Recent traffic violence: Man killed walking to work downtown, Puyallup pastor injured biking to help homeless + more

The crisis of traffic violence in our region continues to maim and kill our neighbors, coworkers and loved ones. Here’s a quick and sadly far-from-complete look at some recent tragedies. Sadly, every victim in this post is over the age of 60, furthering the terrible rule that traffic violence impacts seniors disproportionately.

Every one of these victims have families and friends who love them, and even those not killed have long, tough recoveries ahead of them. The fact that this post only scrapes the surface of all the traffic injuries and deaths in the area shows just how much of a public health crisis traffic violence is.

Man killed walking to job as nighttime janitor in downtown Seattle

Screenshot from the Seattle Times. Click to read.

Screenshot from the Seattle Times. Click to read.

Leo Almanzor was walking to his night shift as a janitor at Washington Athletic Club November 22 when a person apparently fleeing a traffic stop struck and killed him. The person responsible fled the scene.

Our condolences to his friends and family.

It’s not yet clear whether Almanzor was in a crosswalk or on the sidewalk when he was killed. Police told his family the person driving ran a red light, but a witness said the car went up onto the sidewalk at one point. But either way, a “a very selfless man” who was “dedicated and giving” is now dead.

“The family is frustrated at this point, because whoever this person is who took his life, took so much from us,” Almanzor’s niece Cat Kalepo told the Seattle Times.

Police have recovered the vehicle, but no arrests have been made. More details from the Seattle Times:

Almanzor, 68, had just taken a bus downtown from his home in the Columbia City neighborhood and likely had stopped for a cup of coffee just before his 9:30 p.m. shift at the Washington Athletic Club, a job he had held for 17 years, according to his niece, Cat Kalepo.

At about the same time, police were trying to to pull over a Honda sedan on Fifth Avenue, but the car sped off and hit Almanzor, said Seattle Police spokesman Drew Fowler.

Almanzor died from blunt-force injuries two days later at Harborview Medical Center, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Puyallup pastor critically injured while biking near the fair grounds

A Puyallup pastor Eric Renz was critically injured when an allegedly impaired woman blew a stop sign and hit him while he was biking near the fairgrounds.

Kallie James has been charged with vehicular assault and held on $250,000 bail. Police say she was clearly intoxicated, and she told police she could not feel the pedals, according to charging documents.

KOMO reports that Renz had just finished preparing food at one homeless services location and was biking to another to help out there when James struck him. His injuries were severe, and he was put on a ventilator at St Joseph’s Hospital.

More details on the case against James from court documents:

4370285443702854-2Renz recently ran as a Democrat for a seat in the Washington State House of Representatives, but lost to the Republican incumbent Hans Zeiger. When asked whether he would support an increase in the gas tax, Renz told the News Tribune yes, and that the funds should go towards increasing transit and biking projects:

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.31.33 AM

Man critically injured while biking in Monroe

Image from Monroe PD

Image from Monroe PD

A man biking on SR 2 near the interchange with Hwy 522 in Monroe was struck and critically injured Wedensday morning.

Richard Pratt, 63, was biking in the right lane when a 19-year-old driving a pickup apparently tried to merge and struck him KIRO TV reports.

Police are seeking more information. If you or anyone you know witnessed it, call 360-794-6300 or the department’s tip line at 360-863-4600.

Woman walking killed by person driving with ice-covered windows in Bellevue

A 77-year-old woman walking in Bellevue was struck and killed Monday by an 18-year-old man driving with icy car windows.

A second person may have struck her while she was on the ground after going around the 18-year-old’s stopped Jeep, then merging back into the right lane where she was lying in the street. The second suspect did not stop, but was later located.

Our condolences to her friends and family.

Even though the person driving who struck her chose to drive with icy windows and not properly look to people walking before making a turn, Bellevue PD’s Seth Tyler still went out of his way to place blame on the victim by telling KOMO her dark clothing was a possible factor in her being killed:

Police are still investigating the crash, but said Monday evening it appears icy car windows that were not fully defrosted and failing to look right for pedestrians were factors in the crash. The accident happened as the Jeep driver was making a right-hand turn onto 150th Avenue.

Tyler said the victim’s dark clothing may also have been a factor in the pre-dawn crash.

This is disgusting, victim-blaming behavior from Tyler and Bellevue PD. Walking while wearing dark-colors is not a crime.

UPDATE: Tyler left a comment on this story explaining why he mentioned the dark clothing. Read it here.

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18 Responses to Recent traffic violence: Man killed walking to work downtown, Puyallup pastor injured biking to help homeless + more

  1. Cheif says:

    It’s time to start charging these people with murder. Stories like a kid driving around with icy windows (the equivalent of driving with your eyes glued shut) are no different than if he had gone into a mall and started shooting people at random. The complacency with which society views this plague as a necessary evil is nothing short of mass hysteria.

