The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced last week they would pay $11.75 million to the family of Milt Olin Jr., a bicyclist who was killed four years ago after he was struck by a vehicle driven by an L.A. County Sheriff’s deputy.
On Dec. 8, 2013 Olin, an entertainment attorney who lived in Woodland Hills, was cycling on Mulholland Highway in Calabasas when he was hit by the patrol car driven by Deputy Andrew Wood. The deputy veered into the bicycle lane while typing on his in-car computer, court documents show. The 65-year-old Olin landed on the car’s windshield and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The L. A. County District Attorney’s Office declined to press criminal charges. According to a court document: “The law does not limit officers from using an electronic wireless communication device in the performance of their duties to situations involving emergencies.”
The District Attorney’s Office stated there was insufficient evidence to prove the deputy committed vehicular manslaughter.
Wood swerved into a bicycle lane on Mulholland Highway while typing into his vehicle’s onboard computer—and had texted with his wife multiple times just prior to the incident— but his actions did not warrant a manslaughter charge, a report from the D.A. said.
Although Wood and his wife also texted nine times in the 10 minutes prior to the collision, records showed the last message transmission occurred when the patrol vehicle was not in motion. The last message to his wife was sent at 1:04 p.m. while his vehicle was stopped at a red light near CHS. The accident occurred one minute later, at 1:05 p.m., as Wood was typing into his patrol car computer.
Wood, a 16-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, was returning from a fire call at Calabasas High School when he struck Olin. Another deputy requested information about the call and Wood was responding via the patrol car’s Mobile Digital Computer. The road curved slightly to the left, but Wood, who was focused on the computer, kept driving straight. His vehicle crossed the solid white line, entered the bike lane, and struck Olin from behind.
Immediately after the crash Wood told an investigating deputy that Olin swerved into his lane and that he didn’t see the cyclist in time to prevent the accident.
In a follow-up statement Wood again suggested that the accident might have been Olin’s fault. But a witness driving in a vehicle that was travelling about 60 feet behind the patrol car told investigators he did not see Wood’s patrol car swerve or brake until after the collision occurred.
Wood was transferred to court services shortly after the incident, though he had requested such a transfer over a year before he fi- nally got it. The announcement of a settlement and Wood’s job transfer proved unsettling to some.
“The sheriff’s deputy who killed Milt Olin cost the L.A. County taxpayers almost $12 million in a lawsuit settlement,” Oak Park resident Glenn Wilcox told The Acorn. “Yet the misbehavior that cost taxpayers that much money did not cost the culprit anything. In fact, he did not like the job he had at the time of the incident and he had applied for duty in the court system instead. Subsequent to the incident, he was transferred to court duty. Thus he was rewarded, not punished, for his culpability.”
As a result of the collision the sheriff’s department implemented a new policy limiting the use of in-car computers. The incident was investigated by the L.A. Sheriff Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, which found there was a need for better training. The department’s new restrictions eliminate the use of in-car computers for administrative tasks. Prior to Olin’s death, deputies were given general guidelines on safe driving, including employing defensive driving techniques and avoiding operating vehicles in an unsafe manner.
In 2014, Olin’s wife Louise began the Milt Olin Foundation with a goal of trying to end distractiondriving deaths and injuries.