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« Keeping the news in perspective | Main | Talking Bollocks »

No justice for this family

The wheels of justice turn excruciatingly slow, and in the end there is no justice; at least not for Gregory and Alexandra Bruehler.

The young married couple were both killed while riding a tandem on Texas Route. 16 on October 1st, 2009; they were run down from behind by Gilbert John Sullaway driving his F150 Pickup Truck.

The picture above shows the damage caused by the impact, and also shows the width of the shoulder the cyclists were on. I wrote about this case almost three years ago when it happened; I was outraged because at the time the local Bexar County Sherriff’s Office were not planning to prosecute the driver, because they ruled it an accident.

Local cyclists from the San Antonio area were also outraged; they showed up in their hundreds for a memorial service. It was probably due to this cry for justice from area cyclists that the driver was eventually charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide and was brought to trial.

There were witnesses to testify that Sullaway was speeding and wandering onto the shoulder prior to the impact; there were expert witnesses on both sides. But in the end the only argument the defense lawyers had to present to the jury was this:

“Have you ever drifted? Have you ever looked off the roadway? That's what people do. It doesn't mean they're criminals when they do it.”

It took the jury just two hours to find Sullaway not guilty and he walked away with no consequences for his actions; no jail time, not even probation or a suspension of his license. Shame on that jury.

Here is a young couple (Left.) struck dead in the prime of their life.

They leave behind a daughter, age 7 at the time of her parent’s death, now 10, and their death did not have to happen.

They were there to be seen, riding on a wide shoulder; all this driver needed to do was look where he was going and steer his vehicle within his lane.

Failure to do that is Criminal Negligence, how else would you describe it?

If I fire a gun in the air to celebrate New Year’s or just to make noise; I might not intend to harm anyone, but if the bullet falls to earth and kills someone, it is criminal negligence pure and simple.

The sad thing is these jurors represent the man or woman in the street, the regular drivers cyclists encounter every day. They don’t look at the dead couple, they look at the driver and say, “That could have been me; I drive all the time and don’t pay attention.”

This case is not about vengeance, it is about holding people responsible for their actions. Making people aware that they are in control of a machine that has the potential to kill other people.

Slow down and pay attention. Really…. Is that too much to ask?



Reader Comments (11)

I've got nearly four pounds of metal in my right pelvis thanks to a driver that simply did not pay attention.

The automobile is the most deadly creation man has come up with - atom bombs notwithstanding. We maim, kill, ruin, cripple and destroy with our cars and yet we always want a bigger and better / newer model.

Fie on us and our deadly boxes of steel. Fie on us for becoming fat and lazy. Fie on us for burning more and more of the world's body (oil). Fie on us for making a society totally dedicated to the handling of these awful, wicked pieces of death.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

The photo of Kylie Bruehler at her parents' funeral is one of the saddest I have ever seen.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve A

Automobiles themselves are not dangerous; it is people being allowed to drive them in a sloppy and irresponsible manner that is the problem. The threat of long periods with driving privileges suspended would straighten most people out. Until that happens there will continue to be the attitude reflected by the jury in this case, that when someone dies on the road it is just an unfortunate accident.

September 12, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Shameful, ridiculous but it is how responsibility is determined in a society that places the lives of drivers over others, especially cyclists. American justice at work.

Yes Dave asking drivers "to slow down and pay attention" is too much to ask for as this case makes clear.

As written in another article this case makes clear: "The lack of a critical mass of bicyclists, runners and walkers makes it easy for our car-loving culture to run over any effort to change our ways."

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJack

If the driver had veered into the next driving lane and hit another car, there is no doubt he would have been charged for not driving within a marked lane, if not dangerous driving. It seems that the the law in Texas does not regard cyclists' lives to be as valuable as another car.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

I agree with Dave, it is not the inanimate object to blame, but the individual.
I also have the view of responsibility being binary; the individual is or is not behaving with responsibility. This applies to the driver and the court in this case.
It is hard to believe irresponsible view taken by the court that the driver was not criminally irresponsible just because lots of other people behave the same way and do not experience immediate consequences. The extended behavior supports acceptability until someone gets hit as a result. Not being held accountable just reinforces the behavior!
Condoning manslaughter not the type of freedom I support.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

Vehicular manslaughter should have been the verdict in this case. If Texas has such a thing. If he had veered into oncoming traffic and taken out a family, you think they wouldn't have suspended his privileges? Or put him in jail? Perhaps the family can sue for wrongful death?

September 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

Here in British Columbia the driver would be charged with driving without due care and attention. It is used a lot when no other law is suitable. Once a fellow I knew was charged with driving without due care attention when the motorcycle he was riding went off the road and he crashed and ended up in the hospital. No other vehicles were involved.

The police, when I talked to them, made it clear when an accident happens their job was to find fault and issue a ticket.

September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn L

"The sad thing is these jurors represent the man or woman in the street, the regular drivers cyclists encounter every day. They don’t look at the dead couple, they look at the driver and say, 'That could have been me; I drive all the time and don’t pay attention.'"

You hit the nail on the head with this statement, Dave.


September 15, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Check out this story. In a road rage this guy intentionally hit a bicyclist with his car.


September 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVelobabble

Just back from three weeks driving around ENGLAND NO RAIN! BUT GOD HELP THE BRIT CYCLISTS! You think its bad over here (over here over here the Yanks are coming as they use to sing.) EVERY Brit motorist is on a mission to prove he can dive faster than anyoe else. Saw many many REAL CLOSE calls for the poor cyclist. My nephew when I asked nim about cyclist said "Bloody nuisance they are TRY to slow down for em but!" With gas (Petrol) at close to $9.00 a gal the Brits STILL dive a car! Maybe when we are paying $9.00 a gal people will start to show respect to cylists and join us and junk out all the cars

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump
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