Archive for Friday, November 14, 2008

No charges will be filed in June bicycle accident near Eudora

Accident killed sheriff’s deputy

Prosecutors say charges will not be filed against a driver who hit and killed a sheriff's deputy on his bike.

November 14, 2008


Criminal charges will not be filed against a motorist who was distracted by electronics when he struck and killed a Douglas County sheriff's lieutenant who was riding his bicycle, District Attorney Charles Branson announced Friday afternoon.

Lt. David Dillon, of Eudora, a deputy for the jail operations division of the sheriff's office, died in the June 28 accident. Dillon, 44, was off-duty and riding his bike between Lawrence and Eudora when he was struck from behind by a 2003 Oldsmobile driven by Kyle Van Meter, 21, the Kansas Highway Patrol said.

The accident, which occurred just before 8 a.m., caused the right front tire of the car to be flattened from impact with the bicycle, a highway patrol report said.

"Van Meter admitted to being distracted by his radio and told authorities he did not see Dillon until he hit him," Branson said in a news release.

A highway patrol report said Van Meter, of Eudora, also was distracted by a cell phone during the accident, which occurred in the 1900 section of North 1400 Road, just one mile west of Eudora on a road commonly referred to as Old K-10. The report indicated inattention and failure to yield the right of way were contributing circumstances in the wreck.

Branson said his office has returned the case to the highway patrol, suggesting the state agency issue citations for unsafe overtaking/passing, following too closely and failure to wear a seat belt. Branson said he met with Dillon's family this week to discuss the results of the investigation.

"If any good can come from the tragedy, we can only hope people will slow down and pay attention to their driving," he said.


costello 6 years, 7 months ago

Oh, my God! They prosecute every kid who gets into a fist fight at school but just let this go with the "hope [that] people will slow down and pay attention to their driving"?

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

Amen wishingwell... There is really nothing good coming out of this for either family. i wish there were more people like you on here.

purplesage 6 years, 7 months ago

What's wrong with this picture? When this sad thing happened, I figured the driver's goose was cooked. It is that whole double standard of law enforcement victim and civilian perpetrator. But in this case, the double standard we so often see is out the window. I can't figure what's up. My condolences to the Dillon family and to young vanMeter in this life affecting tragedy.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

So importantly this was an accident that involved a collision. And a mistake that can not be corrected no matter how hard anyone tries to. So obviously we are all responsible for what we do but individuals on here can be so narrow minded and mean. The family of Lt. Dillon would want kind words said and kind actions, at least that is what I think based on there decision as a family. Everyone should respect that.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

I do not believe that every kid gets procecuted for a fist fight that is over stated. But a wide majority of individuals use there cells while driving and change there radio stations also. So if none of you on here are guilty of any one of those things then your not like the majority. And as far as 20yr olds go, tell me one 20yr old that does not fumble with changing radio stations while driving? Once again this was an accident and the familys see it as such. This may be hard for some people to accept but that is the way it seems. So lets all pray for all these people including the law enforcement, and be kind.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

Maybe if a pilots licence was issued to drivers it would keep this kind of thing from happening to individuals. The laws in this country should be evaluated for everyones safety.

Shifty 6 years, 7 months ago

No, an accident is something that is unavoidable. If you are driving and get caught in an ice storm, and while driving slowly and carefully, slide off the road, that is an accident. This could have been avoided by the driver of the car paying attention to where he was steering the 3000 pound piece of metal that he was driving. And while you are correct that we all have been inattentive, we all are responsible for what happens while we are inattentive. But it was a collision, NOT an accident.

wishingwell 6 years, 7 months ago

I guess if you want to be "politically correct" this is a comment page/forum. Which is basically the same thing as a blog without pictures etc. and all the extra glory that goes with it. Bottom line is all of this needs to be removed.

