Indianapolis police re-file DUI charges against killer cop

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In a case which has created widespread concerns of corruption in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, DUI charges have been re-filed against a cop who crashed into four motorcyclists in August, killing one and injuring two others. The riders were stopped behind traffic at a red light when David Bisard, allegedly distracted while conducting a personal text conversation despite driving at high speed with sirens and lights on, plowed into them. Police initially bungled the investigation, failing to properly protect evidence and the blood test which revealed Bisard to be over twice the legal limit nearly two hours after the crash was ruled inadmissible.

At 11:20am on Friday, August 6, 2010, Bisard crashed into the four motorcyclists while responding to an emergency call which he was not dispatched to. The crash fatally injured 30-year-old Eric Wells, who was riding to lunch with three co-workers. The motorcyclists were stopped in the center of three lanes and did not move when they heard the sirens because the left lane was clear for the police car to drive through. According to reports, the motorcyclists were the last in a line of vehicles in that lane.

Officer Bisard.

Afterward, police discovered that Bisard was sending personal, non-work and non-emergency-related messages on his in-car computer. Bisard stated that he looked up just in time to see the motorcyclists, but was unable to stop.

After the crash, police treated the scene as an accident, not a crime, allowing Bisard to remove a black bag which could have contained crucial evidence and sending him for treatment at an occupational health center not a hospital. A technician there drew blood at 1pm, which was shown to contain .19 percent alcohol. Indiana law states that at .08 a motorist is legally intoxicated. Neither the technician who drew the sample or the occupational health center were certified to do so as legally-admissible evidence.

Questions have now risen as to Bisard’s history with alcohol abuse and his record as a police officer. He’s been involved in more vehicle chases than any other officer in the department and had five on-duty crashes prior to this one.

When those DUI charges were initially dropped it prompted outrage in Indianapolis and accusations of a police cover up. An internal investigation was published in November which cleared the department of wrongdoing, but several officers were demoted as a result.

Now, after the case became a local election issue, a Marion County prosecutor is re-filing the DUI charges.

The full list of charges he now faces are: causing death while operating a vehicle with excessive blood alcohol content; operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing death; reckless homicide; two counts of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and causing injury; two counts of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher and causing injury. If convicted of all the above, Bisard could face up to 48 years in jail.

This incident raises another motorcycle safety issue. Had the motorcyclists been legally able to filter to the front of the line of vehicles, the consequences of the accident could have been less severe. As the law in most states stands, motorcycles are forced to sit exposed at traffic lights, a situation which plays to every safety disadvantage two-wheeled transportation has.

Unlike cars, motorcycles don’t have crumple zones, so the rear-end collisions that are so frequently called “fender benders” when they occur between automobiles can cause serious injury or, as in this case, even death. Also unlike cars, motorcycles can safely, easily and conveniently move to the front of a queue of stopped traffic, effectively making that stopped traffic a safety barrier for them.

The 1981 Hurt Report is the last and only major statistical analysis of motorcycle accident cause factors in this country. It’s generally accepted to be the motorcycle safety bible, forming the statistical basis for helmet laws and other legislation concerning road going two-wheelers. It concluded that lane splitting improves motorcycle safety by preventing rear-end collisions.

“Approximately three-fourths of motorcycle accidents [surveyed] involved a collision with another vehicle. In two-thirds of these accidents, the driver of the other vehicle… caused the collision.” — The Hurt Report, 1981

The US Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System also indicates that fatalities resulting from motorcycle rear-end collisions are 30 percent lower in California, where lane splitting is legal, than they are in Florida or Texas, which enjoy similar riding seasons and demographics but don’t allow lane splitting.

Yes, a drunk cop negligently killing motorcyclists is a scandal, as is the alleged cover up/incompetence/whatever. But, isn’t failing to allow those motorcyclists to take advantage of every safety measure available to them equally scandalous?

Sources: Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Star, WISHTV, WTHR, Wikipedia, Wikipedia

Thanks for the tip, Ryan.

  • 2ndderivative

    Not to exculpate this drunken asshole, and I don’t even think it would have helped in this case, but I hope all riders know to keep a constant watch on their mirrors whenever they’re stopped, to keep the shifter covered if they’re not in 1st already, and to have the bike pointed at a gap instead of at the car right ahead.

    My personal rule for filtering is also the same as my personal rule for jaywalking. If I deem it safe, and no cops are watching, I do it.

    • sanjuro

      C’mon, no rider is going to be constantly aware while stopped at a red light. Even if they were ready to move, it was a level road where there should be no reason why a cop would rear-end them.

      There is no fault AT ALL for these poor riders.

      • Dave H

        I don’t really think the riders should be held at fault here, but that doesn’t change the fact that when you’re on a bike, you make an effort to be aware of everything that is going on around you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to grow eyes on the back of your head(making this work in a helmet would be interesting), but you do pay attention, especially when there are no cars behind you. Keeping an eye on your mirror while you’re waiting for the green light might just give you enough warning to avoid being killed.

        There’s no reason why anyone should rear end anyone else on a level road with full visibility, but it obviously happened here, has happened before, and will happen again.