    • Adam says:

      “Stories like a kid driving around with icy windows (the equivalent of driving with your eyes glued shut) are no different than if he had gone into a mall and started shooting people at random.”

      I have to strongly disagree with that statement. Walking into a mall with a gun and pre-meditated thoughts of killing people is not the same as being perhaps lazy and thinking “meh, I’ll probably be fine” and not scraping ice off your windshield. Come on. I will agree with a sentiment that people have a large disconnect from the outside world and a sense of invincibility when they’re in their cars.

    • Dave says:

      Bravo, sir!

  2. Chris Burke says:

    “Tyler said the victim’s dark clothing may also have been a factor in the pre-dawn crash.”

    “This is disgusting, victim-blaming behavior from Tyler and Bellevue PD. Walking while wearing dark-colors is not a crime.”

    This is harsh. No one is saying it’s a crime to wear dark colors. But it’s not a good idea to walk at night wearing only dark colors–I thought everybody agreed on that. The Bellevue PD officer merely stated it could have been a factor. Is that really so outlandish or offensive? I drive, bike, and walk. When doing the latter two I make sure I am totally visible to drivers. When I drive I often barely see people who are wearing only dark clothes.

    • Richard says:

      No, it’s not harsh at all. Victim blaming is all about context. The officer clearly indicated that some of the responsibility for the accident was hers, when the law, common sense, and any objective evaluation could not possibly come to that conclusion.

      To say, “Pedestrians, you might consider wearing bright clothing; While responsibility for stopping still resides with the motorist, it doesn’t hurt to make it easier on them,” is completely fair and reasonable. But to respond to a situation in which one guy was grossly negligent in his driving, another willfully violated multiple laws, and the lady was “wearing dark clothing” in a brightly lit crosswalk by referencing them as a factor? It’s apologist victim blaming, and it’s a disgusting symptom of society’s refusal to accept the fact that operating a motor vehicle is difficult, dangerous, and the operator is at risk for HUGE liability every time they sit behind the wheel.

      Until society can accept that fact, vision zero can not be achieved.

    • Josh says:

      They’re not saying it’s a crime, but they sure missed an opportunity to remind drivers that they have a legal obligation to drive slowly and observantly enough to avoid running into pedestrians wearing dark clothing while crossing the street.

      Phrasing and context are as important as the facts — they could have said, “It’s possible the driver wasn’t attentive enough to see the victim’s dark clothing in time to avoid a collision.” That makes it clear the fault would be with the driver if in fact dark clothing was a contributing factor.

      RCW 46.61.400
      Basic rule and maximum limits.

      (1) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. In every event speed shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.

      • Josh says:

        “They” in this case being the reporters who paraphrased the police, I suspect. Most reporters are drivers and write from a driver’s perspective.

        Many drivers actually believe that wearing dark clothing is negligent behavior, and think that a posted speed limit allows them to drive faster than they can really see and avoid pedestrians.

        It doesn’t matter if the speed limit is 20 or 50, if you’re a driver approaching a crosswalk, you have a legal duty of continuous observation, and an obligation to control your speed so that you are able stop for anyone legally in the roadway. Even if they’re wearing dark clothing.

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    You know what’s truly amazing about the Bellevue PD dark clothing comments? Go look at the KOMO aerial shots of the intersection. Notice the gas station? Lit up light a christmas tree, isn’t it? Now look at the intersection itself. There’s a streetlight at every corner, but they’re clearly not very bright, and they’re illuminating the corners rather than the street itself.

    We wouldn’t want people to not be able to see their gas tank cap. But crossing the street? Wear your dayglo, citizens!

  4. Seth says:

    The comments I made indicated that the dark clothing of the pedestrian may have been a factor in this tragedy. I was putting out accurate, timely information that we had at the time, making clear that the investigation was still open and we were still gathering evidence. The quote was then paraphrased by a media outlet. The officers investigating this tragic crash have over 50 years in combined experience in investigating serious injury and fatal collisions. It is not our role as law enforcement to assign blame or fault; that is the responsibility of prosecutors and ultimately our criminal justice system. The role of law enforcement in this case is to collect facts and evidence. In any serious crash, or major disaster for that matter, there are usually not one or two but many factors involved, each contributing to some degree to the end result. This case is no different. We compile all of the evidence and present that evidence to the prosecutor for consideration of criminal charges. The fact that the pedestrian had a dark coat on IS relevant information in making that determination and is an observable fact, therefore it is a detail that will be included in our final report. Also included in the report will be the fact that the driver in this incident failed to look right when turning, and also failed to properly defrost his windows. The statement I made was in no way intended to blame the victim pedestrian, Washington law requires drivers to drive in a manner that is safe, having consideration for all road users, including pedestrians and bicycles. I reiterated to media onscene the fact that drivers need to look right for pedestrians when making right turns and also properly defrost windows on cold winter days, however I have no control over what is actually reported by media outlets.

