San Francisco Bike Coalition enraged over cyclist's death DA is pressured to file murder charges against driver By Alexis Chiu, Mercury News The Mercury News | Front Page | Tuesday, 28-Nov-2000 10:45 p.m. PST After a truck ran over and killed a bicyclist in front of dozens of fellow riders, members of San Francisco's bicycle community have been turning up the pressure on authorities to charge the driver with murder. Chris Robertson, 30, was hit near China Basin the night of Nov. 17 as he rode with 20 to 40 other cyclists. The group was leaving the wake of a bike messenger who was slain in his Mission District apartment, police said. No charges have been filed against the driver. The district attorney's office said 42-year-old Reuben Espinoza of San Francisco was arrested and booked on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter the night Robertson was killed. He is free on $15,000 bail. Under the law, vehicular manslaughter is an involuntary act. The district attorney's office plans to review the case Friday to determine whether Espinoza will face charges, said district attorney spokesman Fred Gardner. The city's bicycle community plans a noon rally at the Hall of Justice the same day to urge prosecutors to treat Robertson's death as an intentional act. Organizers include the 300-member San Francisco Bicycle Messenger Association and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Police said the drama unfolded about 10:30 p.m. when Espinoza, behind the wheel of a big rig, encountered the bicyclists at Fourth and Channel streets. Apparently annoyed at the slow speed of the procession, the truck driver exchanged angry words with a group of cyclists that included Robertson, police said. An argument ensued, and the driver tossed a wooden wheel block at Robertson, police said. That's when Robertson allegedly pulled in front of the vehicle to block its path and was struck and killed. ``What happened that night was an act of road rage and murder,'' said Damon Votour, 31, president of the messenger association, who said he talked to people who saw the truck hit Robertson. ``It's like loading a gun, pointing it at somebody and pulling the trigger.'' Espinoza could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The decision on whether to charge him will be made ``on the basis of the evidence'' and not because of pressure from bicyclists, said Gardner. Police say getting the evidence hasn't been easy. ``We need to talk to more people. Lots of bicyclists were far ahead of this guy, and lots left when officers arrived,'' said Inspector Sherman Ackerson, a police spokesman. ``We're simply asking for additional witnesses to come forward so the DA can make a proper decision.'' Votour, however, contends that some who witnessed Robertson's death wanted to give statements -- and were turned away by police officers. He and others in the bike community claim that San Francisco authorities are notoriously lax on crimes against bicyclists. Authorities deny that charge. District Attorney Terence Hallinan is considering the creation of a bicycle safety task force, his spokesman said. According to literature distributed by rally organizers, Robertson was an ``avid bicyclist, social activist, vegetarian, and a warm and loving man.'' Acquaintances said he was a former employee of the same San Francisco bike messenger service where Joseph Woods once worked. Woods, 31, was fatally shot Nov. 9 by intruders in his apartment on Mission Street. It was Woods' wake that Robertson attended just before he died. Contact Alexis Chiu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 415/477-3795.
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