After slamming on his car brakes in front of two cyclists riding down a narrow stretch of Mandeville Canyon Road and injuring them, Christopher Thomas Thompson gave police the impression that the incident this summer was no accident.
The 59-year-old physician said he stopped his red Infiniti sedan in front of the cyclists to "teach them a lesson," a police officer testified Thursday at Thompson's preliminary hearing.
Thompson complained that cyclists frequently traveled down the residential street in Brentwood and that he was "tired of them," Los Angeles Police Officer Robert Rodriguez said.
After testimony from Rodriguez and two cyclists who were alleged to have been involved in separate confrontations with the doctor, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Amy. D. Hogue ordered that Thompson stand trial. He faces one felony count of reckless driving causing injury and two felony counts of battery with serious injury in the July 4 incident. He also faces one count of misdemeanor reckless driving causing injury in an incident with another cyclist on the same road in March.
Thompson, his brown hair graying and wearing a dark pinstripe suit, did not speak during the hearing at the airport branch courtroom, which several cyclists attended.
The incidents involving Thompson have outraged cyclists and underscored tension between them and motorists on the Brentwood road. In both cases, prosecutor Mary Stone alleged that Thompson slammed on the brakes of his car in front of two cyclists riding down the road. In July, the impact flung one cyclist through the car's rear window and the other to the pavement.
Ron Peterson, 40, broke his front teeth and nose; cuts left scars on his chin, above his upper lip and across the bridge of his nose. The other cyclist, Christian Stoehr, 29, had a separated shoulder that led to surgery, the insertion of metal implants and chronic arthritis and soreness, his doctor told police.
Peterson testified Thursday that he and Stoehr were riding side by side toward Sunset Boulevard about 30 mph. After a car honked behind them, Peterson said, he pulled in front of Stoehr. The car passed them, missing his handlebars by less than a foot, he said.
Peterson said Thompson yelled for the pair to "ride single-file." Peterson said he screamed an expletive at Thompson, who then swerved in front of the cyclists and "slammed on the brakes" to a complete stop.
In a split second, Peterson said, he crashed through the car window and was "bleeding profusely, laying on the trunk."
Four months earlier, another cyclist got into a scuffle with Thompson, the prosecutor alleged.
Patrick Watson testified that he and a friend were cycling down Mandeville Canyon Road in March when they heard a fast-approaching car behind them. Watson said he moved in front of his friend to get out of the way.
"The car was so close to me I had to jump the curb. I thought it was going to hit me."
Watson said he veered back onto the road to avoid a drain, and then the car's driver "slammed on his brakes . . . directly in front" of him and his friend. Both cyclists avoided running into the car.
Watson said his friend hit the car with his fist and yelled for the driver to get out. The car instead "came right at me," Watson said. Watson said he took down the car's license plate number before the driver, whom he identified in court as Thompson, took off. He sent an e-mail to his cycling group, cautioning members to beware of the driver.
Peter Swarth, Thompson's attorney, said that the incidents were an "unfortunate accident" and not a case of "road rage," as some have suggested.
"There is a whole other side to the story that will be brought out in trial," he said. "There is much, much more, and it will be developed in court."
Thompson remained free on bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 15. If convicted on all counts, he faces four to five years in state prison, authorities said.
Lin is a Times staff writer.