Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy Andrew Wood will not be charged for fatally running over former Napster COO Milton Olin Jr. in his patrol car while the officer was typing a message into his computer.
The instance exposes the different way that law enforcement officials are treated versus civilians in cases where a person is killed due to texting-while-driving.
It’s illegal to text and drive in California; the state has a specific law against it. Civilians caught doing it can expect to face charges. But a report from the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office shows that the rules may be applied differently to cops.
The incident involving Olin and Wood happened last December in Calabasas, California. Olin, a key figure at the peer-to-peer music sharing company that pioneered the online music download industry, was cycling in the bicycle lane when he was killed instantly by Wood’s patrol car.
Wood drifted into the bicycle lane while typing a reply to a colleague who wanted to know whether any other officers were required to attend a fire reported at a high school he had just left. He was trying to tell the other officer that no further backup was needed.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s report into the incident says that even though it is illegal to text and drive, Wood was not negligent because police officers are expected to respond quickly to messages from colleagues:
Wood had also been texting his wife from his personal phone minutes before the crash, but those texts were not thought to have contributed to Wood’s inattention while driving, the DA’s office said.
In a statement taken at the scene, Wood claimed that Olin had veered into his lane. The DA reported that the opposite was true.
Many of Los Angeles’ cyclists are furious at the lack of charges, according to the LAist. “To say biking advocates are unhappy with the DA’s decision to not press charges is an understatement.”
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