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

Thank you, Nonsense, for sharing this with us. It is what I suspected."It is not a matter for me to agree or disagree but apply the law as I am sworn to do."You don't like the law, then write your senator and representative to change it.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

IcchainGreat words...I think individuals who intentionally harm another person should be put behind bars for there lack of human life, but you are so correct that this was an accident. And the kid who this happened to will have a sence of guilt and anguish for his lifetime. And the Dillan family must be a kind and forgiving family with a huge heart. This decision had to be a hard one and they are in my prayers, as well as everyone else involved.

somefearinhere 6 years, 7 months ago

The cyclist did nothing wrong. The driver did. Period. The cyclist is dead. The driver goes about his life, still taking calls and texting while driving.We don't need a law. We need people to tell their friends, family, co-workers that what they are doing is wrong and dangerous. It is called social discipline. I for one will not ride in a car with someone talking on a phone while driving. I make them miserable so they will hang up or stop and let me out.I ride a motorcycle and almost always the person that nearly ruins my day is talking on a phone....right..I should stay off of the road...cause a motorcycle is not made to be hit.Alot of us can justify alot of things....right up to and past killing someone so we can have our precious goddamn cell phone conversations!

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

The DA has experience and knowledge most do not have. To test his credit is wrong, there is an obvious reason for why this case ended up being filed this way, but we will never really know. So we all should trust in the system and hope we all do right by it as well.

Stephanie Anderson 6 years, 7 months ago

Just remember, the word is A-C-C-I-D-E-N-T for a reason, because it's an accident. This was an extremely unfortunate and sad event, devastating for those directly involved. However, before you throw stones at this guy, please think about all of the times you've been an inattentive driver. We've all done it at some point or another--changing the cd, eating (grabbing the piece of food you dropped in your lap), talking to a passenger (or better yet, your kids who are fighting in the backseat). These accidents can happen in a split second.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

This may have been a collision but a definition of accident is as follows (accident is an incident involving bodily injury or death and number 2 a mistake)The definition of collision is as follows (the act of striking or dashing together a crash) just to clarify.

FixieDixie 6 years, 7 months ago

You know what his punishment should be? He should have to pay the fine and have his license revoked for the rest of his life. I agree that prison wouldn't do this guy or society any good (and I bike commute every day).I'm pretty sure if he knew he could never get his license back he would end up buying a bike at some point. I think that might teach him a thing or two.

JoRight 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad that no charges will be filed aside from the traffic violations. One life is gone, we don't really need to ruin another. Hell, he'll probably be paying off this thing for the rest of his life come the civil case.Also, as a bike rider myself, I know exactly what I'm getting into when riding. If I'm on the highway, there are definite risks involved that differ from say, riding on the trails in west Lawrence. By no means is it his fault, but your obviously taking varying levels of risk dependent on where you ride and people should be accepting said risks.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 7 months ago

Cheeseburger, I also refused to vote for Branson: too many plea bargains, too light charging, too many times. I don't care what the Dillan family wanted, God bless them. one function of the punishment of our justice system is to warn others away from following the example of the accused who is convicted and punished. the punishment not only recognizes the victimization of a person or particular family, but also helps protect us all. Vanmeter was doing activities he did not need to engage in, which made him a dangerous negligent driver. I doubt seriously that he had no idea that inattentive driving and negligent driving are illegal. this failure of justice makes us all face greater risk. whoswho/wishingwell,as I recall, none of the posts on this thread were removed by admin at this point. many comments have been based on the actual law or circumstances of the case. apparently facts are very uncomfortable for you.can we recall Branson? I say it is time!

KEITHMILES05 6 years, 7 months ago

Speaking on cell phone and inattentive driving can cause accidents and even death.This young man will have to live with the memory of this. FOREVER.

somebodynew 6 years, 7 months ago

Amen, Shifty. I don't have a real problem with this guy not spending time behind bars (although that is what I wish), what I have a real problem with is all the people on here saying it is not his fault, that is just how things go, we have all done it, etc.,etc.Yes, I have done those actions (not texting) but have been distracted and thank (whatever) God, I did not hit anyone. This guy did. No one should try to say that is OK, that it was just an "a c c i d e n t", if he would have been paying attention this probably would not have happened.And if I, God forbid, am ever in the same situation, I will fully expect whatever comes from it. It may be accidental, but there are consequences for my actions. If I do the same thing, I am not to be relieved of all responsibilty because it is an "accident" and it is something everyone does.

somefearinhere 6 years, 7 months ago

ModerateOne: The driver will be his insurance company will be sued and they will pay and the premiums the rest of us pay will absorb that justifiction PLEASE!

