Watch: Person driving injures a biking Real Change vendor, then SPD mocks and blames the victim

This video, posted by Real Change, is enraging. Using body cam footage, the newspaper and Black Fuji Studios pieced together key moments that reveal what appears to be an extremely biased March 2019 investigation by officers who responded to a call for help. I have not reviewed any extra footage, so I can’t report on anything beyond what’s in this Real Change video. But it’s pretty damning.

Witnesses, who happen to be Department of Corrections officers, tell responding SPD officers that the person driving was likely at fault and continued driving even after hitting the man biking on a Sodo street. It’s difficult to piece together the exact circumstances of the collision from the video, though witnesses say the man driving was going fast and should have seen the person on the bike.

But then SPD Officers Hagan, Pitzner and Gore mocked and laughed at the victim because he appeared homeless and tried to find reasons to give the injured man citations. The officers then let the man drive home without a citation. The injured man had to undergo knee surgery and had a fractured rib, injuries the responding officers seemed to find very funny.

“Is he gonna make it?” asked Officer Gore while the man was still in pain on the ground next to them. Gore and several other officers laughed. Is the joke that he’s in pain but not dying? How is that funny?

The officers then joke about wanting to see the video because “it was a good hit,” as one witness put it. This was also considered funny.

Officer Pitzner decided that the injured man needed to be cited for biking without a helmet. Helmet use is required in Seattle, but helmets never cause or prevent collisions. It is irrelevant to finding fault in a collision investigation.

Officer Pitzner then tried to pin a felony theft charge on the injured man by trying to figure out if he stole the Lime e-assist bike he was riding. The officer said the e-bike is worth $2,000, making it a felony if it is stolen. He asked another officer to search the injured man’s phone to see if he unlocked the bike legitimately. Investigating someone for theft based on how they look is a pretty clear case of baised policing. There seems to be no indication that the bike is stolen, and one of the other officers even notes that because the lights are on, it was unlocked properly. These Lime-E bikes must be switched on using the app before the lights and battery-powered motor will function. Simply cutting the lock will not switch them on. But even if it were stolen, theft of a bike is not a contributing factor to a collision.

But most of all, this video shows how stacked the deck is against people who appear to be experiencing homelessness. This person was injured while biking in a part of the city that is lacking safe bike infrastructure, then the responding officers did what they could to not only pin the whole thing on him, but also find more irrelevant charges to tack on.

What you see in this video isn’t justice, and it isn’t public safety.

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12 Responses to Watch: Person driving injures a biking Real Change vendor, then SPD mocks and blames the victim

  1. Jessica says:

    Thank you. So upsetting to see how the officers behaved.

  2. Peri Hartman says:

    I don’t know if it’s “a few bad apples” or a systemic problem. But this exemplifies perfectly why we have so much support for “defund the police.” Have we hit bottom yet ?

  3. Shelly Bowman says:

    Felt like vomiting watching these outrageously horrible officers

  4. CP says:

    When I was hit by a driver on 35th Ave NE in 2019, the police officer I spoke with on the phone first tried to get me to not report it, second, said they were not coming out because they didn’t have the resources since I could limp away (it took me half a year to recover), and finally, never sent me a case number (so it basically doesn’t exist). The driver was able to drive away with enormous dents in her car made by my body, but she was not cited and it was not investigated.

    Years ago, I was struck in the U District by a driver who turned right in front of me. I bounced off his hood and landed 30 feet away against the curb. The driver tried to continue on, leaving me. Fortunately, the bar patrons stopped him. They removed my helmet and dragged me out of the street. They carried me into the bar and the bartender offered to let me use the phone to call someone since my bike was destroyed and I was in no condition to travel.

    When the Seattle Police arrived, I was being treated by EMTs. They ignored witnesses, let the driver leave without a citation, and when I protested, threatened to give me a ticket for leaving the scene (I had been dragged away by witnesses), insinuated I hadn’t been wearing a helmet (it was cracked from the collision), and told me I should be thankful I wasn’t hurt more since I was competing with cars on a busy road (there were no bike lanes).

    These two instances are 20 years apart – SPD hasn’t changed.

  5. Jeremy says:

    I wish this were just a problem with SPD. Unfortunately, there seems to be a society-wide problem. The cyclist is disproportionately found to be at fault – especially if they have little resources to defend themselves.

  6. Shirley says:

    Maybe months before the 2nd Ave. PBL was installed I was walking to Target and witnessed a woman drive into a guy in the paint only lane at 2nd/University St intersection. 1. She wasn’t planning on stopping but did because I started screaming at her to stop and 2. when the police took my statement they tried to make me say he swerved from the “other” bike lane. I didn’t allow them to distort what I saw and he seemed annoyed, like it was a big inconvenience. I guess this guy was also just a big joke to these officers and the witnesses.

  7. Deshawn W. says:

    I don’t get it. The bike dude has stolen the bike and run out on the street, the elderly driver who is 75 yrs old didn’t see him and hit him. And the the shop owners beg the police to help them with the rising crime in the area.
    The video is from the body-cam, shows officers faces and names, blurs the bikers face, and is peppered with snarky comments from the author against the officers.
    If anything, this whole post makes me feel like we are starting to use the same tactics that the right wing propaganda uses. We have to be better than that.
    Last time I got hit by a car doing a left turn I flew over the hood and had bruises all over. I was trying to beat the green light so it wasn’t completely the drivers fault. The police officers immediately took my side and started questioning the driver to a point that I felt bad for the lady. Did that lady post a body-cam video of how unfair the SPD is towards the drivers? She apologized, I apologized we exchanged details and shook hands. Snarky videos and mob mentality comments don’t help at all.

  8. asdf2 says:

    The video was disturbing. Both because of the presumption that when car hits bike, the bike is automatically at fault, and also at the presumption that because the rider was homeless, that the bike was likely stolen.

    Still, it’s hard to tell from a sample of one whether it really is a pervasive problem or just an isolated incident. After all, even if 99% of accidents are investigated fairly, it will be the 1% that isn’t when the video footage is shared all over the internet.

    Then, there’s the question of what would have happened in this situation had the police been defunded. It certainly wouldn’t have prevented the accident. If the responders are still police officers, the victim would have had to wait longer, but the officers’ behavior, once they finally arrived, would have still been the same. And, if the responders aren’t police officers, those responders would still have to be paid for somehow, so the money to “invest in the community” doesn’t actually materialize. And, of course, having no responders at all and simply letting the driver walk away doesn’t help either.

    So, my overall take: Yes, the way the officers behaved is a problem. But, you can’t tell from one video whether or not it’s pervasive. And, even if it is pervasive, it’s not clear that defunding the police actually helps things. Perhaps a better option is to try to break the culture (and the police union) by firing all the officers and carefully building a new police department by rehiring the good ones and recruiting people from outside to fill in the gaps. But, even there, you have to be careful not to have a several-month-long “gap” where the city has no police at all, while the restructure is in progress.

  9. Don Brubeck says:

    Clear evidence of pervasive bias at SPD. What to do about it? Not so easy, because it’s not just SPD. It is the city, county, state and nation. How can this culture be reformed or replaced? It won’t be changed by just transferring crash response to a different department. Who would that department hire? How would they train them to behave differently? How would a citation be given to the driver if the new responders do not have policing authority? How would leadership change? How would the culture be changed?
    This is not a simple matter of revising budgets. There are lots of moves to make, with care.

  10. This is especially ironic considering SPD Officer Gore had a bad bicycle crash on the job not long ago that required surgery. Given that experience, you’d think he would have a little more compassion for fellow fallen cyclists. Apparently not… Very sad to see.

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