Memorial for cyclist marred by SFPD harassment

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Shahum was still visibly disturbed by the behavior of Sgt. Ernst more than an hour later.
Steven T. Jones

A memorial and informational event this morning at the 6th and Folsom corner where a bicyclist was fatally run over by a truck last week was marred by a tense and unsettling confrontation with an SFPD sergeant who showed up to block the bike lane with his cruiser, lecture the cyclists, and blame the victim.

The event was organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to raise awareness of the incident and that dangerous intersection and to call for the city to make improvements. It included friends and co-workers of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was riding in the Folsom Street bike lane on the morning of Aug. 14 when an unidentified delivery truck driver turned right onto 6th Street, across her path, and ran her over.

SFPD Sgt. Dennis Toomer tells the Guardian that the department has completed the traffic incident report, information from which can only be shared with the parties involved, but that the investigation of the fatality is still ongoing and will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review once it's done.

But SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum said that SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up at the event a little before 9am, had already drawn his own conclusions about the crash and showed up to make his apparent disdain for “you people,” bicyclists, disturbingly clear.

Shahum said that she tried to be diplomatic with Ernst and asked him to please move his patrol car out of the bike lane and into an available parking space that was right next to it, saying that it presented an unnecessary hazard to bicyclists riding past.

But she said Ernst refused to do so for almost 10 minutes, telling the group that he has “a right” to leave his car than and that he was “making the point that bicyclists need to move around” cars parked in bike lanes, according to Shahum’s written account, which she prepared to file a report about the incident with the Office of Citizens Complaints.

“He then told me explicitly that he ‘would not leave until’ I ‘understood’ that ‘it was the bicyclist’s fault.’ This was shocking to hear, as I was told just a day ago by Commander [Mikail] Ali that the case was still under investigation and no cause had yet been determined,” Shahum wrote.

And apparently Ernst didn’t stop at denouncing Le Moullac for causing her own death, in front of people who are still mourning that death. Shahum said Ernst also blamed the other two bicyclist deaths in SF this year on the cyclists, and on “you people” in the SFBC for not teaching cyclists how to avoid cars.

“I told him the SF Bicycle Coalition does a significant amount of safety work educating people biking and driving about sharing the road, and that I’d be happy to share more information with him. I again urged him to move his car out of the bike lane. He again refused, saying it was his right and he wasn’t moving until I ‘understood,’” Shahum wrote.

Shahum said there were multiple witness to the incident, including three television reporters who were there to cover the event.

“In addition to the Sgt’s inappropriate and dangerous behavior of parking his car in the bike lane and blocking safe passage for people bicycling by, it was deeply upsetting to see him unnecessarily disrupt and add tension to what was already an emotional and difficult time for many people who lamented this sad loss of life,” Shahum wrote.

Asked about the actions and attitudes expressed today by Ernst, who we could not reach for comment, Sgt. Toomer told us he “cannot talk about personnel issues.”

Compounding Ernst’s insensitive and judgmental approach today, it also appears the SFPD may have failed to properly investigate this incident, which Shahum and the SFBC have been tracking closely, and she said the SFPD told her that there were no video surveillance tapes of the collision.

After today’s event, SFBC's Marc Caswell decided to check in at businesses on the block to see if they had any video cameras aimed at the intersection, and he found an auto body business at the intersection whose workers said they did indeed have revealing footage of the crash that the SFPD hasn’t requested, but which SFBC today delivered to investigators.

“He had the time to come harass us as a memorial, but he didn’t have the time to see if anyone had footage of this incident. It’s very unsettled,” Shahum told us.

Whoever was ultimately at fault in this collision and others that have injured or killed bicyclists in San Francisco, today’s confrontation demonstrates an unacceptable and dangerous insensitivity and animosity toward bicyclists in San Francisco, which was also on display in the comments to the post that I wrote last week about the incident.

It’s fine to debate what happens on the streets of San Francisco, and you can even harbor resentments toward bicyclists and believe that we deserve your ire. But when you endanger people’s lives to make a point, or when you threaten violence against vulnerable road users, then you’ve gone too far.

Yes, let’s talk about what happens on the roads and how to improve behaviors, but let’s not forget our humanity in the process.  

Comments

Or did you miss that?

