Relatives of a man who was struck and killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy while bicycling in Calabasas asked Wednesday that prosecutors review what they call new evidence to determine if criminal charges are warranted against the deputy.
The request came one day after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an $11.75 million settlement with the family of entertainment lawyer Milt Olin Jr., a former Napster executive who was struck while riding east in a bike lane on Mulholland Highway around 1 p.m. Dec. 8, 2013.
Authorities said Deputy Andrew Wood was driving east on the highway at about 45 mph after checking out a call about a small brush fire on the Calabasas High School baseball field. Wood was updating a co-worker by typing on the patrol car’s mobile digital computer when the road curved slightly left and the patrol car crossed into the bike lane and hit Olin, according to a summary provided to the board.
Olin was thrown from the bike and crashed through the windshield of the patrol car before falling onto the road. An off-duty paramedic driving behind the crash tried to provide emergency aid but quickly determined that Olin was dead.
On Aug. 27, 2014, District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to bring any criminal action against Wood, finding insufficient evidence to support a charge of vehicular manslaughter.
At a news conference Wednesday, Olin’s wife, Louise, and her attorney, Bruce Broillet, said they want Lacey to look at the case again and consider information they claim to have uncovered since the initial review. Citing more detailed cell phone records, Olin’s attorneys contend Wood sent a personal text message to his wife and was typing on the computer in his patrol car just seconds before the crash. They also claim Wood was driving on a straight section of the roadway — with an unobstructed view — for about 20 seconds before he struck Olin.
Wood told investigators he was stopped at a red light when he texted his wife, but Olin’s attorney dispute that, citing the second-by-second cell phone records.
“Milt would be here today if not for Deputy Wood’s decision to continue driving instead of pulling over to use his mobile devices,” Louise Olin said. “Aren’t law enforcement officers here to protect us?”
She said Wood “may as well have been blindfolded,” given his level of distraction at the time of the crash.
An internal sheriff’s department investigation found the deputy’s actions violated policy and “appropriate” administrative action was taken against Wood. The department also created an ad hoc committee to address the need for better training on distracted driving and 21 of the committee’s 34 recommendations have since been adopted, according to the county. Other recommendations are being evaluated or awaiting funding.
Following her husband’s death, Louise Olin established a foundation in his name to increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. The foundation developed a smartphone app called HandsOff, which rewards users for driving hands-free.