Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
Death of Innocence - The Tyler James Memorial Foundation
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Death of Innocence: Chapter 3

The Cover-Up

After compiling evidence that led me to believe that members of the Lake County, California Highway Patrol perpetrated an intentional cover-up, I filed my first complaint through the internal affairs division, in Sacramento. The first complaint I filed resulted in a meeting between myself and two of the officers who were at the scene of my son's death. During this first meeting, I was not aware of Shifflets criminal history, or the multiple DUI's he had pending the day of my son's death. The main reason I filed this complaint, was because Mark Shiflett was not cited for driving over the double yellow line. I began by showing one of the photos that was taken by the officers the day of my son's death. The photo is of Shifflets truck straddling the double yellow line, where he began the 95 foot-long locked wheel skid, that resulted in my son being struck and killed. This photo is indisputable proof that Mark Shiflett was driving over the double yellow line when the skidding began. It is clearly not logical to conclude that this vehicle code violation did not at least, "contribute to causing my son's death." It is also not consistent with California Highway Patrol policy to fail to include these facts in a fatality collision report. I asked Sergeant Stark why Shiflett was not cited for this clear and obvious vehicle code violation? Sergeant Stark stated," Shiflett had a good reason for being over the double yellow line, Shiflett swerved over the double yellow line at the last minute, in an attempt to avoid the collision." I asked Sergeant Stark , why this crucial fact was not stated in the report? I also asked him why Shiflett's statement, (his reason for being over the double yellow line), was not included in the report. Sergeant Stark stated to me that it was "not relevant". Somehow I don't believe he would feel that way if it was his child who got slaughtered all over the roadway by a criminal!

Besides that, according to the collision investigation manual that the CHP is required to follow, any event that occurs prior to the collision, is considered by the Department of the California Highway Patrol as relevant information, and shall be disclosed in the report. So if the Department of the CHP has mandatory rules regarding any fatality or injury report, that require the disclosure of all vital and relevant information, especially vehicle code violations such as driving over the double yellow line in a reckless manner, why is it okay that these officers willfully failed to disclose this information in the report? How is it the officers could deem this information not relevant, when the Department has deemed it relevant?

I asked officer C. Huhn, why Shiflett was not asked to give a blood or urine sample? She said she did not have "probable cause" to ask him to submit to a blood or urine test, and did not want to, "violate his rights". In the years to come, I would discover that statement was a lie. The fact is that I have gathered evidence that proves, Mark Shiflett was a known, habitual, drug and alcohol offender, and had been for years in Lake County. Besides being a well-known drug and alcohol offender, Mark Shiflett had also received two serious DUI's just six days before he killed my son. Lake County court documents prove that on January 27, and on January 29, Mark Shiflett , was arrested for DUI! The documents go on to state, Mark Shiflett was under the combined influence of drugs and high levels of alcohol. Mark Shiflett had also recently discharged off parole from his fourth prison term. In the CHP report, the officer states that he identified Mark Shiflett as having a valid license, through DMV paperwork. The DMV paperwork that the officer was referring to is a temporary paper license that is issued by the arresting officer, after a person gets a DUI. When a person gets a DUI and their blood alcohol level is higher than .08, their hard-card license is taken, and they are issued this temporary license. So when Mark Shiflett presented this temporary license to the officer, the officer had to know that Mark Shiflett had DUI's pending. This factor in itself is probable cause for the officers to ask Mark Shiflett to submit to blood or urine testing, especially in a fatality collision. But what about Mark Shiflett being a registered drug and alcohol offender? That is probable cause to order Shiflett to submit. I also discovered that Shiflett had gotten a serious DUI in 1999, where he drove through Lower Lake at a high rate of speed nearly hitting several cars. A concerned citizen called the Lake County sheriff, who came to the scene and promptly arrested Shiflett for DUI. The sheriff's arrest report plainly states that Shiflett carelessly endangered the lives of many people by driving in such a reckless manner. By all means Shiflett should've been on probation for this serious DUI violation, the day that he killed my son. So why did competent California Highway Patrol officers, fail to take the appropriate action? Why did they allow him to drive away to commit more wrongdoing behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? That's a question I hope to have answered truthfully, someday. Two weeks after striking and killing my son, Mark Shiflett was arrested a third time for DUI. Lake County court documents prove that Mark Shiflett was once again under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs. His alcohol level was extremely high, .21, during this third serious DUI within three weeks.

Mark Shiflett was finally kept in jail on this third serious DUI. He was eventually sentenced to six months in jail for getting these three serious DUI's in a row. The judge who sentenced him did not even know that in between these DUI's, Shiflett had struck and killed a little boy while driving over the double yellow line in a reckless manner. With time off for good behavior, Mark Shiflett was out driving under the influence once again, after only spending less than four months in jail. He was arrested once again for DUI, and drugs and alcohol were once again involved. Mark Shiflett was finally sentenced to nine years in prison. He was never properly questioned or cited for his role in my son's death.