A small partisan group on a sidewalk with a specific message IS a protest.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:48 am

There was a sign stuck to an electric pole. As there always is when people put up a memorial where someone was recently killed. Sometimes, when a friend or loved one has died and the pain is still fresh, there are lots of signs. People hold pictures and leave messages condemning how the person died and messages of love and sadness, even anger at their loss. That does not make it a protest. Sometimes we even call it a vigil, and it's a normal thing. Those who harrass people at those vigils are invariably not welcome and are judged for their callousness. The Westboro Baptist Church comes to mind.

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 8:21 am

This was an overt hijacking of an unfortunate accidental death for political ends. Those who attended didn't know the alleged victim and there is no reason to believe that her family approved of her death being hijacked in this way.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 9:15 am

If you have the reading comprehension skills of a snail, you would have seen that three of the attendees were co-workers.

Why do you lie every single time you post?

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:07 am

I find it very sad that once again the SFBC uses this woman's death as a opportunity to get media and behave like it is automatically the drivers fault. It is the SFBC that has given those riding bikes this attitude that they are above anyone else on the roads including pedestrians.They have gone from a very respectable and valid cause to extremest hurting their own cause. FYI whooping and making loud noise while running a red light doesn't give a cyclist the right nearly run me over in a cross walk. I could not move out of their way, like the other pedestrians did, because I could barely walk due to a brain injury!! Everyone on the road needs to show everyone else respect. period. Try to remember not everyone can physically ride a bike.

Posted by Carol-O on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

Suhr said today that the department is apologizing for that incident.

“It’s never OK for anybody, let alone a police officer, to be a distraction at a memorial,” he said. “We’re usually better than that.”

Don't you look the fool now. Well, now and every day.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

A memorial service, not a protest, you boot-licking toady.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

overt political agenda. They were seeking to opportunistically leverage the death of a young girl for their own ends.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

How does a boot-licking sycophantic toady like you face himself in the mirror every day?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

You are a pathetic excuse for a human being. Stop celebrating this young woman's death.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

politicizing it either, which is what SFBC did.

If it were just a memorial then why were they collecting petition signatures?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

"Their own ends" being an increased awareness by motorists of bicycles and cyclists, and maybe, maybe even increased safety for those cyclists. And a decreased rate of them being killed while they are travelling legally in bike lanes. Those selfish, disgusting bastards.

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 8:37 am

everyone else. As such they do not care about Muni, cars, pedestrians, anyone else but themselves.

All they do is take, never give.

Posted by anon on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:50 am

There was a parking spot right next to the double parked squad car.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 9:35 am

reported a break-in in progress, would you expect the cops to circle round looking for a parking spot, or take the time to execute a perfect parallel park?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

two days ago which Greg easily refuted.

Senility or stupidity?

As an impartial observer, I find Greg the debate winner and you the loser.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

He usually says the same thing in every post anyway, so I'm not even sure he reads the post he is ostensibly responding to.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

Although stupidity is strongly indicated in your comment claiming that the memorial was insensitive.

That is for the friends and family of the dead cyclist to judge, not some senile obsessive internet commenter.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

I suspect they are really just differences of opinion and you (of course) suck on Greg's nutsac.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

Suhr said today that the department is apologizing for that incident.

“It’s never OK for anybody, let alone a police officer, to be a distraction at a memorial,” he said. “We’re usually better than that.”

So cop-lover, do you believe it now, now that the Chief of Police said it. I am sure you will slink off to whatever bridge you live under.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

radically than when they're on a doughnut buying spree.

When cops are on a doughnut buying spree, I expect them to park more radically than when they are engaged in some political prank to deprive citizens of their civil rights while sucking at the public trough.

I expect cops to be on their best behavior in regard to parking in that latter case.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

apparent protest and giving advice about traffic rules. You may not agree with his advice but that is neither here nor there.

Cops also park loudly and notoriously sometimes so that people know a cop is there. When they know a cop is there, they drive or ride much more sensibly. No accident occurred at this event, as you know.

Cops can park wherever and however they want in the line of duty, and Leah discovered the problem with getting snotty with a cop on this occasion - she got verbally slapped down. frankly, I don't blame the cops at all.

