The Worst Feeling in the World

What could gnaw at you more than knowing you hit a pedestrian and raced away? What if the person was dead – and all over the news? Knowing a little something of what the guy who hit me endured, I can’t help but wonder about the fugitives from a recent string of hit ‘n run fatalities in L.A.

In 2003 I was hit by a rather tightly wound individual (read: dickhead) driving a brand new Jaguar S-Type who left me for dead in the middle of the intersection at Lincoln Blvd & Rose Ct. in Venice, CA. Bystanders tended to me while good Samaritans yelled to each other about the direction in which the Jaguar had fled. I awoke in the middle of the commotion, looking up at the June sky and feeling freezing cold. My head was being held very still above a pool of blood. I was beginning to hyperventilate, which made some lady above me cry.

A man ran up and yelled, “Here! Here! I have his address! I followed him to some condos up that way!” I heard a stampede of boots and feet running for cars, then several peel outs. By then several cops had arrived, seeking a culprit to question or cuff and being unleashed like that is what Badges live for.

And I thought the front of this car was lame beforehand!

The name of the guy who hit me – or, for that matter, the ensuing six-year journey of multiple surgeries, recovery, physical rehab, and civil litigation – will never leave my memory, though I’m gonna do him a favor and not reveal it here. “Preston” (and believe me, he was such a Preston) had driven straight home, taken a shower, and jumped into some sweats. He’d flipped on his TV and begun watching the news – I can only hope he was secretly scared shitless, watching to see if he’d put me in a Forever Box and someone had captured it on video.

Turns out Preston – doughy-white and suit-wearing, with a penchant for “incidents” relating to his temper – was a military avionics engineer for a big defense contractor. So yes, the Falling Down references were impossible to avoid, especially since all Preston wanted was to “go home.”

You see he’d intended to make a yellow light and had raced up the center median to do so. He’d simply had it with waiting his turn. When I went up ‘n over the hood and the roof of his Jag, he was doing 25-35, so witness statements indicate. (Sure felt like it.)

Four miles later: After parking the Jag in his allocated underground space, he kissed the wife and headed off to shower, at least outwardly confident that there’d been some “unpleasantness” but that everything had worked out. He was, after all, home, and that’s all he’d wanted.

It was weird to learn of these things during the course of our civil suit, but at least my family would have had all this context on hand had I not survived. Erin Galligan’s family’s got nothing but a description of the white truck that killed her as she bicycled home from her waitressing job on July 11. News outlets have covered her death in print and on television, but police have so little to go on it’s not likely the family will find the closure they seek.

Is the person who killed Erin somehow happy they got away with it, or are they beside themselves with guilt and fear? I’d imagine having such a large monkey on your back and such a loud clock ticking in your ear would pretty well suck the life outta you, so how can this person’s family or friends not notice anything odd? And where is the white Chevy Silverado with the smashed grill? Didn’t anyone who knows this person wonder what the hell happened? Or did someone offer assistance with the cover-up? Are the partners in crime screaming at each other right this minute? Waiting for the other shoe to drop can have a terrible emotional ripple effect.

The same questions apply to the driver of the red Corvette that struck and killed Alex Silva the very next day. What’s this person’s excuse for not stopping? Do they not believe it’s only a matter of time? And how do you hide a red Corvette, let alone one that’s been described in the news as having a smashed front windshield and severely damaged bumper and hood? I can’t imagine killing a human being and bailing, only to go through every single day after that knowing I was the truest definition of “Chickenshit.” Wow. Who’s this asshole going to take his or her stress out on?

When Preston Chickenshit was charged with Assault With a Deadly Weapon and Felony Hit and Run, his delusions of righteousness were invalidated and his life was changed, at least for a while. He hadn’t exactly been an angel before he “ran into” me, but his previous anger issues and documented altercations – exposed during the civil case – had never before forced him to refinance his home to pay his attorney fees. At the time, my family and I hoped that consequence would lead him to divorce, financial ruin, and funny looks from his coworkers. He’d earned it. But while we still fantasize about knockin’ Preston’s teeth down his throat, I know from personal experience how important second chances are, so I try ‘n let it go.

Claire Rose’s family may not get the opportunity to make that choice, thanks to the driver of a dark gray Toyota that killed her in a Santa Monica crosswalk. I wonder if that driver is thinking that because it happened in the dark at 12:15 a.m. it’ll be easier to forget. What else might his or her head be whispering? Is this person banking on our assumption that birthday-girl Claire was an irresponsible party animal? If they’re ever caught, will such a denunciation of her character play a part in their defense?

Insurance Companies: "Weak-ass bitches don't get paid!"

Why not? Preston’s attorneys brought up my criminal past to discredit my recollection of the incident; they accused me of being “in it” for the payday. In fact, my old mug shots were stapled to opposing counsels’ folders, which they opened in front of me every chance they got. Cashiers and witnesses present during robberies I’d committed 14 years prior were hunted down and deposed. They set up video gear to record my reactions as transcripts of these reconstructions were read aloud. It was awful; I wondered if this was about punishing me more for a past life than holding Preston accountable for his actions in this one. In reality, it was a low blow delivered for no other reason than to make me quit and settle. “Shaking weak apples from the tree is the #1 business of insurance attorneys,” I was told.

That’s one thing for the families of these victims to keep in mind: the price of closure is often high, and you will never be fully compensated for your loss. Even if you do manage to bring the fugitive in, the loopholes, maneuvers, excuses, and delays of your search for “justice” within a complex court system can be soul crushing. You might feel as though the car had struck you as well.

But to the people responsible for the deaths of these three people – and others – I ask, is that guilt you’re living with the worst feeling in the world? A lot of us truly hope so.

May it never leave you a moment’s peace while you’re on the run.

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