The results of the second complaint I filed through internal affairs, was a meeting between myself and Lieutenant Commander Hayward, of the Lake County CHP. I met Commander Hayward at the scene of my son's death on Big Canyon Road, a little over a year after my son's death. Commander Hayward accused me of being an unnecessary burden on his Department. I had been told by several people who knew Shiflett that he was on parole when he killed my son. I mentioned this to Commander Hayward and he produced documents which indicated that Shiflett had discharged off parole a couple of months prior to my son's death. Commander Hayward told me that because Shiflett was not on parole, the officers did not have the right to ask Shiflett to give a test. I showed Mr. Hayward the photo of Shiflett's truck over the line, and asked why no citation was issued, and he told me that Shiflett being over the line was not relevant. At this point I was still unaware of many facts.

Commander Hayward tried to make me feel guilty for filing my complaints with internal affairs. He said because I was creating an unnecessary burden on his officers, that one of the officers had to seek counseling. I wonder how he thinks I feel. A week after my son's death I went to mental health to get counseling and was told that I did not qualify. After a heated discussion between Commander Hayward and myself, Commander Hayward asked what it was I wanted from him? I explained to Commander Hayward, that Jim Carreker had committed criminal child endangerment by allowing my seven-year-old son on a dangerous 55 mph highway without a helmet, on many different occasions. I asked Commander Hayward if he would fill out a report stating these facts and submit it to the district attorney for consideration. Commander Hayward stated that I was trying to place "false blame." Commander Hayward then told me a story about how he had lost his 22-year-old stepson, who lost control of his motorcycle and slid under the rear of a car and was killed. He said the grief he suffered from the loss of his stepson, caused him to place "false blame" on the driver of the vehicle that his stepson rear ended. I fail to see any comparison here! My son was not 22 years old. A seven-year-old child cannot be held accountable for his own safety. Commander Hayward refused to submit any report to the district attorney, including the CHP report.

The CHP report concluded that my son was at fault and caused this collision by riding on the wrong side of the road on his bicycle, a vehicle code violation. The only evidence that my son committed this violation is Shiflett's testimony. The officers were very quick to conclude that my son committed this alleged violation. The photos that the CHP took, prove that Shiflett was in the commission of a vehicle code violation, yet they did not even mention this crucial fact in the report. So the officers ignored the factual evidence that they gathered, and drew false conclusions based on the word of a known criminal who had every reason to lie to the officers.

The third complaint I filed with internal affairs of the CHP got less results than the first two complaints. The matter was reviewed by the Commander of the Northern division out of Redding, California. I received a letter from the Northern division commander that stated, there was no reason to believe that the report was inaccurate. Well I disagree. The fact is that there is hard-core evidence that proves the officers left vital information out of a fatality collision report.

When I called internal affairs to file my fourth and final complaint, I requested that I be able to present my allegations in person at the internal affairs headquarters in Sacramento. I began preparing for this meeting by getting a copy of the CHP 40.50, which is the collision investigation manual distributed and used by the CHP. After studying this manual, I found that according to the provisions of this manual, the CHP clearly failed to properly investigate my son's death. The first chapter of the CHP manual states," the provisions of the CHP 40.50 collision investigation manual shall be followed." Now , what this means is that it is the responsibility and the duty of any CHP officer, to follow the guidelines that are in the manual. This chapter goes on to explain the importance of a collision report being based on fact, and that, "logical conclusions shall be drawn based on facts", and not assumptions. After a heated discussion with two internal affairs officers at the Sacramento office, I showed them time after time, how the officers that investigated my son's death failed to follow the provisions of the manual. After proving that there was clearly evidence of misconduct, the Sergeant told me that he would investigate this misconduct and notify me of his findings. Less than a week later I got a letter from internal affairs in Sacramento, stating that "there was no reason to believe the report was inaccurate."

The California Highway Patrol maintains a national database, where the information that is gathered on collision reports is analyzed. The manual clearly emphasizes the importance of every collision investigation being uniform, in the way that the information is gathered. If every officer were allowed to dictate his own policy it would be chaos. I wonder how the higher ups in the California Highway Patrol, who work at the national database to analyze this information would feel, if they knew that one whole division, (Lake County) had submitted a report to the national database, where vital information was left out of a fatality collision report? Vital information that is deemed relevant by the Department!! How can information that is deemed relevant by the Department of the California Highway Patrol, be deemed irrelevant by members of the Lake County California Highway Patrol? Especially when these officers are required by the guidelines of their duty to follow the provisions of the collision investigation manual?

