FIFTEEN MONTHS after two drunken drivers ran over their son, the family of 31-year-old Kipp Crawford finally saw the second driver walk away in handcuffs.
The death of beloved Portland musician Crawford, who was a drummer for bands Celilo and the Fractal Quintet, highlights the tragedy of drunken driving and the lack of stiff penalties for drivers who cause the deaths of others.
Crawford was riding his bike home from a gig late at night on November 4, 2009, when he was apparently assaulted, robbed, and left in the middle of North Willamette. As he lay there, drivers Felisa Washington and Carlos McCall, both intoxicated, ran him over, then stopped and called 911. It's not clear whether Crawford would have died from the injuries of his assault, but he was alive when an ambulance arrived—his bike lights were even still flashing. He died later that night.
Neither driver is charged with manslaughter and Oregon is one of only four states with no vehicular homicide law, meaning that people who cause someone's death because of careless driving often get only a slap on the wrist ["Getting Away with It," News, Nov 12, 2009].
Washington pled guilty to a DUII and was sentenced in November 2010 to 15 days in jail along with probation, alcohol treatment, and a $1,000 fine.
McCall maintained his innocence, but was convicted on DUII charges last week. At his sentencing in Multnomah County Courthouse, McCall and his family urged the judge to let him off without jail time for his first DUII.
"I made a mistake. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," McCall told the court. "But I did what I could to help."
During the court proceedings, Crawford's parents have called for both citizens and the legal system to treat drunken driving as a more serious crime.
"With DUII laws, you can have multiple incidents before there's a kind of punishment that really gets your attention," says Kipp's mother, Jean Crawford. "When we as a society sort of slack off and say you don't need to do that, this is what we get."
At the sentencing, Mrs. Crawford faced McCall and told him, through tears, the impact of his "irresponsible, selfish" choice to drive drunk.
"I want him to never get in a car without thinking of his responsibility to control the lethal object he is directing," said Mrs. Crawford.
In the end, Judge Stephen Bushong sided with the Crawfords, sentencing McCall to 60 days in jail (the maximum is one year) along with a $1,000 fine, suspended license, and probation. "I see drivers in my courtroom who are convicted of this crime frequently and I warn them how tragic it can be. Cases like this hit home," said Judge Bushong.
Though the drunken driving prosecution has ended, Crawford's case is far from closed: Police are still offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever attacked Crawford that night in November.