Riding on a narrow stretch of Mandeville Canyon Road, the rider and his bicycling partner were injured last year when the Brentwood physician slammed on his car brakes.
By Ann M. Simmons
October 17, 2009
A bicyclist testified Friday that a Brentwood doctor deliberately slammed on his car brakes in an effort to injure him and a companion last year as they rode down a narrow stretch of Mandeville Canyon Road in Brentwood.
Christian Stoehr recalled hearing the engine noise of an approaching car and then an “angry honk” of a horn. When he and a fellow rider fell into single file to let the driver past, Stoehr testified that the motorist zoomed up alongside them, exchanged angry words and then pulled in front of them and hit his brakes.
Stoehr and his bicycling partner, Ron Peterson, were injured in the July 2008 accident when they struck the Infiniti sedan. Stoehr was catapulted and flew over the car, landing on the pavement. In a preliminary hearing in December, Peterson testified that he crashed through the car’s rear window.
Christopher Thomas Thompson, a 60-year-old physician, faces one felony count of reckless driving causing injury and two felony counts of battery with serious injury. He also faces one count of misdemeanor reckless driving causing injury in an incident with another cyclist on the same road in March 2008. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to five years in state prison.
Thompson has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Peter Swarth, has characterized the incident as an “unfortunate accident.”
“The driver yelled something back, accelerated, pulled in front of us and slammed on his brakes,” Stoehr testified Friday on the opening day of Thompson’s trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Stoehr, who suffered a separated shoulder and underwent surgery, told Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Stone that his first thought after the incident was “it’s a good thing I’m alive.”
He testified that he started crawling toward the car. Thompson, who was wearing blue scrubs, got out and was shouting at him to get his bike out of the road, Stoehr said.
He said a female bystander helped him onto the curb, held his head in her lap “and tried to keep me from fainting.”
When Stoehr, a cameraman and editor, visited Peterson at the hospital, the fellow cyclist was battered and bruised.
“He looked kind of like a monster at that time,” Stoehr said. “He looked weak and destroyed.”
During cross-examination, Swarth suggested that Stoehr and Peterson were angered by the doctor honking the horn to urge the cyclists to give way, and may not have pulled adequately far enough over to the curb so the car could pass by.
“Would you agree with me that Dr. Thompson going around you was safety-oriented?” Swarth asked.
“It probably would have been if he had gone all the way around us,” Stoehr said, adding that Thompson pulled “completely into the lane in front of us.”
In last year’s preliminary hearing, a police officer testified that Thompson, who complained that cyclists frequently travel down the residential Brentwood street, said he had stopped his car in front of the cyclists to “teach them a lesson.”