LADA: Officer Acted ‘Lawfully’ in Death of Milton Everett Olin
Good news, folks: texting and driving is okay if you're a cop, even if it results in somebody's death!
A little more than two weeks ago, I wrote about the Change.org petition to bring charges against LA Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood after he veered into the bike lane on Mulholland Highway, striking and killing former Napster executive Milton Everett Olin, Jr. Evidence suggests that Wood was distracted by an electronic device, which led to him losing control of his vehicle and killing Olin. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office will not be pursuing charges of any sort against Wood as there is not enough evidence to substantiate that he was negligent in the actions that ultimately led to Olin’s death.
Gee, a police officer getting off the hook for killing another human being? Someone not having to suffer a single consequence for their actions because they so happen to wear a badge? Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.
Oh, but it gets better. According to the decision of the Justice System Integrity Division of the LADA released Wednesday, not only was Wood not negligent in distracted driving, but he was expressly acting “lawfully.” Yeah, seriously.
“Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his (Mobile Digital Computer),” according to the declination letter prepared by the Justice System Integrity Division of the District Attorney’s Office and released Wednesday. “He was responding to a deputy who was inquiring whether the fire investigation had been completed. Since Wood was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response, under Vehicle Code section 23123.5, he acted lawfully.”
According to Article E of the aforementioned VC (entitled “Electronic Wireless Communications Device Prohibited Use”):
(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties
So there it is in writing. Andrew Wood did nothing wrong because he is a cop. (Again, where have we heard this one before?)
You know, it’s also mentioned in the Vehicle Code that the violation for texting while driving is a base $20 fine and a $50 fine for every subsequent offense. Of course, it’s only reasonable to expect that this penalty would intensify if the result of the distraction is, say, the death of another human being. Clearly, when it comes to punishing police officers for their mistakes, there is no such thing as a reasoned approach.
Not to trivialize the death of one man, but would the response have been the same if Wood’s distraction led him to kill a child on a bike? What if it had been several people? A class of school children? Is there some point at which someone looks at the circumstance and thinks that maybe the actions merit someone taking responsibility? At some point, common sense has to take over for the letter of the law.
Manslaughter is off the table because, as it was stated, Wood’s negligence cannot be proven. All of this despite the fact that the officer was shown to be driving over the speed limit and texting on his cell phone prior to (and likely when) he struck and killed Olin.
None of this can be proven definitively, and so there will be no charges. The family of Milton Everett Olin, Jr. will pursue their civil suit, one which they will most likely win. Because, after all, money makes everything better.
While it’s true that even seeing Andrew Wood lose his job and serve time in prison for killing Milton Everett Olin won’t patch the hole left in his family’s lives, the fact that his known killer is not even acknowledged as having done anything wrong is a contemptible slap in the face.
“Wood briefly took his eyes away from the road precisely when the narrow roadway curved slightly to the left without prior warning, causing him to inadvertently travel straight into the bike lane, immediately striking Olin,” the DA’s Office stated.
Every single distracted driving campaign you’ve ever seen reminds you of the ramifications of taking your eyes off the road, even “briefly.” It’s promised that if you are caught texting and driving, you’ll get a ticket. You’re warned that your actions have consequences.
Good news, though. Want a way to get around all that responsibility? Get a police cruiser and a uniform.