Back in July, West Seattleite Jake Vanderplas wrote a letter to Seattle Bike Blog reporting a driver deliberately hitting him as he bicycled on 26th SW in North Delridge – ironically, a street transforming into a greenway thanks to efforts led by Vanderplas. Today, we learned (hat tip SeattlePI.com and WSB readers who pointed us there) that a criminal charge has been filed against the driver – second-degree assault with a deadly weapon. We’ve subsequently obtained the court documents:
From the documents accompanying the charge filed last Thursday:
This happened after 8 am Monday, July 8th, near 26th/Andover (map). One witness, a passing driver, “reported that it appeared the vehicle/driver intentionally swerved into the bike lane, striking the cyclist.” That witness, the documents say, followed the driver to get her license plate, and gave it to police, then continued following the driver onto the eastbound West Seattle Bridge in hopes of getting a look at her, and subsequently provided a description.
Another witness said he didn’t see the incident but did see a dark car following Vanderplas “extremely close … and sounding her horn at great length.”
The car had a California plate – Vanderplas (who suffered a hand injury) got the number and reported it as well – and police learned it had been sold in April to Erika Soerensen, who had a West Seattle address. They finally caught up with her six days later “in the parking lot of her residence.” She told police, according to the report, “it was not her, she was not there, she was at work … After continued conversation she eventually change(d) her story to include that she was there, did follow a cyclist that was riding 5 miles per hour in the middle of the street, but she did not have any sort of collision with him.” The detective then writes that Soerensen e-mailed a statement on July 30th, saying “she never intentionally or accidentally struck the bicyclist. She does acknowledge her presence at the event.”
Police talked with yet another witness on July 18th. He said he saw the driver and bicyclist both stopped at 26th and Andover, and thought the driver was talking to the bicyclist. The report continues, “He then heard the engine rev on the car as he was passing.” In his rear view mirror, he saw both turn onto eastbound Andover, “Then suddenly and dynamically, the vehicle swerved into the bike lane and struck the cyclist … (The witness) clarified that it did not look like an accidental collision in that the vehicle made the turn onto SW Andover St. and established a straight path, then turned again into the cyclist.”
The police report in the court documents concludes by quoting data on Soerensen’s 2002 Nissan Sentra – “curb weight of 2,519 pounds,” and then data on Vanderplas’s 2007 Schwinn LeTour – “about 30 pounds,” followed by state law’s definition of “deadly weapon.”
Soerensen does not appear to have a prior criminal record. We’re checking with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office to find out when she is scheduled to appear in court to answer the charge.
1:30 PM UPDATE: Arraignment is set for October 24.