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

Shahum was getting agitated with the cop because he would not do and say what she thought he should.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

If an anonymous guest says he saw something on a video somewhere, then it must be true.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 9:02 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:38 am

I saw a video of Shahum being a perfect angel. That's the video that I saw. If there's another video out there, maybe you can link to it. Unless of course there's no video.

Posted by Greg on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:16 am

there might not be one out there!

Of course you think Shahum was being a "perfect angel". Because that suits your agenda of making the cop look bad.

Just goes to show that you and I can watch the same video, but that your bias prevents you from seeing what is obvious to me, that she got pissy with him.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 7:32 am

Clean the dirt off your tongue, you boot licking toady.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

"your bias prevents you from seeing what my bias makes obvious to me"

You both sound honestly ill. You've been arguing for three days. Neither of you is going to win, it's impossible to hurt someone by bashing them on the internet, and you've brought the tone of this site from its usual "middle school playground" to "adults who have not developed or improved themselves in any way since middle school."

Go for a damn bike ride.

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 8:53 am

@Guest - I've seen Leah deal with people many times, and she has always been very diplomatic. Maybe even too diplomatic, by my standards. But hey, it sure is easy for an anonymous coward -- oops, I mean, a "guest" -- to spew baseless nonsense, isn't it?

Posted by Jym Dyer on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

Except Ernst's illegal parking wasn't "in the pursuit of law enforcement," it was in the pursuit of making an obnoxious and disrespectful statement.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:32 pm

It could have. But it didn't. And he was very clear that the reason he was illegally blocking traffic was specifically to "send a message" to cyclists, not for any public safety reason. (the message being, it's your fault if you die!)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

obstruction. You cannot know either way. He was just doing his job.

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

Wow. Nice brown nose. How do you smell your own smug baseless assumptions of how Ms. Shahum behaved as you weren't present with all that pig dung shoved up there?

Kudos on the troll tho. Now back to under the bridge from whence you came.

Posted by Guest MoFoPlz on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

and remonstrating with the cop.

Argue with a cop? Never a smart idea.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 6:37 am

Go eat a donut pig.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:09 am
Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:54 pm

You're a fuckington fascist.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 9:30 pm

Where Do I Start? Bicycle Coalition members "shrieky?" I have been a member over two years and this is one of the most civic minded button downed groups in town. If anything the Coalition is overly polite.

Leah consistently shows "respect for authority." But when the SFPD totally oversteps its boundaries it is incumbent upon Leah or anyone to speak up.

Excuse me. Leah is the paragon of a good politician. Leah definitely states her point of view but is always willing to listen and, when appropriate, make accommodations to further the interests of cycling.

Finally, what "pursuit of law enforcement" was at issue here when the officer parked in the middle of a bike lane? HARASSMENT I say.

Posted by Guest Lee Heidhues on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

Leah getting in the cop's face, waving her arms about in the air and, although we cannot hear the words, clearly giving him some verbal.

The reporter goes on to categorize her behaviour as "angry".

And all this at a supposed "memorial" which looked far more like a protest to a casual, objective observer.

The camera does not lie.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

She was waving her arms to the passing motorcycle cop to bring him over to the situation. I am a driver, a pedestrian, I use public transit and I am cyclist in SF and a member of the SFBC. Therefore, I experience and live it ALL on our shared streets and I tell you, during my day yto day commute, the cyclists have to be careful of the aggressive impatient drivers - taxis, service trucks, MUNI drivers and everyday motorists who don't understand how to share the road. Grant it, there are respectful motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

In response to the topic, why don't all of you get on a bike a ride down Folsom Street during the morning commute. Then you can fairly contribute to this thread.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 8:24 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 11:04 am

You lie every single time you post. Go drag your cop-loving, donut-eating ass back to the station house and do some real work, instead of trolling the Internet on the taxpayers dime.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:14 am

You are a grave-dancing pathetic excuse for a human being. That you would celebrate this young woman's death makes me seriously wonder about your sanity, your decency and your humanity.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

Except that, as shown in pictures attached to other articles, there was a parking spot open RIGHT NEXT TO WHERE HE STOPPED IN THE BIKE LANE. Which gives the officer no excuse for his vile behavior.

Posted by Nic on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

I was there and Leah's attitude was calm and respectful. I thought it was very disrepectful to Amelie and her family for an authoritative figure to think he can jeopardize the safety of cyclists by throwing them on the street onto oncoming traffic. He could've been respectful and pull over AND verbally share his point SAFELY.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

Dear Mayor Lee,

I am the Executive Director of a special interest bicycle lobby and we are demanding our special rights. Cyclists are increasingly at the mercy of motor vehicles and we demand that you take action. Last week, someone was killed while bicycling on Folsom Street near 6th Street. Evidence would suggest that the cyclist was struck while attempting to outrun a moving truck that was making a legal right hand turn. We really don’t care about the facts behind this accident because motorists are clearly responsible for ALL collisions on city streets. As the Executive Director of a Special Interest group it is my job to demand special rights for our very special members.

Every time a cyclist ignores the traffic laws and engages in negligent behavior that causes them bodily harm we must fault the driver of the motor vehicle. The cyclist was the third resident to be killed on a bike in San Francisco this year, all in or near SoMa. Each victim was killed because cyclists and pedestrians are NOT responsible for their own safety. Cyclists who break the law — placing
themselves and others in danger must be silently tolerated because people who
drive death monsters are evil and cyclists are holy. It is our God given right to weave in an out of traffic, roll through stop signs, and update our Facebook page at busy intersections.

