More details emerged Friday about the suspect in the fatal hit-and-run that killed 65-year-old cyclist Gregory Blackman Tuesday. Driver Michael Smith, 41, is being charged with driving under the influence, hit and run causing serious and permanent injury or death, and murder. The latter charge is rare in these cases; vehicular manslaughter is more common. But Smith unfortunately appears to have a lengthy rap sheet, with two prior DUIs, and a conviction for human trafficking, for which he was sentenced in 2014.
The series of events that led to Blackman’s death appear to have started early Tuesday across the Bay. According to documents from the District Attorney’s office, Smith was drinking with his wife and a friend in Oakland, when he decided to drive to San Francisco. His wife allegedly warned him that he should not drive as he was drinking, but Smith took her car regardless. While he drove to S.F., he drank more from a bag of wine.
By the time he ended up in the Tenderloin, Smith appears to have been drunk. Surveillance footage collected from the scene shows him making a right turn off Mason westbound onto Turk Street, before speeding up. He nearly hit a pedestrian before he reached Turk and Taylor streets, which is where he struck Blackman.
The impact was apparently so profound that Blackman flew several feet into the air before landing on Turk Street near Aunt Charlie’s Lounge. Photographs taken shortly after the incident show a bike frame snapped in half, a pair of sneakers on the asphalt, and a BMW with a badly-shattered windshield and roof. Smith apparently backed up the car, and fled the scene, before stopping in a parking lot at Turk and Jones. A crowd chased him down, and police apprehended him at the scene.
“I did it, I’m drunk, I drove, just take me to 850,” Smith allegedly said during his arrest. “Now I’m in trouble, I got life in jail now. It’s over, I am going to jail for life.”
At Tuesday’s court appearance Smith appeared to be in extreme distress and was unable to stand in front of the judge. The courtroom was emptied, and it was determined that he will be arraigned on Tuesday. He is being held without bail.
Update, 8/21: Smith has entered a not guilty plea. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Anita Nabha, said outside court Tuesday that her “deepest condolences go out to the family of Gregory Blackman and his community. This is an absolute tragedy and it was apparent to anyone in the courtroom that Michael Smith is devastated by this.” She highlighted that Smith is “hard-working,” and is the father to a newborn girl.
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