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UPDATED II: Cyclist killed in hit-and-run crash; suspect in custody

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Update II: According to a press release, Akers was riding north on Mission Road. He was struck when he entered the intersection at Irvington Road. Investigators have also identified a potential second suspect in the crash and working with the Pima County Attorney to file “appropriate charges.”

Update: The cyclist killed this morning was on his way to work at Sun Tran where he drove busses for the last 38 years. The Arizona Daily Star is reporting that his name is John Akers, 64.

Pima County Deputy Jesus Banuelos said that they investigators are still speaking with witnesses. A press release about the incident will be sent out soon. 

A suspect has been charged with second-degree murder and hit and run with a fatality after striking and killing a bicyclist early this morning.

The hit and run occurred near the intersection of Mission and Irvington Roads.

Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy and BAC liaison Ryan Roher said via email that alcohol was involved. He said the suspect left the scene, but was later aprehended by Pima County deputies.

According to Roher the cyclist was wearing a helmet and witnesses indicate the cyclist was riding “within the law.”

The Tucson Police Department originally responded to the scene, but it was later determined that the crash occurred in the Pima County Sheriff’s jurisdiction and they took over the investigation.

30 comments
Jim in NC
Jim in NC

John will be missed by many.  He maintained a website for veterans who served in Vietnam. 

E
E

Another horrible bike story from Tucson, and my condolences to Mr. Akers's family.  I use that intersection myself and it actually seems fairly safe to me, although traffic can be moving fast.

It is stunning to me how many motorists flee the scene after running down a cyclist.  However, I am glad his family has received the law enforcement treatment they were owed.  

Didn't somebody from the Tucson Police Department recently "explain" to the BAC that if the cyclist can't identify his assailant in a lineup TPD is unable to follow up on the incident even if the cyclist has the license plate number of the car that hit them?  If that is true (which of course it isn't), why did officers bother tracking down this guy?

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

This is so sad! My condolences to this man's family and friends. I wish so much that there was  better bicycle infrastructure in place, with solid separation from vehicular traffic. Too many drivers here drive fast, drive distracted, and drive intoxicated. Couple that with the ongoing fondness for large SUVs and trucks and it ads up to an environment that is just too dangerous and intimidating for people that would, otherwise, be eager to ride a bicycle for transportation.

If we had fully separated infrastructure, this man would very likely be alive today. How many more people have to die for this to happen?

sluggh
sluggh

The helmet detail comes out of left field

Sandi
Sandi

I knew this man!  He was a very kind hearted person with a big heart..  He was a professional driver here in Tucson!  He always took every precaussion to ride safe... Helmit, reflectors vest  ect..  very causious!   The cowardly driver that left the sceen and didn"t help him deserves what he gets!!!  God be with his family, co workers and friends!!!!  We lost an AWESOME man today!!!     Sandi

DavidHuntsman
DavidHuntsman

What in the world does wearing a helmet have to do with anything?

Red Star
Red Star

There was a time when this kind of crash (apparent homicide) would be duly noted in Old Pueblo news media, then forgotten about as it wends its way through the courts. Thanks to Tucson Velo this story will get coverage and discussion here during the process and that feeds back (we hope) to local mainstream media. It benefits everyone, thanks!

Red Star
Red Star

@E Media reports indicate that TPD was first responder to this. Consideration of jurisdiction forced the matter to Pima County Sheriff and that agency properly located the suspect(s), pretty quick. This wasn't a TPD "fail" regardless of what might have been said at some tedious meeting. It should be noted that TPD has made some strong and effective efforts with hit and runs within its jurisdiction, many are documented in these pages and elsewhere in local media.

EdBeighe
EdBeighe

@E E; hit and run is a pervasive , vexing, and persistent problem affecting all road users -- just last week a phoenix(!) policeman was killed by a hit and run driver http://azbikelaw.org/blog/phoenix-police-officer-dies-in-fatal-hit-and-run/

Another story just a few weeks ago, Casa Grande PD caught a hit and run suspect vehicle that seriously injured a cyclist the day before by doing a stake-out -- kudos to the CGPD for doing good old-fashioned police work! http://azbikelaw.org/blog/casa-grande-pd-nabs-hit-and-run-suspect/

Orvis
Orvis

@Gabrielle  San Diego has a network of separated bikeways adjacent to freeways.  Even on these you aren't always safe.  SUV changing lanes lost control, managed to careen onto the protected bikeway  killing one bicyclist and injuring another.  