Charles L Bloss Jr 6 years, 7 months ago

I do not agree. I think charges should be filed, at least for the things the DA says the KHP should have written citations for, plus any citations that were issued. One must be culpable for killing another through their own negligence ie: talking on a cell phone and fooling with a radio while driving! The negligence is obvious. Thank you, Lynn

somebodynew 6 years, 7 months ago

JoRight - overall I didn't have a real problem with your post until the "By no means is it his fault..." part.Just who is at fault???? The rider who was doing everything right ???? Maybe it is just an "Act of God" and we are all in danger ????Maybe you agree no criminal charges should be filed, and that is your right, but to try to say it is NOT the driver's fault is just beyond belief. At the very least he was innattentive and distracted. That is what caused this guy to lose his life. So it IS his fault and I personally hope he pays mentally for the rest of his miserable life. (and it is probably good LJW doesn't allow all caps shouting in here.)

Shifty 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm not second guessing the DA's decision... I just believe that every driver should hold responsibility for whatever happens when he/she is behind the wheel. There is a FAA code for pilots that reads (in summary), no matter what happens during a flight, the pilot is the person ultimately responsible for operation of the aircraft. In my opinion, if this was written into the driver license laws of each state, our roads would be a lot safer.

buckethead 6 years, 7 months ago

unfortunatly, I was on my way to Lawrence and was directly behind the young driver as he approached the cyclist. I watched in horror as the rider was hit and then observed the tragic scene that resulted from his carelessness.I saw first hand the pain and anguish that the arriving emergency response workers had to endure seeing one of their own as the victim. The drivers mother arrived within minutes of the accident, and was devastated. I am appalled by the DA's decision to not file charges.

puppyfeathers 6 years, 7 months ago

THIS.... is crap. Does this mean that if I strike and kill a cyclist in Douglas County with my car that all I have to do is to tell the authorities that I was fumbling with my phone and/or my radio? Then I'm off the hook and free to go, right? It sounds like all that I'll get is a reminder to pay more attention and to always wear my seat belt. When does the cycling season start anyway? Do I need to get some kind of permit to bag one?lame....

nekansan 6 years, 7 months ago

Apparently Branson is still a good defense attorney!

another_concerned_parent 6 years, 7 months ago

I agree, puppyfeathers. THIS IS CRAP!!!!!!! I guess I will no longer worry about talking/texting/dialing while I am driving. I really hope that this young driver turns off the phone when he is behind the wheel. He had better be careful not to be stopped in the Northeast Kansas area or he may face other consequences. Bicyclists beware!!!!

Cronan 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't know why I'm always surprised when law enforcement doesn't pursue harsh charges when a motorist's actions result in the injury/death of a bicyclist.I really thought the fact that the victim was a sheriff's lieutenant would surely result in some sort of charge.The DA's quote about how we can "only hope" the incident will make people slow down and pay attention to their driving would be comical if it wasn't so sad.Let's say the driver was distracted by his radio and cell phone and hit a child at a crosswalk. Anyone think the driver would skate free like in this case?I just don't get it.

somefearinhere 6 years, 7 months ago

KEITH....the key word is the driver lives and the cyclist more...gone...get it???It most likely would not have happened if the driver wasn't distracted. Get that part? cell distraction...most likely no DEATH...not more not gone..get it???

ModerateOne 6 years, 7 months ago

Cronan (Anonymous) says: "I really thought the fact that the victim was a sheriff's lieutenant would surely result in some sort of charge."Do you see why this is ethically wrong? I guess there are people who would want a DA who pursues charges for political reasons (based on who the victim was), but an honest and ethical DA pursues charges based on what the accused actually did. Sounds like the accused here was inattentive and that he should be cited for inattentive driving.This driver will get sued anyway so don't go assuming that there are no consequences.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

Ah, come on, don't you realize how bad this cyclist has made that poor driver feel? Have you no sympathy for what he must be going through?