  • GuessWho

    My hate for the Law and cops runs deep. I hope this fuckin piece of shit gets killed in the joint.

    • Dave H

      While I don’t harbor much hate for either the law or for cops, I agree with your statement.

  • Jeremy

    that’s pretty much my biggest fear while riding, having a box barrel over me at a red light. Haven’t heard about this…. Thanks for continuing the nightmares.

  • Richard

    The shit of this whole deal is that I highly doubt this POS will spend a single day in jail. Karma is a motherfucker though…

  • seanslides

    Even in california, getting smacked from behind is one of my biggest concers on the bike. I’ve found that keeping your speed at least 15mph faster than the flow of traffic helps a whole bunch.

  • Isaac

    @seanslides: I was on 15S headed back to San Ysidro and a Porsche 911 almost smacked into me because the bitch was on her cellphone!

    I hope this fucking asshat gets the death penalty. Albeit not by traditional law! I swear nobody cares at all that we are there. If one of us did this they’d pass laws in Congress banning motorcycles entirely.

    But when a ‘cager’ does it; it’s okay and no big deal. Sorry Wes….didn’t mean to ramble but this is the stuff that infuriates me till no end.

  • stempere

    What prevents officials from making it legal is the fear of riders going way faster than traffic between lanes, who can’t stop in time when a car changes lane.

    The problem is quite serious in France. There’s some sort of agreement that the space between the two left lanes is used by two whellers :
    http://img140.imageshack.us/img140/9868/h416714341251365312.jpg
    That space pictured here in the “Boulevard Peripherique” in Paris is called “Le couloir de la mort” or death row by riders…

    That being said in the case of stopped traffic it should absolutely be legal. Oh and that cop should get cancer. In the balls.

    • markbvt

      Yeah, I have no great desire to lane-split in moving traffic (not only facing the danger of unpredictable drivers but also spending that much time riding on a slippery painted line). But we should be allowed to filter to the front at traffic lights.

    • Grive

      Aren’t there restrictions on relative speeds when it comes to lane splitting?

      I’m not from cali, but I heard something about it. Basically, you can’t go 60mph (Even if it’s a legal speed) lane-splitting between 5mph cars.

      That would help with the “not being able to stop” scenario, right?

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

        Taken from the CHP’s website: “Lane splitting by motorcycles is permissible but must be done in a safe and prudent manner.”

        Simply put, the law is very vague. I believe done so for a reason. While lane sharing is legal, it’s entirely left to an officers discretion as to what “safe” is. If at any moment you do something outside of his/her judgement for safe, you’ll be getting a ticket. I think it’s a pretty simple guideline to adhere to.

        And another clarification of nomenclature. In CA it’s called “lane sharing”, not “lane splitting”. It’s intended to allow you to occupy the same space as another vehicle, not necessarily as a slip stream to pass “slow” vehicles.

  • Keith

    >>If convicted of all the above, Bisard could face up to 48 years in jail.<<
    The problem is…IF…
    I don't think for a minute this guy will get the kind of time he deserves.
    I could launch on a rant here but I would be preaching to the choir!

  • noone1569

    Well, I’ve been personally following this story for a long time, since the day it happened, and participating in the rallying and what not. I hope this bastard rots in jail.

    You’re welcome for the tip. Thank you for providing coverage. More is better.

    • noone1569

      And I really appreciate the spin on this as a nod to better motorcycle safety regulations to allow lane splitting when stopped.

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    I’m curious; at the risk of incriminating yourselves, how much lane splitting does HFL readership and editorial staff do? Am I right in assuming its all illegal in every state but CA?

    I generally cut up to the front of a queue if I know I can make it before the light changes; at the very least, I position myself between cars and leave the bike in 1st if I see somebody come barreling up behind me. I only split moving traffic if its stop-and-go.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Grant’s got a court case for it here in a little while. You can’t not do it in NY for safety reasons, but the cops HATE it. One of the many reasons riding in this city is no fun.

    • Myles

      Actively lane-split when in the district (not illegal in DC, though there is some confusion – it’s complicated) and have quite a bit of fun. It’s nice to stand up on the pegs and snake through traffic.

      When in VA I lane-split in heavy heavy traffic when it’s hot and have only been bothered once or twice (given warnings).

      When at traffic lights I either jump to the front or position myself to the right of the car in the far-right lane. My front wheel is right next to their passenger rear quarter panel and I can pretty much touch their passenger brake light with my clutch hand. Kind of like this:

      | | |
      | |C |
      | |C |
      | |C M|
      | | |

      (C’s are one car and M is motorcycle). Never do this on a hill (even a slight incline) – some people still have standard transmissions.

    • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

      I live in Southern CA (79 and sunny today, thanks for asking) and lane split when I feel that it’s safe to do so. That depends on a variety of factors, but I always make a conscious effort to evaluate the risk.

      When splitting I ride only a few more MPH faster than traffic, with high-beams on. I’d rather get there slowly than not get there at all.