    The Bellevue Police Department takes bicycle and pedestrian safety seriously; our traffic officers conduct crosswalk enforcement operations frequently to cite motorists that fail to stop for pedestrians, and collisions in Bellevue are among the lowest in the region, due in no small part to our emphasis on education and enforcement. There was a mention about making roadway engineering improvements to better accommodate a variety of roadway users, including pedestrians and bicyclists. On that note, the city is considering the rechanneling of 116th Avenue Northeast, from Northeast 12th Street to Northup Way, to better address the range of user needs. The proposal involves removing one of the two northbound through lanes. The final configuration would include bike lanes on both sides of the street and a three-lane roadway. This configuration would improve cyclist and pedestrian safety. Come learn more about this proposal at an open house on Thursday, December 11, 5-6:30 p.m., at Bellevue City Hall, Room 1E-112.

    We welcome comments and dialogue with those that are concerned with this important issue. Follow us on Twitter @bvuepd or our Facebook page.

    Respectfully,
    Officer Seth Tyler
    Public Information Officer
    Bellevue Police Department

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Thanks for responding and engaging, Seth. I hope that the conversation here and on Twitter helps the department choose language that does not appear to imply fault on the victim’s part, even if that was not your intention.

    • Richard says:

      That you examine every possible factor is certainly commendable, but a police officer stating to the media that “dark clothing” is “a factor” when a pedestrian legally crossing the street is struck by multiple vehicles, with each driver violating multiple laws, conveys the impression that this makes her in part responsible – Is that really your intent? “A factor”, when discussing a fatal crash, is almost ubiquitously understood as meaning “something someone did wrong that led to the crash,” – otherwise why highlight it? For example, the involved vehicles also weighed several thousand pounds, and that’s most certainly “a factor”, much moreso than the victim’s clothing in fact – Highlighting the clothing in this context just reinforces the idea that this pedestrian did something *wrong*.

      That’s especially frustrating when so many already hold the perspective that pedestrians struck in crosswalks are often at fault. Look to any documented discussion about these incidents (blogs, news comments, etc) and it won’t be difficult to find numerous victim blaming comments – and when the police department makes statements to support this perspective, it exacerbates the issue.

      Should pedestrians be expected/required to wear bright clothing any time they cross a street after dark? What about citizens that have to wear dark uniforms to work, should they not expect to feel safe when crossing the street, in spite of the letter of the law setting that expectation? There are plenty of examples – waiters, hotel staff, police officers…

      If the police publicly support the perspectives that facilitate victim blaming, public perception will be much more antagonistic toward the changes we need to improve pedestrian safety as a society and as a city that much more difficult – and people are already dying.

      Thank you for taking the time to respond to this blog, and for considering our feedback. From your statement it does sound like the media cherry picked snippets of your statement to support the victim blaming perspective, but on the other hand, I really think even calling dark clothing a factor to the on-the-scene media made that twist far too easy for them. I know it probably seems like this entire issue is nitpicky and overblown, but the public’s perception of how the police perceive these incidents are a major factor in what motorists consider themselves responsible for – if you give the impression that dark clothing is an excuse, it reduces the incentive for caution and respect when crossing crosswalks at night.

      • user x says:

        I appreciate you joining the conversation as well, however, I’m also in agreement that the color of the victims clothing should not been brought up to the press. Until the law is changed to dictate what I am legally allowed to wear when I’m not operating my motor vehicle, i don’t consider my choice in clothing, as a free citizen of this country, a “factor” when I am otherwise in complete accordance with the law. I dare you to take an evening, plan a route, and walk through your fine city, in the dark, in plain clothes, using the facilities provided for pediestrians as you are legally alowed to do. From one side of Bellevue to the other, crossing as many streets as you can and then come back here and we can have a conversation about factors.

      • Josh says:

        The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has, for decades, looked into contributing factors for accidents, not to place blame, but to equip future riders to avoid repeats of tragedies. I think it’s valuable to make the same insights into pedestrian and bicycle collisions, provided there’s proper context.

        In this case, the necessary context could be something like, “We know many motorists routinely flout the Basic Speed Rule, drive distracted, and fail to clear their windows. These reckless behaviors often lead to collisions when drivers fail to see people or other vehicles. Pedestrians can help defend themselves from these scofflaw drivers by making themselves more conspicuous… “

  5. Dave says:

    Time to try fighting crime with crime–legalize automobile theft and vandalism until such time as there is one full calendar year in the state of Washington with ZERO hit and runs.
    Cut the crap, damnit.

    • Billy Goat Gruff says:

      That’s just silly, that would be even less effective than [tacitly] legalizing running over pedestrians until pedestrians learn to yield to cars.

  6. Brandon Blake says:

    My thoughts are with the victims families and loved ones. Each case is so tragic. Lives extinguished. When will it end (the selfishness behind the wheel)?

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