Michael Capra 6 years, 7 months ago

this is what the familey chose to do shut up now and respecte their wishes. bless the dillons

Calliope877 6 years, 7 months ago

My mistake, wishingwell. No need to be snippy. I was trying to be helpful, not condescending.

Cronan 6 years, 7 months ago

ModerateOne (Anonymous) says:Do you see why this is ethically wrong? Yes, I do see why it's wrong to hope the victim's status as an officer would motivate the DA to do something more than letting a killer off with no penalty. But I've read about too many pedestrians and cyclists killed with absolutely nothing done about it. I just don't know when it will stop. And there's always someone to say, "The driver didn't mean to do it. The driver will feel really, really bad forever and ever." Here's what I don't get. If a person was sitting in their front yard cleaning a pistol and the pistol went off and the bullet hit a person in the front yard next door, killing that person, the pistol owner wouldn't be able to simply say, "Gosh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. I was just careless and inattentive" and get away with the killing. Yet, somehow, that's exactly what happens all over the country when cyclists and pedestrians are killed by careless, inattentive drivers.

Calliope877 6 years, 7 months ago

wishingwell,It's unlikely that this will be removed because it's not a blog, it's an article. If there are certain comments on the forum that you find offensive and/or inappropriate, you are free to suggest them for removal.

Christine Anderson 6 years, 7 months ago

Edjayhawk:Yes! You've got it! How can Branson sleep at night???

verity 6 years, 7 months ago

"Branson said his office has returned the case to the highway patrol"Many people here dissing Branson, and maybe I am misunderstanding this---but can he file charges if the highway patrol doesn't give him anything?

wishingwell 6 years, 7 months ago

Calliope877,If you look to the right of this "post a comment" window there in big bold black letters reads "Post a blog entry" down below that it says " blog about this story on your blog" below that it says "Learn more about blogging on" I know the news article is from the Journal World. I do have a bit of common sense here. All of the statements made below this article are not part of the news. I dont work of the LJW do you? The following statements written in the "LJW blog" in response to that ariticle an can and should be removed. As far as suggested removal goes, I can read and I know how to click on the light blue words that state "suggest removal" I have done so, as well as, openly stated it on here.

yellowhouse 6 years, 7 months ago

Life is but a stopping place,A pause in what's to be,A resting place along the road,to sweet eternity.We all have different journeys,Different paths along the way,We all were meant to learn some things,but never meant to stay...Our destination is a place,Far greater than we know.For some the journey's quicker,For some the journey's slow.And when the journey finally ends,We'll claim a great reward,And find an everlasting peace,Together with the lord

budwhysir 6 years, 7 months ago

Yes, I agree, something will come of this, people will start to see that it is ok to text and talk on the phone cause there are no real penalties for an accident in this case.Dont get me wrong, I would feel realy bad if I was the driver of this car, however, I would feel bad enough that it keeps me from doing this stuff in the first place

jackpot 6 years, 7 months ago

Two words: Civil action or wrongful death

Nonsense 6 years, 7 months ago

I was too stunned by this. I knew Mr. Dillon. I wrote the DA and this is what I got back in his email.____I understand your anger and frustration in the death of Lt. David Dillon. He was a friend and colleague of mine and he is sorely missed. Unfortunately, the Kansas Legislature and Kansas Courts have plainly stated that bicycles and motorcycles share the same status as any other vehicle on the road, and again unfortunately, they do not receive any special consideration given their delicate nature versus a 3000 lb. machine. Mr. Van Meter will be cited for the traffic offenses he committed. However, due to Kansas law and Supreme Court interpretation, his actions by law are not criminal. Traffic infractions are not considered criminal offenses. The Supreme Court has determined that there has to be more than mere negligence on the part of a driver to be held criminally liable for the death of another. It is not a matter for me to agree or disagree but apply the law as I am sworn to do. Below this email is a copy of the leading Supreme Court case dealing with this type of issue. It has a good discussion of the inherent problems with how our law is written. It should be of great interest to those in the bicycle and motorcycle community and hopefully with its publication can become a discussion tool for how our laws should be changed. Sincerely yours, Charles E. Branson District Attorney Douglas County, Kansas 111 East 11th Street Lawrence, Kansas 66044-2909 PH: (785) 841-0211 FAX: (785) 832-8202