http://www.cbs8.com/story/14772093/1-dead-after-suv-hits-bicyclists-in-rancho-penasquitos

The vehicular cycling versus the non vehicular cyclists debate isn't new.  Jan Heine recently posted to his cycling blog an essay on why he feels separate facilities for cyclists can be dangerous which is here.

http://janheine.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/separated-cycle-paths-a-summary/

I'm not sure I agree with him and I certainly enjoy the protected paths when they work in terms of my destinations.  In Tucson there are many many places you can't easily get to on a bicycle via a protected path.  The gaps are difficult to manage.  Try riding to Pantano Stables from the west and not being in traffic east of Kolb.  You can't do it currently.  You're absolutely stuck on Houghton, 55 mph traffic and no bike lanes at all. 

We have ceded so much public space to the automobile.  Ultimately I don't think we'll see much of an increase in bicycle ridership unless and until the cycling facilities improve.  Roadways are designed with the safety of automobilists in mind, not pedestrians and cyclists.  

I was struck by how much more bike raffic there was on the Santa Cruz path north of Grant.  Last year it was pretty thin.  Last Sunday it was busy.  Anecdotal I know but it does seem that if you provide folks with decent cycling facilities they end up using them even if they don't always allow you to get where you want to go.  

Finally my condolences to the family and friends of John Akers.  A horrible tragedy.  That you can't ride a bike to work at 3:30 a.m. and be safe says a lot about the ubiquity of the danger we've come to accept as normal.  

MikeMcKisson
MikeMcKisson moderator

@Red Star Thanks. Was going to post about him being a Sun Tran driver, but wanted to get his name first. 

Scott Lunt
Scott Lunt

@DavidHuntsman A lot of people do wonder if a victim was wearing a helmet (or seatbelt in the case of auto accidents). Including that informatin is part of telling a complete story and helping answer questions readers might have. In other words, good journalism. I don't think it's meant to imply that those who are hit by a drunk driver and are not wearing a helmet, are partially responsible if they are injured. 

Big Clyde
Big Clyde

Amen, Red Star.   I think that Editor Mike and Tucson Velo rally this cycling community and have helped us become a better city for all types of cyclists.

E
E

@Red Star You need to read it again.  I didn't say it was a TPD fail, I said it puts the lie to TPD's public statements that they are helpless to act if the cyclist cannot positively identify his or her assailant.  Disparaging the meeting as "tedious" is just misdirection.  The point was that TPD's public position, made to public bodies, is that they cannot follow up on a hit and run even with a plate number.  I would think that attitude deserves some public shaming from time to time.  If you disagree, address the point the directly.

Red Star
Red Star

@EdBeigheThere are times when one looks at Transview and it's just one hit and run after another. At this writing the big thing seems to stalled vehicles which probably indicates low incomes, heat, deferred car maintenance...the Venn diagram of American life.


http://www.transview.org/TIRS/

Another Venn might show:


Hit and run:


*no insurance


*outstanding warrant(s)


*Drunk or something


*Suspended driver's license

*Panic/fear


DavidHuntsman
DavidHuntsman

@Scott Lunt @DavidHuntsmanI think "good journalism" would be weeding out relevant from irrelevant information. If wearing a bicycle helmet was mandatory under state law, the seatbelt comparison would be relevant. The information was likely just included by Deputy Roher, who included it out of habit. It's no more relevant than if the cyclist was wearing body armor. It may be of interest to readers, but it shouldn't be. Continuing to note the presence or lack of presence of bicycle helmets in horrific collisions like this does in fact perpetuate the notion that cyclists are partially at blame when they are injured by negligent motorists. And the same people make up juries, which eventually decide the outcome of criminal and civil trials.

zz
zz

@E @EdBeighe @sluggh  It's possible in this case that a witness could have identified the driver. Obviously, the victim could not. The scenarios before the BAC had no witnesses and the victim only got the plate number which is usually the case.

You're final sentiment, however, is a topic for a whole other thread.

E
E

@EdBeighe @sluggh  They stated it loud and clear in the BAC meeting.  Also, as far as I know their behavior has comported with their statements, except in the case of this fatality.  The reason I brought it up is because here we have them behaving contrary to their statement -- proof it can be done.  But they shouldn't only be following up on hit and runs when they want to, they should be following up whenever it is warranted.  The folks at the BAC meeting accepted the statement that law enforcement's hands are tied when the driver cannot be positively identified.  I am trying, mostly unsuccessfully it seems, to show that the BAC and the rest of the cycling community should not be so naive and accepting of what Tucson law enforcement says.

