Man in Wheelchair Struck/Killed by DUI Driver on Stearns St.

By: 
Bill Pearl

A man in a wheelchair frequently seen by Los Altos area residents pushing a shopping cart with his possessions was struck and killed by a suspected DUI driver in the 11 p.m. hour, June 12, when he tried to cross Stearns Street at Radnor Avenue.

This man’s death is disturbing on more than one level. Try to picture this: A wheelchair bound man pushes a shopping cart filled with his  belongings across Stearns Street when a 2016 Honda Civic allegedly strikes and kills him. LBPD arrests the driver, Joseph Maez, 26, of Long Beach on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.

The LA County Coroner’s office hasn’t yet identified the man killed, pending notification of his next of kin.

He was crossing Stearns at Radnor in an “unmarked crosswalk,” that is, he doesn’t appear to have been “J-walking.” For context, consider that the northern side of Stearns at Radnor  has a residential parallel access road.

Yes, that’s a wide area for a walking pedestrian to traverse, much less a man in a wheelchair pushing a shopping cart with his possessions. And yes, there’s an intersection with a light one block east at Albury Ave.

So, apply the CA Vehicle Code to the specifics of this case:

CA Vehicle Code section 21950 states: (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter. (b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. (c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian. (d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

CA Vehicle Code 21954 states: “(a) Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard. (b) The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a vehicle from the duty to exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian upon a roadway.”

CA Vehicle Code section 275 defines “Crosswalk” in part as  “(a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersections where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles.” CA Vehicle Code section 365 defines an “intersection” as the “area embraced within the prolongation of the lateral curb lines, or, if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways, of two highways which join one another at approximately right angles or the area within which vehicles traveling upon different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict.”

LBPD has declined thus far to provide us with its investigator’s detailed report on what occurred (which we plan to seek via public records request if necessary.)

The alleged DUI driver (if charged by the LA County DA) will now face the criminal justice system in which he is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on every element of the offenses alleged.

Meanwhile, the City of Long Beach’s homeless service agencies, which receives millions in taxpayer funds, will now face oversight from us. We plan to find out exactly what Long Beach’s these agencies did and didn’t do to help this man. What factors led him to live on the streets in ELB despite major sums spent by taxpayers ostensibly to help persons in his circumstances?

Bill Pearl publishes lbreport.com, an online local news source since August 2000.

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