15 December 2018

She Couldn't Run Far Enough

Too often, drivers get away with murder on cyclists.

I mean that literally.  I have heard and read of too many cases in which a driver who was intoxicated, distracted, malicious or just plain careless rand down someone on a bicycle and never faced any sort of consequence.

Too often, cyclists are seen as folks who "just won't grow up and drive".  Or we're poor, which is just as much of a crime as anything else in a capitalist society.

Either way, authorities think we're inconsequential--or that we "had it coming" to us.

Now, there have been exceptions, and I've reported on a few.  In particular, I am thinking of the arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Charles Pickett Jr., who mowed down five cyclists near Kalamazoo, Michigan two and a half years ago.  He was given a 40-to-75-year prison sentence, with no possiblity of early release.  Given that he had already served two years when he was sentenced, he has another 37-1/2 years to go--which means he won't be eligible for parole until he's 90.

Today I learned of another example of diligence by law enforcement officials in pursuit of a motorist who killed a cyclist.  I must say, the officials involved in this case went well beyond those involved in any other incident of which I'm aware.

Augustin Rodriguez Jr.

In January 2017, Augustin Rodriguez was pedaling to work in Whittier, California.  He wouldn't make it:  a white Lexus plowed into him from behind.

After hitting Rodriguez, that driver "slowed down briefly and then sped up," dragging him several hundred feet under the car, according to FBI documents.  Then the driver fled.

Fifteen minutes later, medics declared Rodriguez dead at the scene.

 A week after that, an anonymous caller pointed Whittier police in the direction of that Lexus' driver:  one Andrea Dorothy Chan Reyes.  She, too, was on her way to work--and running late.   Then she kept on running.

Andrea Dorothy Chan Reyes

She was identified as the driver after employees at a local body shop confirmed that they did front-end work and replaced a broken windshield for Chan Reyes, who claimed that she struck a deer.

Police then searched for the Lexus, which was nowhere to be found--until a string of clues led investigators a month later to Idaho, where the vehicle was found in a garage of a business associate of Chan Reyes.  DNA testing confirmed that the car was indeed the one she drove when she mowed down Rodriguez.

But now Chan Reyes was nowhere to be found.  Five days after the crash, she high-tailed it to Hong Kong, where she has family. Over the next year, she hopscotched between Asia and Australia, using as many as 11 different aliases.

Finally, in April of this year, she was tracked down to Adelaide, Australia, where local police honored a provisional request from the US government and arrested Chan Reyes at the home of her new boyfriend.  She has been in an Australian prison ever since.  

Later this month, a court will rule on her bail request. The expectation is that she will be denied and extradited back to the US, where she would face multiple felony charges.

Whittier police spokesperson John Scoggins would not comment on the case except to say that his department was determined to bring an alleged hit-and-run driver to justice, no matter how far or how long she ran.

I commend his dedication.  I must, however, criticize his choice of one particular word.  To be fair, most people in his circumstances would have used it:  justice.  In a case like this, justice is simply not possible, for justice--whatever it is--cannot bring back a life.  Nor can it "balance the scales" for someone's disregard for said life.   There simply is no justice when one person takes the life of another, in whatever fashion.

The only good outcome in this case--or any like it--is that the authorities take it seriously.  That is to say, they treated it as what it is--one person killing another through negligence or disdain.

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