September 10, 2014. Los Angeles. (ONN) The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office announced that it would not file criminal charges against a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy who killed Napster executive Milton Olin. In the announcement, prosecutors confirmed that the officer is exempt from civilian laws while on duty, even though he was shown to have knowingly committed a crime in an attempt to cover up the accidental murder. The victim’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the police department.
A ‘ghost bike’ memorial at the scene of Milton Olin’s death. Image courtesy of KTLA.com.
It appears corruption still permeates the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. And we’re not talking about protecting violent movie stars, drug-abusing celebrities or Hollywood pedophile rings this time. On December 8, 2013, 65-year-old Napster COO Milton Olin Jr. was killed by LA Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Wood. Records show Deputy Wood and the LA Sheriff’s Sergeant who responded to the scene both lied in police reports in an attempt to hide the officer’s negligence. Neither police officer has been charged or disciplined.
The official story
The official story, sworn to by both Deputy Wood and the LA County Sheriff’s Sergeant that responded to the scene where Napster executive Milton Olin Jr. was killed, goes like this. Deputy Wood was driving away from a school fire he was dispatched to when a fellow officer radioed Wood asking if he needed any assistance at the fire. Using his in-car computer terminal, Wood typed a reply to the other officer letting him know the call at the school was done and there was no need to respond.
In that brief instant, 65-year-old bicyclist Milton Olin Jr. swerved out of the designated bike lane and into the path of the Sheriff Deputy’s squad car. The police car hit Olin at a high speed, tossing his body up and over the automobile. Olin was pronounced dead at the scene. When an LA County Sheriff’s Sergeant responded to the fatal accident, his report says he checked Wood’s personal cell phone as standard procedure to see if he was on the phone at the time of the accident. The Sergeant swore there was no activity on Wood’s personal phone at the time.
As detailed by Business Insider and Yahoo Finance, last week the LA District Attorney announced that no charges would be filed against Deputy Andrew Wood because the officer was carrying out his police duties at the time he killed Milton Olin Jr. Officials confirmed that even though its illegal for motorists to drive and text at the same time, police officers are exempt from that law.
In declining to charge Wood with any wrongdoing, the LA District Attorney announced, “Wood entered the bicycle lane as a result of inattention caused by typing into his MDC. 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.”
The real story and cover-up
In the couple minutes surrounding 1:00pm on December 8, 2013, Deputy Andrew Wood was driving at a high speed and frantically sending personal cell phone text messages to his wife, while also sending personal text messages to another police officer, and also typing responses into his in-car computer terminal. Completely distracted, Deputy Wood didn’t see a soft left turn on the road he was driving and instead he drove straight, right into the bicycle lane where 65-year-old Milton Olin Jr. was riding his bike.
As detailed by local KTLA 5 TV, immediately after the fatal accident, Deputy Wood gave an official statement to responding officers that the bicyclist had suddenly pulled out in front of his squad car and the officer couldn’t stop in time because he was replying to an emergency message on his in-unit computer. The investigating LA County Sheriff Sergeant’s official report shows he checked Wood’s personal cell phone for activity at the time of the crash and found none.
But records obtained from Verizon by a separate LA County Detective show that to be a lie. Deputy Wood had actually spent most of his shift sending and receiving personal text messages, 100 in all over the previous few hours before the deadly crash. The records also showed that Deputy Wood had sent no less than six personal text messages between 1:00-1:05pm - the five minutes surrounding the fatal accident that killed Milton Olin Jr.
Carrying out a separate investigation of the incident, LA County Sheriff’s Detective Russell Townsley wrote, ‘It appears that Deputy Wood may have been distracted by using his cellular telephone or viewing and/or using the Mobile Digital Computer (MDC) in his radio car at the time of the collision.” That conflicts with the responding Sergeant’s report swearing that Wood hadn’t used his personal cell phone at all.
The cover-up by the LA County Sheriff’s Department was exposed further when it was determined that Deputy Andrew Wood had lied in his statements to responding officers. Bicyclist Milton Olin Jr. hadn’t drifted out of the bike lane and into traffic as the officer swore. Instead, the District Attorney's investigation found, “Evidence examined in this investigation shows that this tragic collision occurred as a result of Deputy Wood crossing into the bicycle lane.”
Family and fellow bicyclists outraged
It didn’t take long for the backlash against the LA County Sheriff’s Department to begin. Only moments after the District Attorney announced there would be no charges against Deputy Wood, critics took to social media to accuse the police department of covering up and ignoring crimes by its officers in a never-ending campaign of crooked cops protecting other crooked cops. The victim’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and a number of bicyclist associations condemned the decision.
The report from KTLA 5 quotes Olin family attorney Bruce Broillet responding to the decision not to charge officer Andrew Wood with any wrongdoing. “This accident should have never happened. The negligence of a Sheriff’s Deputy caused this terrible tragedy,” he said in a public statement, “The family is deeply frustrated by the lack of information coming out of the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation…We intend to seek justice for Milton Olin and his loved ones.”
Just last week, a number of Los Angeles-area bicyclist organizations united to hold a memorial ride to honor Milton Olin Jr. and to call on officials to reconsider their decision not to file any charges at all against the Sheriff’s Deputy. Organizing the event were the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Yield to Life, and the Ghost Bike Foundation.