The statement that Mark Shiflett gave to the officers the day of my son's death, is in the CHP report. In Mark Shiflett's statement, he tells officers that he saw my son's brother Jacob on the roadway prior to striking and killing my son. This establishes that the officers knew that Jacob was an eyewitness and on the roadway. In view of the fact that the collision investigation manual plainly states that all witnesses shall be interviewed, especially in a fatality collision, why did the officers fail to question Jacob on February 4, 2001? The only reason Jacob's testimony is in the police report is because I called and complained to a Sergeant and requested that an officer come out to interview Jacob, who in fact was an eyewitness to Mark Shiflett driving over the double yellow line in a reckless manner. Two days after the collision, when officer Huhn obtained testimony from Jacob, which indicated that Jacob witnessed Mark Shiflett driving over the double yellow line, the officers should have furthered their investigation. If in fact, there was a valid legitimate reason for Shiflett being over the line it should've been addressed in the report. To fail to include this vital information in a CHP fatality collision report is blatant misconduct. I guess in this particular case, internal affairs concluded that it was appropriate for the officers to dictate their own policy, and ignore the provisions of the CHP collision investigation manual.

Another puzzling fact about the CHP report, is the conclusion of the skid analysis done by the California Highway Patrol on February 4, 2001. Although Mark Shiflett's truck left a 95 foot long locked wheel skid on the roadway the day that he killed my son, the California Highway Patrol concluded that Mark Shiflett was only going 43 mph when he began skidding! I have been a professional automotive technician, registered by the State of California as a journeyman, since 1979. I have studied theory, operation and function of all brake systems on import and domestic cars since before 1979. I've been to several different training schools, and completed a course at LA trade Tech College, which is one of the finest automotive schools on the West Coast. I am very familiar with how to analyze skid marks with the intention of determining the speed of a vehicle that left those marks on the highway. One of the best ways to analyze skid marks from a vehicle that does not have antilock brakes, is to consult the vehicle manufacturer. Every vehicle manufacturer is required by federal law to provide specifications for every new vehicle. Every new car manufacturer spends millions of dollars every year, making accurate determinations on skid stop specifications, acceleration specifications, fuel economy, etc. etc., on each individual vehicle. Different vehicles have different specifications. Not every vehicle leaves the same amount of skid marks on the roadway in a panic stop situation. I decided to consult the vehicle manufacturer in an attempt to determine Mark Shiflett's speed based on the skid marks that were left on the roadway by his 73 GMC pickup. After talking with several GM factory technicians who consulted these specifications, I was told that Mark Shiflett was probably going closer to 70. The California Highway Patrol does not base their skid analysis on factory specifications for each individual vehicle. The method they use is kind of like a one-size-fits-all method. Personally, based on many years of experience as a professional automotive technician, I don't consider this method a very accurate method. In view of the fact that vehicle manufacturer's spend millions of dollars every year to make accurate determinations regarding skid stop specifications, on each individual make and model of vehicle, and the California Highway Patrol does not, it is logical to conclude that the vehicle manufacturer specifications are much more accurate. In my opinion, the proper and accurate way to determine Mark Shiflett's speed, would be to do a proper skid analysis using a vehicle identical to Mark Shiflett's. It would be interesting to bring a 73 GMC pickup, up to 50 mph on the same highway, and do a locked wheel skid to see just how far the vehicle would skid.

Three months after my son's death I was involved in a collision in Lake County on soda Bay Road. I was driving a vehicle without antilock brakes. As I came around the curve doing the speed limit, which was 45 mph, a truck pulling a boat and trailer made a left turn out of a driveway right in front of me. I locked up my brakes and skidded for 45 feet, colliding with the rear section of the boat. The driver of the truck accused me of speeding, and called the CHP on his cell phone, to request an officer come out to take the report. Officer Cheeseman arrived a short time later. I explained to Officer Cheeseman that I was doing the speed limit which was 45. Officer Cheeseman got out his roll meter and measured the skid marks, which were approximately 45 feet long. The driver of the truck was disappointed when Officer Cheeseman told him that 45 feet of locked wheel skid equals approximately 45 mph!

I questioned Officer Cheeseman about his analysis. I asked him if he was absolutely certain about his analysis of the skid marks. I asked him if it was possible that I could have been going faster than 45. Officer Cheeseman was certain about his accuracy regarding the skid analysis. Officer Cheeseman concluded that 45 feet of locked wheel skid equals approximately 45 mph, give or take a few miles per hour.
Officer Cheeseman then told the driver of the truck that he should not of been making a left turn on a blind curve pulling a boat and trailer.
There's a major conflict here regarding these two skid analysis.
If 45 feet of locked wheel skid equals 45 mph, then how is it that 95 feet of locked wheel skid equals 43 mph? It doesn't make sense. The
composition of the roadways were identical. The road surfaces were clean and dry and it was a warm day. Neither of the vehicles involved in these two different skid analysis had antilock brakes. So how did the outcome of these two similar skid analysis, end up being so different?

That is a question that is yet to be answered!!

Read Chapter 4

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