EdBeighe
EdBeighe

@sluggh You should get TPD to state their hit and run policy (like in writing); it just doesn't sound quite right. It's not like I think you are lying but 2nd hand info just isn't much to go on. Get them to state it; and go from there... public pressure will help:

A few years back there was this strange policy in Tucson (from the city attoney) that said, in writing, that they would never ever prosecute a 28-672. Subsequently there was a double-fatality that just cried out for a 672 and the city attorney did prosecute it.

http://azbikelaw.org/blog/28-672-in-the-news/#comment-7615

sluggh
sluggh

@Red Star

The arrest took place across town, and your link doesn't identify the arresting agency. 

Red Star
Red Star

@E You write,


"Red Star, what the f makes you like this?  You are the most frustrating, trollish person."

Well, E, you are not alone in your sentiment vis a vis Red Star, if that is any comfort for you in your current state. Nevertheless, thanks for finally doing your homework (even though you had to shrink wrap it with a silly attack on Red Star along the way). 


Perhaps you could publish something to the effect that it's all the fault of the police?

E
E

@Red Star Red Star, what the f makes you like this?  You are the most frustrating, trollish person.  As I have now stated twice, my point has nothing to do with jurisdiction.  I am well aware from the article, *because I read it,* that TPD responded, then PCSD took over.  MY POINT is that what happened AFTERWARD, shows that it is possible for law enforcement to go after, find, and we hope secure a conviction against a driver who flees the scene.  As for where TPD told BAC they couldn't do so, it's here: http://biketucson.pima.gov/Meetings/Agendas/March%202013%20BAC%20Agenda%20and%20Packet.pdf

 From the meeting notes:

"Law Enforcement Staff Reports from TPD and PCSD –

Sgt. Skeenes:

Hit and run Jan. 21st Mountain and Lester, emails say

there is no follow up on the crash. First, Bicycles are treated the same as every other hit and run incident. Second, if no one can identify the driver, neither the County nor City will follow up."

 I happen to believe that we should hold TPD and PCSD's feet to the fire on this and make them (a) treat bike hit and runs more seriously and (b) follow up when there is a plate but no positive ID of the driver.  Perhaps you disagree -- if so, say so, but for the love of god quit misdirecting about jurisdiction.

E

sluggh
sluggh

@Red Star I don't know who made the arrest in the Akers killing, do you? But I have been informed by TPD Sgt. Tim Beam that Tucson police will not follow up in cases of assault in which a bicyclist can provide a plate number and vehicle description while not being otherwise able to identify his attacker. The meeting took place in Regina Romero's ward office, and there is no website devoted to it. The discussion was an offshoot of a BAC meeting (February 2008?) in which the issue was discussed at length and in public.

Red Star
Red Star

@EIt seems to Red Star that you are not "getting" the jurisdictional issue in the Akers case for whatever reason. It's really not that much of an issue; TPD simply and properly handed the incident and whatever information it had developed over to Pima County Sheriff. That's the protocol. 

Anyway, E, you make a claim that TPD said something or other at a meeting, emote on that, but fail to support by providing a cite. That's a pretty basic fail and it's yours.

Tucson Pima BAC meeting minutes are here:

http://biketucson.pima.gov/Meetings.html 


Archives going back to late 2005 are here:



http://biketucson.pima.gov/Meetings/archives.html

zz
zz

@MikeMcKissonI believe the media has conditioned the public on this point. It's an easy item to report and has become always included making its importance 'ever so much more so'. On top of that, it plays to the driving public that wants cyclists to be  as much at blame as possible.

I believe the perspective expressed by commenter Peddler2 in the Abigail Allin Probation entry that "People should be 'too afraid to ride a bike' on major streets" is pervasive, making emphasis on infrastructure insufficient to affect real safety. At some point in the transportation web, we have to share.

MikeMcKisson
MikeMcKisson moderator

 If I hadn't included it, do you think there would have been other people asking whether or not her was wearing one? Of course there would have been. It's relevant in that many in the community I serve is interested in whether he were wearing a helment. 

You are correct that it should not be relavant in the courts  and you make a good argument about it not being a law to wear a helmet like a seatbelt so therefore it shouldn't be included, but ultimately it is my job to provide people with as much information as possible. 

I'd be more than happy to publish a guest opinion on the subject if you care to write one. 

Thanks for reading.