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

As far as everyone on here saying some harsh words about this, the bottom line is that obviously the family wanted it to be this way, and everyone just needs to back off. The small town comment was childish in my opinion. Small town people dont rally together to go seek out a kid and do justice. That is insane. The DA did there job, and Im sure they also knew Lt. Dillion as well. This had to be a hard decision for them. And no one on this blog knows how any of the individuals feel that have investigated this case. So to down grade the DA is not right. This was a horrible accident and both familys on either side are hurting Im sure. So do the right thing on here and show some kindness to all of these people involved.

wishingwell 6 years, 7 months ago

I feel this entire blog needs to be removed. There has been name calling, physical threat suggestions and a lack of respect to both of these families and the legal staff involved here. I wonder how vocal you would be if this were you or some one you love involved. Who appointed you god, judge and jury. For those of you that arent quilty of doing something that has distracted you while driving cast the first stone. If all of you were honest I think this blog would be blank. It is easy to run you mouth when your not directly involved. Myself and several others would like this blog removed there is nothing positive coming out of all this.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

I have known for several years that Branson and his henchmen are incompetant idiots for several years, not on this case, but on several previous cases. The man is not fit to be in public service, yet the lemmings at the voting booth obediently voted the jerk back in office. I did not see any political process for this election, no one opposed this dolt. What do you expect for justice in Douglas County when no one cares one whit who gets elected to DA or city commision or any other local office? The real culprits are the great uwashed who don't bother to be informed and just drift along with the crowd.

wishingwell 6 years, 7 months ago

bearded_gnomeI think you said it in your first sentence. "YOU DONT CARE WHAT THE DILLION FAMILY WANTS." Really to follow with god bless them is double standard. The way I see it is if you were really concerned about this family and wish them well all of you would respect their wishes. Like I said this whole site is a disrespect to all involved. Name calling, physical threats suggestions, and a lack of respect are not facts. The LJW feeds off this type of thing after all this is what gets you to read their paper.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

Taking his license away for a life time will not work. Think about all the people that drink and drive, and hurt someone in the process. They get charges and a suspended license for a while but they get it back. So that in my opinion is a obvious not so great idea. This kid was not drinking and not under the influence of drugs.

whoswho 6 years, 7 months ago

I am a morotist not a cyclist, and I am very concerned with the individuals riding on the high ways. This is an unsafe practise dispite having all rights to the road. Everyone should share the road, but it is really unsafe. I wish there would be better laws on this, for the safety of everyone. People should be allowed to ride but there should be better laws.

Douglas Garst 6 years, 7 months ago

The following Kansas law statue is provided for the knowledge of the District Attorney Charles Branson21-3404Chapter 21.--CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS PART II.--PROHIBITED CONDUCT Article 34.--CRIMES AGAINST PERSONS 21-3404. Involuntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter is the unintentional killing of a human being committed: (a) Recklessly; (b) in the commission of, or attempt to commit, or flight from any felony, other than an inherently dangerous felony as defined in K.S.A. 21-3436 and amendments thereto, that is enacted for the protection of human life or safety or a misdemeanor that is enacted for the protection of human life or safety, including acts described in K.S.A. 8-1566 and subsection (a) of 8-1568, and amendments thereto, but excluding the acts described in K.S.A. 8-1567 and amendments thereto; or (c) during the commission of a lawful act in an unlawful manner. Mr. Branson, do you think unsafe overtaking/passing, following too closely and failure to wear a seat belt just might fit the description of 21-3404 (a) and (c)? Did you read this Kansas Law? I don't want Mr. Kyle Van Meter to rot in jail for one day; but for starters he could in person be held to say he is sorry to my Sister and her husband and my two nephews but he has not uttered one word; and he could be held to 2000 hours or more of community service by speaking to every high school class in Kansas about the dangers of using a cell phone and texting while driving an automobile as like him killed another person my nephew. Uncle Doug

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