Driver arrested in death of cyclist Manslaughter charge to be filed against man in big rig By Kim Vo and Putsata Reang, Mercury News San Jose Mercury News | Tuesday, 06-Feb-2001 In a bittersweet victory for the bicycle community, a truck driver will be arraigned this morning on involuntary manslaughter charges in the November death of cyclist Chris Robertson. The cyclists have been lobbying authorities for three months to bring formal charges in Robertson's death. Truck driver Reuben Espinoza, 42, was arrested Monday morning at his job, Roadway Express, said Fred Gardner, spokesman for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office. He will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, assault with intent to commit great bodily harm and assault with a deadly weapon. Espinoza is being held on $2 million bail. If convicted, it would be his third strike, triggering an automatic 25 years to life sentence, according to sources close to the investigation. Eric Murphy, a friend of Robertson's who kept pressure on the district attorney, isn't completely satisfied with the decision. He was hoping for a second-degree murder charge. ``If this guy pointed a gun at Chris' head, there is no doubt what the charges'' would be, Murphy said. Thomas Miller, a bike messenger who witnessed Robertson's death, said he'll wait until a conviction before celebrating. ``It doesn't mean anything,'' he said. ``It's not over.'' Robertson died Nov. 17 near China Basin as he and 30 others rode in tribute to a friend, a bike messenger, who was killed outside his Mission district apartment. Espinoza, apparently irritated by the slow-moving procession, allegedly threw a wooden block at Robertson. Robertson, 30, was then hit by the big rig and killed. Espinoza was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter. He was then freed on $15,000 bail. After Robertson's death, the bicycle community staged a rally urging prosecutors to treat the death as an intentional act. Under the law, manslaughter is unintentional. Members of the bicycle community also phoned regularly to see how the case was progressing and urged any witnesses to call the district attorney. One of those witnesses, who simply goes by the name Wayne, proclaimed Monday: ``I'm a happy man.'' Wayne met Robertson about six years ago when they worked for Lightning, a bike messenger service. He had been frustrated by the investigation's slow pace. ``In my mind it was black and white. The guy used his truck as a weapon, like a guy would use a knife or a club,'' he said. Gardner said it was a ``very complicated investigation.'' Witnesses had to be re-interviewed and the crime scene was re-created. The bike community had already planned another rally for Feb. 12, frustrated that the investigation had already taken three months. They accused the district attorney's office of purposefully drawing it out so that the public would forget about the case, said Leah Shahum, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Shahum was relieved that the office filed charges at all. Many cyclists were worried that Espinoza somehow would not be punished for Robertson's death, she said. Despite Monday's arrest, next week's rally will continue but with a slightly different focus. Now, in addition to supporting the district attorney's move, bicyclists will urge that bicycle deaths and road rage be taken as seriously as other crimes. ``It should not have taken this Herculean grass-roots effort to get charges filed,'' Murphy said. ________________________________________________________________ Contact Kim Vo at email@example.com or 415/477-2518. Contact Putsata Reang at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415/477-2882.
Fair Use Notice