New evidence shows that a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy hit a teenage bicyclist in Spokane Valley two years ago, contradicting the findings of multiple previous investigations into the incident.
At an afternoon news conference called Wednesday, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich and an outside investigator said new evidence shows the imprint of 15-year-old Ryan Holyk’s hat on the bumper of Deputy Joe Bodman’s cruiser. The firm owned by investigator Jarrod Carter, Origin Forensics LLC, had earlier concluded that Bodman did not hit Holyk.
Bodman was driving west on Sprague Avenue at high speed without using his lights or siren on May 23, 2014, when Holyk crossed Sprague at Vista Road against a red light. Holyk’s bike did not have lights, reflectors or brakes, and he was not wearing a helmet. Holyk died from his injuries a few days after the crash.
Carter, of Origin Forensics, said he recently viewed an animation prepared by an expert hired by the Holyk family as part of a civil lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s Office. It showed that Holyk put his bike down in an attempt to avoid a collision and then turned around to try to escape to the curb on the north side of Sprague. As Holyk did this, Bodman swerved from a middle lane toward the right, likewise trying to avoid a collision, and the left side of his bumper hit Holyk’s head. The animation shows that Holyk would have been spun counterclockwise and landed on top of his bike.
Carter and other experts had previously concluded that Bodman did not hit Holyk, partly because there was no blood or tissue on the car. They believed that the teenager’s facial injuries were caused when he dumped his bike and said skin cell DNA found on the patrol car’s bumper likely was transferred by people on the scene that night, and was not from direct contact.
Carter said after seeing the Holyk family’s animation, he went back to review the evidence to see if it could be correct.
In closely examining the photos taken of the left front bumper he saw a “broken pattern” near where Holyk’s DNA had been found. He said he converted the photo to black and white and then applied a negative effect to make the pattern stand out and matched it to the hat band of a hat similar to the one Holyk wore backward.
“The bumper did in fact strike Mr. Holyk’s head,” he said. “That’s the only explanation I have.”
Carter said he’s not sure why no one spotted the pattern before.
“When it’s a light pattern on a dark background, it’s really hard to find,” he said.
Holyk family attorney Mike Mauer said neither he nor the family was made aware of the new evidence before Knezovich announced it at a news conference Wednesday.
“We have been saying this all along,” he said. “They knew the truth was going to come out at trial. We have presented overwhelming evidence to the county’s attorneys for months and months.”
Mauer said he’s upset that the family had to spend so much time and money to get to the truth.
“I am beyond pleased, regardless of how the information came out, that my clients have prevailed in showing what really happened,” he said.
Knezovich said he did not consider the ongoing civil lawsuit in deciding to release the new information.
“It’s more important that we do what’s right,” he said. “The last thing we would do is not release evidence in any case.”
Prosecutor Larry Haskell said in light of the new evidence, criminal charges against Bodman will be re-evaluated. He had previously cleared Bodman of any criminal violations based on multiple internal and external investigations that concluded Bodman did not strike Holyk.
“We will determine whether or not to change our opinion in any way,” he said.
Knezovich said he believes Holyk put himself in the path of the patrol car when he turned and moved back toward the curb.
“Had Holyk stayed on the bike, this would not have happened,” he said.
Knezovich cautioned that the evidence in itself doesn’t prove Bodman’s guilt.
“That’s yet to be determined,” he said.
Bodman was reprimanded for a policy violation – speeding with his emergency lights off.
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