Erlin Garcia-Reyes was sentenced to 41 months in prison today, the maximum penalty for felony hit and run. He pleaded guilty last month to striking Mike Wang in the Dexter bike lane and killing him just over one year ago.
Claire Allen, Wang’s widow, sent us the powerful letter she wrote to the sentencing judge:
A year ago Erlin Garcia-Reyes hit my husband, Michael Wang. Michael was thrown from his bike to the street under Garcia-Reyes’ car. In driving away from the scene Garcia-Reyes drove over my husband, crushing his chest and killing him. It may be that Mr Garcia-Reyes believes he’s made it up to us by finally confessing to his crime, a year late. But it was his decision to run away from the scene that drove his car over Michael’s chest. And so to hit and run in this case was to kill by running. And confessing doesn’t change that.
I know that Garcia-Reyes has not been arrested for this before. But once is enough.
Once was enough for me to sit in Harborview with my children and hear the weeping doctor say that my husband was dead. Once was enough for us to see his corpse, so clearly him and already, frighteningly, not him. When we got home (how did we even get home?) once was enough for my young son to ask, “So the guy that hit him just drove away? You can do that?” Once was enough for my young daughter to ask if Daddy was coming home. Once should have been enough for me to sleep without the man I’ve loved for 22 years. For me to look at the door at 4:35 every day and then remember he wouldn’t ever come home again. For me to sit at my kitchen table surrounded by bills late at night, trying to figure out how we would live without my husband’s income. For my father-in-law to come to me weeping, asking how he could go on believing in justice. For my children to mutely slam doors, cry over nothing, rage over a broken pencil, be asked by their young friends what it is like to have a dead father.
But once isn’t how often those things happen. They happen all the time. The world for us is divided now into Before and After. Michael was 44 years old. We’ll never hear Michael laugh again, never know pure happiness again.
I do not ask for our lives to be mended. I do not ask for justice, for in a just world Michael would not have been killed. But his killer can be punished. To calculate punishment, you take into account how many times the criminal has been convicted for this sort of crime. Erlin Garcia-Reyes killed my husband once, he drove his car over my husband’s chest in order to run away once. Once is too many times. And once is enough for the full punishment permissible by law.
Very moving. Thank you, Claire, for your expressions.
I want to honor Claire Allen’s willingness to share her ongoing horror with Seattle Bike Blog. Her powerful words show that there is no resolution to a crime like this. Mike Wang’s death activated my involvement with the Seattle bike movement, and I think of him often when I bike around town. I’m so, so sorry for the pain his family continues to suffer. Thank you, Claire.
Thank you for sharing this. It is heart felt and I’m at a loss for many words, except for frustration at the situation.
I wish Claire the best in living life, I can only imagine how hard it is. :(
I wish the maximum penalty for felony hit and run were higher, because 41 months doesn’t seem to be enough of a deterrent.
“Cars don’t expect to see bicyclists”…Really? In the bike lane? This is a baby step for justice but it’s better than a $42 dollar ticket. I will feel the tiniest bit safer if drivers know they will actually do time for killing people on bikes.
My heart goes out to the Wang family.
She said it well. And 41 months is not enough for the crime. That maximum is low enough to encourage others to run rather than face justice.
Claire, you have made a beautiful, bold and powerful statement to our community. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May you and your children be blessed many times over with everything the Universe has to offer. So very sorry that cannot include the presence of Mike in your lives.
Claire, I so appreciate your words and action in asking for the maximum sentence. I’ve been thinking about you and your family and hoping the perpetrator of this crime would be caught. I am relieved at the sentence Garcia-Reyes received and I agree with many here that it is not enough. I wish you profound healing and a belief that you and your family indeed can find pure joy in your precious life.
Very moving, and courageous to share that. Thank you.
The hope here is that the next motorist to strike a bicyclist will pause and think “is running away from this something I can get away with?” and answer “no, that could ruin my life and the lives of my own family.” Some people don’t have the impulse to do the right thing- for them, we need the criminal justice system.
We all owe a debt to the Taiwanese Association who saw that the trajectory of this case was not towards justice and put the resources together to say that “this will not stand.” Very classy.
I had no idea that this guy drove over Mike while trying to escape. Why was he not charged with vehicular homicide? So sad.
I read Mike’s story and I am so sorry for his wife and kids. I, too was hit on my bicycle and left for dead with a broken neck and head injuries by an unspeakable coward.