Mother of Caleb Shoop: ‘Our son’s death warrants a just outcome’

Caleb Shoop

Caleb Shoop

Tammy Shoop and her husband Ben have had to go through the worst that parents can experience: Their son Caleb was killed while biking in a Kenmore crosswalk in March. He was only 19.

There will be a memorial walk for Caleb September 17, planned in part by Kirkland Greenways and Lake City Greenways. Meet 5 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer at 62nd Ave NE and NE 182nd Street. (UPDATE: More details via FB)

But their grief was compounded by an insult from the City of Kenmore and King County, who gave a mere $175 traffic ticket to Joshua Tucker, the person who failed to yield and struck Caleb. Despite the fact that Tucker’s negligent traffic error caused Caleb’s death, the City of Kenmore would not pursue the 2nd degree negligent driving charges created by the state’s Vulnerable User Law.

“We have never meant the driver any harm, but feel our son’s death warrants a just outcome,” Tammy wrote in a recent letter on the Cascade Bicycle Club website. The negligent driving charge is not a felony, but it would have come with a possible license suspension, hefty fines, community service and/or education. It’s nothing compared to losing a son, but it is much more significant and could put the person responsible on the path to making amends to society as best they can.

You must read Tammy’s whole letter. Here’s an excerpt:

I would love to have been able to say that in the aftermath of this tragedy, grief was our only chore. Instead, we found ourselves galvanized into action with the rest of our community to improve safety in our city; wondered how we would pay the medical bills not covered by the driver’s minimal insurance policy; struggled to go back to work and care for our traumatized children; and waited to find out the outcome of his legal case. Months passed, and finally the verdict was out, the driver was fined only $175 dollars for failure to stop at a crosswalk. Case closed.

We were heartbroken. We have never meant the driver any harm, but feel our son’s death warrants a just outcome.  We reached out to the community for answers as to why the Vulnerable User Law had not been used in his case. His case was reviewed by lawyers who stated it met the statute. We met with the city of Kenmore who decided that since the driver did not see Caleb on the crosswalk (because his view was blocked by the other cars stopped at the crosswalk for Caleb) it did not constitute negligence. There will never be justice for Caleb.

In addition to the memorial ride, there are also efforts to help communities properly understand how to use the Vulnerable User Law.

“Cascade is working with Washington Bikes, John Duggan, State Senator Adam Kline and others to educate city and county prosecuting attorneys and police officers about the Vulnerable User Law and when and how to apply [the Vulnerable User Law],” according to Cascade’s Brock Howell.

And efforts continue to make streets in Kenmore safer for people biking and walking so no more families go through what the Shoop family has. There is a lot of work left to do.

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11 Responses to Mother of Caleb Shoop: ‘Our son’s death warrants a just outcome’

  1. Richard says:

    The sad thing, to me, is… all the efforts cascades proposes focus on education (of law enforcement, prosecutors, etc)… And that’s probably the best thing available. But I can’t see how it would help. Given the extreme media focus on this case, given the numerous people that gave this guys documentation showing how the law should apply here, given everything, there is no real, feasible way that the Kenmore prosecutor decided to refuse to apply the vulnerable user law out of ignorance. He could only have made an informed, conscious decision not to apply it here, and given that it certainly does apply, I can only assume it must have been out of some twisted, misguided sympathy or feeling of being able to relate to the driver.

    When our officials obstinately refuse to enforce the laws, what options are really available to us? So much of the general populous feels this same sympathy (how many times have we all read this same “accidents happen”/”we all make mistakes”/etc. b.s.)… It sometimes feels like the rest of the world says, “If you’re not in a car, your life is of lesser value.”

    It’s baffling and frustrating that so many people are willing to discount the value of lives in sympathy for those whose refusal to comply with law result in the deaths of innocents.

    Sorry for the rant.

    • Matthew Snyder says:

      Richard, I agree with you that it’s more than just a matter of educating the Kenmore Prosecuting Attorney, who was definitely aware of the Vulnerable User Law and decided it did not apply in this case. I’d encourage you to (politely) express your opinions directly to the Kenmore Prosecuting Attorney (address below), and to explain that there is no reasonable definition of “negligence” that does not include the actions of Joshua Tucker when he struck and killed Caleb Shoop.

      Sarah Roberts
      Moberly & Roberts, PLLC
      12040 98th Ave NE, #101
      Kirkland, WA 98034

      • Al Dimond says:

        Surely this is an appointed position, ‘eh? Could pressure be put on the elected officials responsible for appointments?

      • Matthew Snyder says:

        Roberts’ services are contracted by the City of Kenmore for $123,624 per year. This contract expires at the end of 2014.

        Residents of Kenmore should demand more from their Prosecuting Attorney.

  2. Mark in Kenmore says:

    As it happens, the Kenmore Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety Committee just presented our recommendations to the city council on Monday. The committee (which I was on) was formed in response to several incidents, including this one.

    There have been several changes already made, most notably, 61st has been given a road diet (not for the entire length of the street however). We hope our recommendations continue to make positive changes for the community. Some of our recommendations, specific to bicycles, are more bike lanes, more secure bike storage and bike racks at local businesses, keeping bikeways and sight-lines clear of vegetation, parked cars & other obstacles, and long-term, getting a grade-separated pedestrian & bike crossing for 522.

    Of course, our work only goes so far. We need to make it easier to get from place to place without a car in Kenmore (and indeed the entire region). It’s going to take a lot more than bike lanes & sidewalks to get people living the middle of a forest of cul-de-sacs to choose not to drive. There have to be useful destinations and transit stops within walking and biking distance. Unfortunately, that’s going to take a lot more time and willpower. But I think we can do it. I’m in Kenmore for the long-haul so I’m definitely going to continue to be involved.

    We can stop death by car. Awful incidents like this are preventable.

  3. Kirk says:

    Does anyone know if the driver that ran a red light (oh, the sun was in my eyes) in Fremont and hit a child last week will face the Vulnerable User Law? Or will she just get a ticket for running a red light.

    • Breadbaker says:

      If you’re referring to this incident: http://www.wallyhood.org/2014/09/child-hit-by-car/ (which was in Wallingford, not Fremont, literally next door to my house), the police had crime scene tape up all over the entire intersection and were using some sophisticated equipment to take photographs for a couple of hours after it occurred (and they knew it was not a fatality). I don’t know what they’re going to do, but that’s not the usual MO for a traffic ticket.

  4. Becky says:

    I have no words for my sadness and anger about this.

  5. Stardent says:

    I am not a lawyer but I wonder if the city or the county can be sued on the grounds that they essentially have declared crosswalks as unsafe for pedestrians and others. When there is no deterrence to driving through crosswalks without paying attention, crosswalks have no meaning. In addition to financial compensation, the city ought to be putting speed bumps on either side of crosswalks.

  6. Tom Fucoloro says:

    If you want to RSVP to the memorial walk/ride via facebook or spread the word to your friends, here’s the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/598902430231497/

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