Marcos Bretón

No justice for Sacramento running legend hit by cyclist on the American River Parkway

Injured on the American River Parkway: 'He hit him about as hard as you could probably hit somebody.'

Sacramento running legend Bill Finkbeiner was severely injured in a hit-and-run collision on the American River Parkway in Sacramento. The suspect may escape prosecution because of a quirk in the law.
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Sacramento running legend Bill Finkbeiner was severely injured in a hit-and-run collision on the American River Parkway in Sacramento. The suspect may escape prosecution because of a quirk in the law.

The verdict is in: There will be no justice for Bill Finkbeiner, the Sacramento running legend who got creamed by a cyclist on the American River Parkway last month.

Opinion

Finkbeiner, a veteran of 17 Western States 100-Mile endurance runs, was walking on a trail when he was hit from behind by a man on a bike. Finkbeiner’s nose and orbital bones were broken and his front teeth snapped off when he slammed face first into concrete pavement. For a while, his face was an open wound, and his left thumb had to be surgically repaired.

The man who did all this to Finkbeiner on June 13 is very lucky. He hit Finkbeiner and basically fled the scene, but he will not be prosecuted by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office for a hit-and-run.

Why? Because local prosecutors don’t believe the California Vehicle Code is clear on hit-and-run guidelines when the incident involves a bike and occurs on a levee road, as Finkbeiner’s did near the Campus Commons Golf Course. Maybe if Finkbeiner had been hit on a city street – where the law is clearer on the responsibilities of the parties involved – prosecutors could have brought charges.

There were other factors at play as well, according to Steve Grippi, chief deputy prosecutor for Sacramento County. By his own admission, Finkbeiner was walking on the right side of the levee road, which is known to be the side where cyclists ride. And, by his own admission, Finkbeiner thought the incident was not a result of malice – but an accident.

These elements made prevailing in a hit-and-run case appear unlikely, Grippi said. Not convinced they could prosecute any lesser charge, Grippi’s office informed Finkbeiner this past week that they would not prosecute the man who had upended his life, and then pedaled away without saying a word, according to witnesses.

Grippi said investigators for his office did find and interview the man responsible for Finkbeiner’s grievous injuries. He claimed it was an accident. Grippi would not share the name of this person because he said his office is not in the practice of releasing the names of people they choose not prosecute.

But Grippi did say this: “On basic decency and accountability, I would put Mr. Finkbeiner at the highest end of the scale. I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the bicyclist is on the same end of the spectrum.”

In the end, Grippi said: “A lack of a moral compass is not a crime.”

Finkbeiner, 61, is remarkably upbeat considering the severity of his injuries. He said he bears no ill will toward the man who injured him. He’s been surrounded by friends who love and support him. A GoFundMe account for him – www.gofundme.com/bill-finkbeiners-recovery-fund – has taken in more than $46,000 and has helped to offset the income he has lost by not being able to work as a self-employed commercial landscaper.

He will recover, and he will run again. And what of the man who injured Finkbeiner and left him a bloody mess on the American River Parkway? He’s lucky that in this instance lacking a moral compass isn’t a punishable offense. Because he’s clearly guilty of that.

Marcos Bretón: 916-321-1096, @MarcosBreton

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