On the night of May 23, 2014 deputy Joe Bodman of the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office was driving his Ford Explorer SUV at 74 mph — more than twice the speed limit — down East Sprague Avenue. In violation of Washington state law, neither his siren nor his lights were on. As he approached the intersection of Sprague & Vista, Bodman changed lanes to pass a pickup truck.
At the same time, a 15-year old boy, Ryan Holyk, entered the crosswalk on his bicycle. According to the the man driving the truck that Bodman had just passed, Bodman’s SUV hit Ryan’s head as the vehicle veered through the crosswalk.
Bodman came to a stop, and radioed dispatch: “I just hit a pedestrian”.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, including the deputy’s own admission and the presence of Holyk’s DNA on the bumper of the deputy’s SUV, the Sheriff’s office insisted that the vehicle never touched the boy. Just last month, on the second anniversary of the accident, the Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory and Review Board issued a report concluding that the deputy’s vehicle did not strike Ryan Holyk. The board’s vice chairman Bob West insisted that the report was “thorough” and accused critics of the report of having “a political ax to grind”.
Then last week Dr. Carter, an investigator in the Ryan Holyk’s case, made a damning discovery: he found an imprint of the boy’s hat band on the bumper of the SUV. Today, Knezovich held a press-conference, where Dr. Carter presented the evidence.
After the presentation, Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney Lawrence Haskell made a short statement, saying that in light of the new evidence the Prosecutor’s Office will be requesting the entire file back from the investigators to take another look at the situation. “At this point, it would be way too early to speculate whether it would change that decision [to file criminal charges against Bodman]”.
Sheriff Knezovich spoke immediately after and went on the defensive, saying that “One of the things that needs to be pointed out, is, every ounce of evidence that you’ve seen today was collected by either Spokane Police Department detectives, Spokane Sheriff’s Office forensic unit, or the Spokane Sheriff’s Office.. erm.. expert in reference to this.. this case. It shows just the amount of diligence and good police work that was done in capturing all this.. material. So, on the fifth review of this.. case, there was uh.. new evidence that was found and that will be examined and we will move forward with the, um, the information that we gained from that. Um, questions?”
Reporter: “How will this impact the lawsuit?”
Knezovich responded: “You know.. the lawsuit really is irrelevant in reference to this.. um.. this type of situation. It’s more important to make sure we do what’s right. It’s more important that citizens of this county have this information, and that the prosecutor’s office has this information. So they can make a determination as far as what happened here in this.. ah.. instance. The last thing we will ever do, is, uh.. not release evidence in reference to any case because that’s just not how we operate.”
Reporter: “Dr. Carter, why wasn’t this done before?”
Dr. Carter : “To be honest, with you, I can’t really tell you, um.. quite frankly, because I was looking at it in context.” He proceeded to explain that the discovery was partly the result of a careful reexamination of the photos, and part a happy accident with the photo of the bumper and the hatband displayed side-by-side. “Of course, you’ve already been alerted to the fact that this is there. Once you see it, you can’t really unsee it… it’s a subtle pattern, it’s disjointed, it’s in two different pieces, and it’s not a complete hat band, it doesn’t immediately pop out at you.”
Reporter: “How long ago did it catch your eye, and how long did it take you to come to this conclusion?”
Dr. Carter: “A week to a week and a half ago, I had received animations from the plaintiffs, where they were laying out their theory about how the event took place. And their theory, that Mr. Holyk put the bike down, and that he had turned about 180 degrees, back to his right, to exit the crosswalk and to go back to the north, and then he was struck in the head, spun back around and dropped right on top of the bike, which to my mind at that point seemed highly speculative. But I said — as a forensic analyst, as a scientist, and an engineer — one of the things that I want to do was evaluate the theory against the evidence and see if perhaps potentially I missed something.. so I went back, and — the sheriff didn’t ask me to do this, nobody asked me to do this, I did this on my own. To go back, and look carefully at the photos and see if, for some reason, there was something that I missed. And, I found this, I would say — after several hours of looking through the photos, before I actually found this.
Knezovich: “Over the course of that week, um.. Dr. Carter’s information could not be verified, until we had the hat. We still don’t have the hat, so we haven’t been able to definitively match the hat. We were able to find photographs of the hat, give them to Dr. Carter, and the.. um.. County’s attorney and the county’s expert in this case reviewed Dr. Carter’s.. um.. information and came to the same conclusion.. um.. last Friday. Dr. Carter finished his review, finished the report, I received the report this morning, and we’re presenting that report today.”
Reporter: “What does this say about the previous reports, that came out that said that there was no contact?”
Knezovich: “That’s.. that’s what it says.. uh.. this report still says basically the same thing. Deputy Bodman’s vehicle didn’t knock Holyk off the.. off his bicycle, didn’t hit the bicycle, didn’t hit Holyk on the bicycle, and what it shows is, as Dr. Carter mentioned — the plaintiff’s theory — that, after he dropped the bike, he spun, at 21 inches off the ground, and tried to go to the north and that’s when he was hit by deputy Bodman’s vehicle as it was going around him. That’s the only difference, is, um — there’s, as Dr. Carter mentioned — many of the mechanics of this, it really can’t be explained.”
Reporter: “So, is still [unintelligible] that he knocked Holyk off his bike?”
Knezovich: “Right. Had Holyk stayed on the bike, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s when he spins that 180 degrees and heads back towards the crosswalk.. or, the sidewalk.”
Reporter: “So, you’re saying Holyk’s injuries are still a result of his own actions, and not the deputy’s?”
Knezovich: “That’s.. There’s a combination of information here, Mitch. So, yes. ”
Reporter: “So, to be clear: this does not, necessarily, say that the officer was at fault, in any way?”
Knezovich: “No. That’s yet to be determined.”
Reporter: “You said you don’t have the hat. Where is it?”
Knezovich: “The family has the hat. The plaintiff’s attorney has the hat.”
Reporter: “Where is deputy Bodman now?”
Knezovich: “Deputy Bodman is still on patrol.”