Just Last week I was cycling down Folsom while playing candy crush on my smart phone and I nearly was hit by a reckless motorist who was obeying all of the traffic laws. These types of tragedies can be prevented by spending a few million dollars to redesign Folsom street. As per our usual arrangement you should cut the SF Bike lobby a check for a couple hundred thou so that we can do outreach to the bicycling community.

Don’t you see Mayor Lee, we are in the Wild West of road sharing and the rules of the road do not apply cyclists. We need separated bike lanes because we really don’t want share the streets with motor vehicles or pedestrians. Trucks should be retrofitted with convex mirrors so drivers can more easily see vulnerable Twitter users. And the City should require that large vehicle operators take training courses in how to avoid collisions with Tweeting cyclists.

It’s a bloodbath out there Mayor Lee and you have the tools, the power (and the
checkbook) to prevent more tragedy on our streets. It is not acceptable to sit
by while San Franciscans are killed on SoMa streets when you have the power to stop the killing.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

Eat shit and die Piggy.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:17 am

Suspect all you want, the only evidence we have of aggressive and inflexible behavior is this copy parking his cruiser in the bike lane so he swing his dick around and scorn some people trying to DO SOMETHING about the conditions that led to a young life ended tragically.

Posted by Sergeant Gofugyerself on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 9:52 am

Sgt. Ernst has a lot of courage inserting himself into this highly politicized issue. Good luck to him.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

do not succeed in instantly getting their way.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

"the bike mob can get very aggressive..."

Can and will.

His future at SFPD is potentially less secure if this issue moves away from him, which is likely.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

To the point of now seeking to destroy a cop's career because you didn't like where he parked?

This is proof that the bike mob are really a mob rather than a rational lobby group. Shame on you.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:44 pm

Ernst is clearly an anti-bike bigot who acted wholly inappropriately with respect to the grieving friends and families while purposefully endangering even more cyclists. On top of that, apparently his disdain for the value of a cyclist's life is shared by the entire SFPD as they didn't even bother investigating the incident. Ernst is clearly not fit to serve. It's called justice.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

That's how they know that no charges are appropriate.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

If by "investigate" you mean do absolutely the least amount of work necessary and lie about the fact that they asked local businesses for video evidence, when they clearly did not, they yeah.

No normal, self-respecting human being would call that an investigation though.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:19 am

I remember Critical Mass some years back where they were surrounding and attacking cars including those of a senior citizen couple and a minivan with a mom and her kids inside. Smashing windshields, side mirrors, and cursing at them. Way to get the general populace on your side cyclists.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

Their disregard for traffic laws and their anti-social behaviour on critical mass is not coming back to bite them in the ass, as the public have no sympathy for them when it counts.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

Way to take a single incident and brand a whole class of people with it. Is there some sort of competition for who can be the biggest bigot in here?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:20 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

@Guest - Actually your interlocutor mentioned two incidents, one in Berkeley and one in San Francisco, and got every detail wrong. Neither of these incidents (the true one nor even the concocted ones) have anything to do with Amelie De Moullac.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:34 pm

So a lady with kids in her minivan did not get attacked some years ago at Critical Mass in San Francisco?

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/Minivan-s-rude-introdu...

And yes, incidents like this do turn the general public against bicyclists. If it was one bicyclist losing his shit and other riders stopped him, he would be considered an abnormality. But when MULTIPLE people attack a van full of kids, it becomes a mob. If a driver got involved in an incident with a bicyclist, do you think a bunch of motorists would get out of the car and start smashing the guy's bike? Your attitude is why most people in this city can't stand self-entitled bicyclists.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 8:28 pm

You can't speak for "most people." You can only speak for your hateful self, blowhard.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

Blah blah hate blah blah. Bet you think most people in this city supported the nudists too.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

You mean *after* she ran over a cyclist and *after* she refused to stop? Tell you what, next time I see you on the street I will run you over and comitt a hit and run, you boot-licking toady, and we will see how you like it.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:42 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

@Guest - For starters, according to the manufacturer the vehicle in question was an SUV, so you have to ask why M&R decided to spin it as a minivan. The hit and run occurred *after* Critical Mass, not during, so you have to ask why M&R used it to smear Critical Mass. The scary all-caps MULTIPLE you use there doesn't reflect reality: there was one miscreant who smashed the black tinted window, then fled, and the few other bicyclists there were being responsible, called 911, and tried to calm the situation down.

It is revealing that you chose to link to the _Chron_'s first article on the incident, a piece written to gossip column standards, but if you read the details to figure out what actually went on (consulting maps along the way), you'll see that the story doesn't make any sense as written. In fact that _Chron_ pumped out several articles, confusing things with additional inconsistent details, digging themselves in deeper. Finally they dragged in 5 writers to pen a summing-up piece that quoted a Harvard professor saying that eyewitnesses see different things. Gosh.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with Amelie Le Moullac. Which is to be expected of a trolling sideshow.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 7:24 am

to serve and protect... Sgt Ernst must have a hard time reading what is on the side of his patrol car

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 3:56 pm

for that matter.

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

caused a disruption to traffic or an altercation.

He did the right thing.

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

or an altercation by disrupting traffic and starting an altercation.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:20 pm

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