      • http://greatjoballweek.blogspot.com/ Case

        Should also add that I’m a big fan of filtering at traffic lights. I think it’s even more advantageous than lane splitting in moving traffic, and safer.

    • Grive

      Heavy lane-splitter.

      Then again, I’m not from the US, and while I believe it’s not exactly legal here (and not specifically illegal, either), cops are fine with it, and cars accept it.

    • noone1569

      I live in Indianapolis and it is strictly forbidden and highly enforced.

    • James

      Filtering isn’t a very British thing. Misery and whimsical melancholy is a core part of the national condition and traffic just panders to that. We don’t overtake, we sit behind slower traffic and seethe, both loving it and loathing it in equal measure. So when you overtake slow-moving or stationary traffic, the cagers take it as a personal insult that you’ve intruded on their piece of asphalt and will often drive on the centreline just to impede your progress.

      Mainland Europe is a different story. The bikers are all lunatics, but the cars respect that fact.

      • stempere

        “The bikers are all lunatics, but the cars respect that fact.”
        That’s exactly why there isn’t so much accidents in France, everybody drives like a maniac so everyone expects crazy stuff from everybody, especially 2 wheelers and even more delivery scooters (pizza’s and sushi delivery boys in Paris drive like that every day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRVyZZXBICA minus the end flip, of course).
        Lane spliting here is so conventional, cars get out of your way, not because they want to be nice, but because if they don’t, riders will kick their car, rear-view mirrors etc.
        Writting it now, i realise why my friend who learned to drive in Cairo is affraid to drive here…

        • James

          Yeah I prefer riding in barely-controlled chaos. If you know anyone around you could do anything at any moment, you’re damn sure going to take more interest in what other people are doing. I’ve ridden all over South-East Asia and never felt at risk, even when driving in Vietnam or Cambodia.

          The way I always figured it was that you had to be absolutely confident. Every junction you’d be coming up with a guy coming from the left, a guy from the right and one coming right at you. If you keep going at a constant speed and direction, you’ll all pass by unscathed. If one of you bottles it and slows down, you’re all going to stack it.

          That said, driving in countries where a significant proportion of the bikers believe in reincarnation is always going to have an inherent risk.

    • paul

      In New Zealand the law is a bit grey about this it’s not technically illegal so you can do it as long as you are not being an asshole about it. I’ve Lane split on the motorway (highway) when the traffic has been standstill and a cop on a bike followed me up the middle. when we got to the front of the queue all he had to say was “nice Bike’.

    • seanslides

      Everyday, and pretty much everywhere. I bought my GSXR new in May of 09, and more than half of it’s 37,000 miles were done while splitting lanes on the way to work. I probably did about 100 miles of it today, of which 60 were with my girlfriend and a backpack full of stuff.

  • Paul

    Just disgusting. To protect and to serve themselves.

  • Gregory

    I’m very pro-lane splitting. Am hoping Oregon, as sensible as we are, allows it.

    From the local newspaper, see below.

    -gceaves
    2007 KLR 650, with milk crate

    —————————————

    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2010/11/is_motorcycle_lane_splitting_coming_to_oregon_the_idea_is_accelerating.html

  • sanjuro

    When I first heard the story, I was afraid of something like this would occur.

    If I am not mistaken, the blood test is critical to making any DUI case.

    But I didn’t know the “officer” was allowed to clean up his own crime scene.

    It boils my blood that this crime would have resulted in a vehicular manslaughter conviction at the minimum is now likely to result in no charges at all.

    And justice for all.

  • gt1

    Filtering in front of the stopped traffic would help all of us greatly. However my impression is that most political efforts by motorcyclists (well, “bikers” would be a better term) are spent on repealing the helmet laws. Personally, I’m against the “nanny state” laws, but the helmet laws are on the bottom of my priorities.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

    I know four riders that have been rear ended while stopped. Three of those four were killed in the collision. I live in CA where it’s legal, but I still filter when out of state. I’d rather risk a ticket than a toe tag.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/1962_cb77_restore/ Scott Pargett

    It’s also important to remember that everyone of us on bikes is a diplomat to the community, and all it takes is one memorable asshole to ruin the image everyone else.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m no angel, I like to have fun on my bikes, but there’s a time and a place. Showing off to cagers doesn’t impress anyone but yourself, and only hurts other riders when it comes time for everyone to vote on motorcycle rights. They’ll be remembering the guy lane splitting on the freeway at 85mph and cutting them off with a quick flick afterwards. That leaves voters much less concerned with motorcyclist’s “safety”.

  • Thomas

    Wow look at that I guess God does work in weird ways, I commented on the NYC fastest video 2 days before this and commented on how they let this guy go while he was drunk. Hope he will never see the daylight and lets not forget all those others who tried to shovel it under the table about his BAC to the public. I like how in the matter of just being on the scene they ruled it an accident. Reverse this scenario and the person would of got hung even if he was sober and it was an accident. I also like how they started to say the bikers were the problem becuase they didn’t yield to a EV, WHEN THEY HAD NO PLACE TO GO. Why do people constanlty think cops can do no wrong no matter what it is? It is really a joke.