California Doctor Sentenced for Assaulting Bike Riders

Date: January 8, 2010
Location: Los Angeles, California
Names: Christopher Thompson

On July 4, 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times, Brentwood physician Christopher Thompson was on his way to work when he found himself behind a pair of bicycles. First he honked his horn. Then he passed the bicycles, edging dangerously close to them. As soon as his car was in front of the bike riders, he slammed on the brakes.

After injuring both cyclists, the doctor showed little remorse, railing against disrespectful bike riders and saying his acts were to “teach them a lesson.”

One bike rider was flung face-first into the rear window of Thompson’s car, breaking his front teeth and nose. The other cyclist was thrown to the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.

On January 8, 2010, a Los Angeles County judge had the chance to teach Thompson a lesson of his own. Judge Scott T. Millington sentenced Thompson to five years in prison for charges including mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon (his car), battery with serious injury, and reckless driving causing injury. Before sentencing, a mollified Thompson apologized “deeply, profoundly” and quoted the Bible to urge others to settle their differences peacefully.

Judge Millington received more than 270 emails urging him to get tough with Thompson. He said the letters did not influence his ruling. But the judge took the opportunity to call on local government to provide more bike lanes, and he termed the case a “wake-up call” for both drivers and bicyclists.

Prosecutors said the incident was not Thompson’s first run-in with bike riders. Four months before the crash, two cyclists told police that Thompson tried to run them off the road, then moved in front of them and hit the brakes. No one was injured in that crash.

On January 8, the 60-year-old former emergency room physician, dressed in jail scrubs and handcuffed to his chair, openly wept in court.

As this case demonstrates, it is important for all of us to share the road – motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and highway workers. Yes, bikers and pedestrians sometimes act disrespectfully. But drivers should remember how vulnerable they are. It is never okay to teach manners in a way that risks someone’s life.

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