LOCAL

Deputy was texting before he hit, killed cycling Napster executive

Highway and Road DisastersPedestrian and Cyclist DisastersCrimeLaw EnforcementNapster Inc.UC Santa Barbara
Verizon Wireless records show deputy sent 6 text messages in the moments leading up to a fatal collision
Milton Olin Jr.'s family hopes wrongful death lawsuit will help clear up how he died on Mulholland Drive
Lawyer for cyclist's family says Sheriff's Department has denied access to accident vehicle and data

When a Los Angeles County sheriff's investigator began looking into the fatal bike accident on Mulholland Drive, one of the things he said he did was inspect the cellphone of the deputy who had slammed into the cyclist.

It showed little of interest, court documents show — no history that it had been used for a phone call or text message in the minutes before the accident.

But another detective looking into the Dec. 8, 2013, accident was unconvinced and requested a search warrant for Deputy Andrew Francis Wood's cellphone records. The accident, he wrote in his request, had the telltale signs of distracted driving.

"It appears that Deputy Wood may have been distracted by using his cellular telephone or viewing and/or using the Mobile Digital Computer (MDC) in his radio car at the time of the collision," Det. Russell A. Townsley wrote in his request.

When the packet of information from Verizon Wireless arrived, it showed that Wood had sent six text messages in the moments leading up to the collision, according to court records.

It's been almost eight months since former Napster executive Milton Olin Jr. was killed as he rode his Cervelo R3 mountain bike along a winding stretch of Mulholland, hit from behind by the patrol car.

The deputy has since returned to active duty, though he is no longer doing patrol work. The sheriff's investigation into the accident has been concluded and forwarded to the district attorney for review.

But for the family of the 65-year-old entertainment attorney and executive, answers remain elusive.

"Losing a loved one is never easy, but when it happens catastrophically it is difficult to get a sense of closure," said Chris Olin, one of Olin's two grown children. "We're still grieving and struggling."

Olin, a Vietnam veteran who attended UC Santa Barbara and went to law school at UCLA, was an outdoor enthusiast and ardent cyclist who was familiar with the twists and turns on Mulholland.

The family has now filed a wrongful death suit and is hopeful the discovery process, when reports and evidence can be obtained, will yield a clearer picture of what happened that December afternoon.

Police reports say Olin was struck from behind with enough force that it projected him into the air. He landed in a heap on the road behind the patrol car, authorities said.

Witnesses told investigators that the deputy had failed to negotiate the curve on Mulholland and drove straight into the bike. There was no indication the patrolman ever hit his brakes before colliding with the bike, they said.

The coroner's office determined that Olin died of blunt-force trauma.

Bruce Broillet, the family's attorney, said the Sheriff's Department had denied them access to the vehicle, the download from the patrol car's black box and measurements taken at the accident site.

"This is really a straightforward incident; this is not a nine-car collision that occurred over the course of miles," Broillet said. "This is taking too long."

The Sheriff's Department traffic services detail conducted the investigation into the incident, as it does for all on-duty traffic-related incidents that result in death or injury, said Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

The investigation took approximately four and a half months and was presented to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office on May 14. Nishida declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation.

"You can draw your own conclusions as to whether there's something the matter with the Sheriff's Department investigating itself," Broillet said.

"But," he added, "the bottom line is, we want to get all the evidence."

debbie.truong@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Highway and Road DisastersPedestrian and Cyclist DisastersCrimeLaw EnforcementNapster Inc.UC Santa Barbara
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