bacon was killed on Wednesday, May 18, possibly by the white pickup truck that was caught on surveillance tape tailgating him. After what in polite company can only politely be called a “lackadaisical” response to what, on its surface, suggests the possibility of first degree murder, the Palos Verdes Estates Police Department sprang into action.
They sat on their asses while local cyclists searched for, found, and reported a vehicle that closely matched the pickup on surveillance tape and perhaps more importantly, matched the driver described in the police All Points Bulletin. When another cyclist put in a WTF phone call about the police response, he was advised by Detective Hellinga that the driver who voluntarily came in with the vehicle didn’t match, and that there were “minor differences” in the two vehicles that definitively ruled it out.
The person who came in with the vehicle was Hispanic, not a heavyset white dude as described in the APB. However, the PV Irregulars had corralled the person who appeared to be the owner of the white pickup, who was indeed a heavyset white dude. It appears that the owner may have sent a friend down to the police station with his vehicle to throw them off the scent.
With regard to the “minor differences,” the PVE police advised that they consisted of running boards and tinted windows, neither of which were present on the surveillance video. As the driver of a 2007 Prius (point of personal shame) with 149,000 miles on it (point of personal cheapassedness) and a person with zero knowledge of or interest in car modifications (point of supreme pride), even I can tell you that window tinting and running boards can be slapped on in a couple of hours.
At this point the police had done no additional queries in the cycling community regarding basic, Cop 101 work such as asking The Most Basic Question Ever: “Have any of you spandex weirdos ever been harassed by a nutjob matching this car and description?”
The PV Irregulars, however, did. And what they got was an avalanche of responses. Numerous cyclists had indeed been assaulted by a heavyset white guy in a white four-door pickup. Some would call it coincidence. Some would call it irrelevant. Some would call it a silly lead. But any halfway competent cop would at least take the time to round up every single cyclist lead, bring them in, and interview them.
Remember, folks. Someone has just died, and he may have been murdered. In TV shows this where Columbo comes onto the scene. In PV Estates? If the victim is a cyclist, not so much.
By now a combination of bad press, terrible press, awful press, and downright hysterical press had moved the donuts over to the far corner of the conference table and forced the higher-ups at PVEPD to get to work, or at least a rough approximation of it, because local cyclists were informed of some key facts that you should take to the bank and remember for the rest of your life:
- You don’t have to wait to be contacted to make a report.
- You don’t have to have the cops’ authority to make a report.
- You can write your OWN report.
- The police have to take it.
- Just because you couldn’t identify the car or the driver doesn’t mean a crime hasn’t occurred, it just means it may not be solved. There are actually cases on record of crimes happening where the killer wasn’t caught!! And they’re still considered crimes!! Who knew? Cf. Jack the Ripper.
- “Buzzing,” “harassing,” and “threatening” a cyclist with a car, with the intent to cause injury, is a felony per People v. Wright, as it constitutes assault with a deadly weapon.
Fast forward to yesterday. One of the cyclists who had been assaulted on an earlier occasion by the mystery white pick-up went down to the PVEPD to report the crime. What she saw there was a thing of beauty: “The phones were ringing off the hook!” Cyclists were calling in like crazy, reporting the crimes committed against them (“White Prius just buzzed me on Via del Monte!”), in addition to the people who had shown up to report being assaulted by the mystery truck.
As a result of all this, the heavyset white dude who the PVEPD definitively ruled out as a suspect, then moved up to a “person of interest,” is now possibly, according to the police, going to find himself in a police line-up. Maybe in the interim someone will get around to carefully documenting the front and side of his vehicle, and having a collision reconstruction expert analyze John Bacon’s bike to see if there are any paint transfers or other marks that might show that the vehicle actually struck John. And a quick check on how recent the running boards and window tinting are wouldn’t be a total waste of time, either.
But hey, what do I know? We’re just a bunch of cyclists.
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