Driver arrested in death of cyclist

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

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

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

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

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 or 415/477-2518.
Contact Putsata Reang at or 415/477-2882.

Fair Use Notice