Person who hit and killed Caleb Shoop in Kenmore gets $175 ticket

Caleb Shoop. Photo from YouCaring crowdfunding page

Caleb Shoop. Photo from YouCaring crowdfunding page

The person who failed to stop at a Kenmore crosswalk and killed 19-year-old Caleb Shoop in March has been issued a $175 ticket.

“We are shocked at the lack of appropriate consequences for drivers who hit and kill pedestrians/bicyclists while committing traffic infractions,” Caleb’s mother Tammy Shoop wrote in an email to Seattle Bike Blog. She went further in an interview with Bothell/Kenmore Reporter:

“While we recognize that there is nothing that can be done to bring our son back to life, a ticket does not seem to be enough of a penalty to deter a distracted driver from taking another life,” said Tammy Shoop, Caleb’s mother. “We are disappointed that the state considers our son’s life and violent death to be worth only $175.”

A $175 ticket for failure to yield at a crosswalk is the same exact ticket the person driving would have received had he not hit anyone and a police officer pulled him over. Caleb’s family is understandably outraged that the death of their son seems to have little effect on the legal consequences of driving through a crosswalk-in-use.

Caleb, who loved riding his bike, wanted to become a firefighter. An Inglemoor High School graduate, Caleb volunteered for the non-profit Ski For All. Donations were collected for Ski For All in Caleb’s honor after news spread about his passing.

It is not clear why there has not been a citation under Washington’s Vulnerable User Law, which was created for situations almost exactly like this one. Too often, someone’s life is taken or seriously altered due to a non-criminal traffic offense. Indeed, police say there is no evidence of criminal speeding or intoxication in this case.

I have questions out to the King County Sheriff to learn more and will update this story when I hear back.

UPDATE: The Sheriff’s Office said the decision was up to the King County Prosecutor. I also have a question out to them. UPDATE 6/19: I received the following statement from the King County Prosecutor’s Office stating that the decision to pursue a Vulnerable User Charge actually falls to the Kenmore City Attorney: “We reviewed the case for potential felony charges. A charge of vehicular homicide could not be filed because there was no evidence that the truck driver was speeding and there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs. The City of Kenmore would have jurisdiction regarding the filing of an infraction. The case was referred there.” I have a question out to Kenmore and will update when I learn more.

Hopefully it is not too late to pursue the more significant education and financial penalties prescribed by the Vulnerable User Law. There have been issues with pursuing the law since it went into effect.

Caleb’s family at the very least deserves to know that our society does not take Caleb’s death lightly.

Of course, penalties for the person driving are only part of the problem, and the City of Kenmore has taken action to prevent similar collisions in the future. As we reported back in March, the former crosswalk design across 61st Ave NE at NE 190th Street is well known to be dangerous due to the “multiple threat” problem it creates. Basically, this is where one or more cars stop to allow a person to cross a multi-lane street (most commonly in our region it’s a four-lane street), but someone in an adjacent lane does not stop. Here’s an illustration from an SDOT presentation:

NE-75th-Street-July-25-multiple-threatTo the credit of the the City of Kenmore, they have taken action to address this problem by installing new bike lanes and a new center turn lane on 61st Ave NE. This is a quick and smart response from Kenmore, and what I hope is only the beginning of road safety changes there. That would be a powerful legacy for Caleb to leave.

You can get involved in the Kenmore traffic safety efforts by attending a town hall meeting June 24. From Kenmore:

The Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety Ad Hoc Citizen Committee is holding a Town Hall Meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24 at Kenmore City Hall to discuss their progress and to receive input from the community. Hope you will join us.

Here’s an image of the redesigned 61st Ave NE from Kirkland Greenways:

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19 Responses to Person who hit and killed Caleb Shoop in Kenmore gets $175 ticket

  1. meanie says:

    Its legal to kill someone with a car, as a long as you didn’t mean to do it. Until that changes this will keep happening.

  2. JB says:

    Even if a driver can’t be held criminally responsible, when a cyclist or pedestrian is killed there should be a minimum one million dollar fine, payable by the insurance companies, with the proceeds earmarked for bike and pedestrian improvements. $200,000 or more for an injury requiring hospitalization. That would overcome some of the deadly bureaucratic inertia that is keeping these critical infrastructure improvements from being implemented.

  3. Peri Hartman says:

    Isn’t it possible to file a civil suit? While that isn’t up to the state to prosecute, a civil suit could be worth millions. Maybe an attorney can pipe up and answer this.

    • IANAL says:

      This is ‘merica ! of course one can file a civil suit.
      But since “the person” does not seem to have been cited for driving without insurance, it would at least initially just be a fight with the insurance company. And while this person’s insurance rates would go up, presumably a lot, that would be in the future, no reason that anyone in a hurry should bother to stop at cross walk today. Also no one will know about it except “the person” and the lawyers.

      My guess that the reason the driver is identified as “the person” IS because of inevitable civil suits, i.e. not being prejudicial to the heartless coldblooded child killer poor innocent motorist.

  4. Jayne says:

    Disgusting.

  5. Kirk says:

    Outraged.
    Last fall in the New York Times: Is it OK to kill cyclists? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/opinion/sunday/is-it-ok-to-kill-cyclists.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    Posted just today, same story, different city. You can kill anyone you want with your car, as long as you don’t really mean it. http://www.vice.com/read/you-can-kill-anyone-you-want-with-your-car-as-long-as-you-dont-really-mean-it

    Killing anyone with your car really is criminally negligent homicide. Prosecutors think that is too tough of a charge for a driver that “just made a mistake”. Really? If you drive an automobile, you are driving a very deadly weapon. An automobile driver needs to be held accountable for all damages they cause due to negligence. It doesn’t matter whether the driver was under the influence, killing someone with your car is criminally negligent.
    I’m not a lawyer, and I’m sure that our laws don’t allow charging for this, but they should. They really should. They must. The laws need to change. It is not OK to kill people with your car.

