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Charges Filed Against SF Cyclist For Pedestrian Death In Castro

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - A bicyclist has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter in connection with the death of a pedestrian he struck in San Francisco's Castro District in March, District Attorney George Gascon announced Thursday.

Chris Bucchere, 36, struck 71-year-old Sutchi Hui at Market and Castro streets shortly before 8:10 a.m. on March 29.

Witnesses reported that Bucchere, who was riding south on Castro Street, struck Hui as he walked east in a crosswalk with a green light at the time of the collision. Hui died at a hospital on April 2.

Gascon said Thursday that "the tragedy that occurred here did not need to occur."

He said Bucchere "had a need for speed" and was "trying to break his own record" time on a popular bike route from Marin County into San Francisco.

KCBS' Anna Duckworth Reports:

Gascon said Bucchere is being charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor because witnesses reported that the cyclist committed "a pattern of vehicle code violations" prior to the collision, including by running red lights and stop signs at other intersections.

Gascon said that, based on surveillance video footage of the collision obtained by prosecutors, "it doesn't appear he was trying to stop" before striking Hui.

Bucchere's attorney, Ted Cassman, was not immediately available for comment Thursday morning, but said in the days after Hui's death that his client gave a statement to police the day of the collision and is cooperating with the investigation.

"Chris believes he entered the intersection lawfully and that he did everything possible to avoid the accident," Cassman said on April 6.

But on the day of the collision, someone using the name Chris Bucchere wrote about the accident on an online forum for the local cycling group Mission Cycling.

"The light turned yellow as I approached the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop," the post stated.

He said he hoped Hui was OK, but ended by saying the moral of the story of his crash was the importance of wearing a helmet, which elicited criticism from other forum members. The post has since been hidden from public view.

Gascon said prosecutors have seen the post and, while it did not necessarily play a role in their decision on the charges, "clearly it raises a concern for us about his state of mind."

Bucchere is expected to surrender to police by the end of the week and be arraigned on the charge early next week, according to the district attorney's office. He faces a maximum six-year sentence if convicted.

John Alex Lowell, a member of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and the city's Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, attended Thursday's news conference and commended Gascon for filing the felony charges.

Bucchere "was letting his vanity get in the way of safety," Lowell said.

Gascon said, "I'm hoping this case serves to raise a bigger issue ... that the rules of the road apply to everyone."

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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