The only politics here was by the SFBC, claiming it was a memorial and yet collection signatures for a petition - an overtly political act and very insensitive.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

The rules state that cars are not to park in bike lanes. The officer in question was giving "advice" that was counter to what the traffic rules actually are. This is not a matter of disagreement, it's a matter of an officer of the law arguing a point that is both factually wrong and dangerous.

You defended his parking in the bike lane by saying that cops can park anywhere they want even if it is illegal, and now you are defending him by saying that he was offering advice on traffic rules. Those two are contradictory. What are you actually trying to say?

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 8:43 am

including official police business.

Posted by anon on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:51 am

what in the world are you talking about.

The Guardian crowd want everyone to obey authority.

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:10 pm

I suspect, therefore I am.
I suspect a majority of voters have the capacity to recognize mealy mouthed mewlings and weasel words from a sad little internet troll.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:19 am

Sorry, but I don't care much what you "suspect" or what would not shock you. Your assumptions don't help the situation, nor do your characterizations of SFBC as "strident." The fact (i.e., something for which there is proof) is that the officer endangered cyclists' lives in order to make some point. That is inexcusable and he should be subject to discipline.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

and in fact there is a video out there (google it) of her running her mouth and not listening to others.

The SFBC is a single-issue lobby group and, as such, nobody expects objectivity or neutrality from them.

And in this case they are assuming the driver of the truck was at fault for the accident when the police have clearly stated, by their failure to prosecute, that that is not the case.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

@Guest - Sure you have, whoever you are. I'll be sure to give an anonymous Internet ranter's claims the due consideration they most certainly deserve.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 11:03 am

No there really is a Jym Dyr.

You seriously are incapable of distinguishing truth from falsehood, aren't you? At least you have an excuse for your bizarre behavior.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:48 am

Shahum is respectful to a fault with authority figures. Take your bigotry elsewhere.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

at this protest shows us getting animated with the cop.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

No, civility starts with respect for the dead and defenseless. Cops get our respect when they earn it.

Posted by steven on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

You have more time and respect for criminals than you do for those who protect us from them.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

And you're showing your servility.
Civility begins with respect for those without power, what the previous commenter described was servitude, not civility.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

assess whether cops deserve respect. That is not a civil starting point. Sorry.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

This guy came over to lecture her friends at a memorial, telling them what a bad person she is. I'm pretty moderate, and I respect cops as much as the next guy, but I'm sorry that's just in poor taste. This guy was abusing his badge. You have to be quite the knee jerk authoritarian not to see that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:25 am

And anyway this was a protest, not a memorial. SFBC were trying to make capital out of her death by getting changes made to the road system, even though for all anyone knows, this accident may have been 100% the fault of the cyclist.

And if the latter, then the real problem here is a lack of education among cyclists, and the cop here was helping with that education.

But of course you cannot tell anything to cyclists because they think they know it all.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:34 am

No he was not "helping with education." He was being a law breaking prick and taunting people grieving someones death.

And you are a boot licking toady.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:37 pm

Shut up you boot licking toady. No one cares what you think. You are a tool.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

fair-minded debate on public safety.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:54 pm

You are not "debating" you are grave dancing, you sorry excuse for a human being.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

until you prove me wrong"

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

Stunningly clueless. Cops "EARN" our respect every time they put on their uniform and strap on their gun and go out and get in between us and the bad guys.

While their are rude drivers, rude cyclists, rude pedestrians everywhere the fact remains that cyclists by far have a higher percentage of rude aholes and you see it every day. A simple honk to alert a cyclist elicits a flipping off. Cyclists consistently flaunt the laws with respect to right of way, stop lights, passing on the right, lane control. Drivers from anywhere else are shocked to see how cyclists run lights and expect the laws of physics to bend in their favor and slow a 3500 lb. car down as they blow a light.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUkiyBVytRQ

Now I'll let you get back to crying in fear and licking cop ballsack.

Posted by mount holyoke1 on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

Cyclists get our respect when they earn it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

So you have no respect for the law when it inconveniences you?

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 8:52 am

I think the rest was satire.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:39 am

That spot is on my morning cycling commute. By the time I rolled by, every member of the SFBC was acting in a completely calm manner and helping cyclists around the squad car and asking us to walk onto the sidewalk to sign their petition.The officer was talking to reporters and seemed agitated.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

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