  6. BallardCommuter says:

    As a parent, this really makes me sick. I can’t even imagine the pain involved in losing my child, but for that loss to be trivialized with such an inconsequential punishment to the killer would simply be too much. It doesn’t matter if this person meant to kill Caleb – almost certainly they didn’t. But they weren’t fulfilling their duty as a driver to follow the law, and someone died as a result. At the very least, they should never be allowed to get behind the wheel again.

    What options remain here? Who can we contact to express our outrage and disgust at the utter lack of consequences for Caleb’s killer?

  7. JB says:

    Honestly, I come across asshole drivers all the time, who don’t care or don’t understand that there are defenseless human bodies all around them, and even at 10 mph, life and limb are at stake for people who are not inside cars. As far as I’m concerned, they should all have their licenses suspended six months, just for starters. Of course it’s cathartic to express your support for a victim by demanding punishment for a perpetrator, but is punishing a driver who has already killed someone really going to solve this problem in the long run? Set aside the difficulty of proving whether someone is actually responsible, let alone criminally liable under a nagging little document called the U.S. Constitution. The underlying systemic problem here is in the way that transportation dollars and right-of-way space are allocated in this country, and until a lot more people start holding their politicians’ and traffic engineers’ feet to the fire on that issue, not much is going to change. It’s great that Kirkland redesigned the stretch of road where Caleb Shoop died, what about the thousand other dangerous intersections around the region that aren’t likely to be redesigned for another generation. The pace of investment in these repairs must be dramatically accelerated, and not just on band-aid fixes, but on fundamental shifts like cycle tracks and rail transportation.

    • JY says:

      >> but is punishing a driver who has already killed someone really going to solve this problem in the long run?
      Yes.

  8. Matthew Snyder says:

    This is just so damn sad.

    If we can’t apply the Vulnerable User Law in cases like this, then what’s the point of having it at all? Isn’t this a tragic textbook example of what the law was passed for? It’s not an issue of ignorance — certainly the King County Prosecuting Attorney knows about the law, as the office has filed charges under it (but seemingly only under duress) before.

    Tom, please do let us know if you get a response from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office. I’ve written to them several times about other car-on-pedestrian or car-on-cyclist collisions where no charges have been filed, but I have never heard a peep back except for the standard email autoresponder.

  9. jeik says:

    Replace “car” with “gun” in this story, and you get at what the consequences really should be for the driver.

  10. 25 says:

    The best thing to do right now is to make sure that any biker going thru a multiple lane crosswalk is prepared for a car to blow thru the blind spot caused by cars that have legally stopped to allow the biker to cross. This is exactly the same scenario that killed a messenger named yianni phillipedes some years back. We can all be rightously angry at a careless impatient driver who doesn’t put two and two together when he or she sees a car stopped at an intersection, but at the end of the day yianni and this poor fellow Caleb are still dead. My condolences to the family and friends and I can truly feel what you are going thru. If there is any meaning that can come out of this it’s that every bicyclist needs to think defensively. I’ve survived many bicycle accidents and every time it has happened I’ve hoped that I’ve taken a bullet meant for someone else. Stay safe everyone

  11. Jayne says:

    “A charge of vehicular homicide could not be filed because there was no evidence that the truck driver was speeding and there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs. ”
    .
    Not speeding, not high or drunk, but still took another person’s life. Homicide is not speeding. Homicide is not being drunk. Homicide is the taking of another person’s life, in this case using a vehicle to do so. Vehicular homicide, clear cut. The police are in dereliction of duty.

  12. Jessica says:

    Thank you for the reporting & the followup, Tom. I don’t understand why “A charge of vehicular homicide could not be filed because there was no evidence that the truck driver was speeding and there was no evidence of alcohol or drugs.” I’m not clear on the legal definition of vehicular homicide and what it has to do with speeding or alcohol/drugs & I want to hear how Kenmore responds to you on that. I also don’t have a full legal understanding of the vulnerable user law, but my basic understanding is that it should apply to cases like this: the idea should be that even if a driver is otherwise following the law, killing or injuring someone, even accidentally, should inherently result in consequences for the driver.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      This is exactly why the Vulnerable User Law was created. Vehicular Homicide is a Class A felony and has a specific definition for cases of criminal recklessness. The VUL was created to catch those cases where the person responsible’s only mistake was a traffic infraction without any of the criminal elements in the homicide law. Even if prosecutors pursued the homicide charge, there’s not a good chance they’d win.

      The VUL allows for license suspensions, hefty fines, driver education and community service. It’s not a felony, but it’s also much more than a slap on the wrist. We passed it years ago, so there’s no excuse for it to not be used.

      Here’s the WA Vehicular Homicide definition:

      RCW 46.61.520
      Vehicular homicide — Penalty.

      (1) When the death of any person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury proximately caused by the driving of any vehicle by any person, the driver is guilty of vehicular homicide if the driver was operating a motor vehicle:

      (a) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502; or

      (b) In a reckless manner; or

      (c) With disregard for the safety of others.

      • Peri Hartman says:

        So, it sounds like the charges should be appealed by a higher jurisdiction. How does that work; who initiates such an appeal?

      • Kirk says:

        (c) With disregard for the safety of others.

        The murdered cyclist was in a crosswalk. I would say his safety was disregarded by the murderer.

    • IANAL says:

      “(c) With disregard for the safety of others.”

      Maybe it’s just me, but not yielding at a cross walk sound’s like prima facie “disregard for safety…”

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