Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Physician convicted in cycling case

A physician accused of deliberately injuring two cyclists by slamming on his car’s brakes on a narrow Brentwood road last year was convicted Monday of assault with a deadly weapon, mayhem and other serious criminal charges.

The three-week trial of Dr. Christopher Thompson drew close attention from cyclists, many of whom viewed the case as a test of the justice system’s commitment to protecting cyclists.

Thompson, wearing a dark blue suit, bowed his head as the verdicts were read. He faces a possible prison term.

Prosecutors alleged that on July 4, 2008, Thompson stopped his car after passing the two cyclists and shouting at them to ride single-file. One cyclist ran face-first into the rear windshield of the doctor’s red Infiniti, breaking his front teeth and nose, and leaving his face scarred. The other was sent hurtling to the sidewalk and suffered a separated shoulder.

A police officer testified that Thompson told him soon after the accident that the cyclists had cursed at him and flipped him off, so he slammed on his brakes “to teach them a lesson.”

Thompson, a veteran emergency room physician, testified that he had never meant to hurt any of the cyclists. He said he and other residents were upset at unsafe cycling by some riders along Mandeville Canyon Road, a winding, five-mile residential street that has become an increasingly popular route for cyclists. But they had struggled to identify problem riders.

Thompson told jurors that he stopped his car so that he could take a photo of the cyclists he had overtaken and believed he had left enough room for them.

Prosecutors alleged Thompson had a history of run-ins with bikers, including a similar episode four months before the 2008 collision, when two cyclists told police that the doctor tried to run them off the road and braked hard in front of them. Neither of the riders was injured.

-- Jack Leonard

Comments () | Archives (143)

I'm fairly new to cycling and have been in a few close calls myself. I used to ride mostly by myself but found it unsafe especially in the LA area. Some car drivers don't understand that bikes can't stop like cars do when going past 10-15miles/hr. Bikes can't stop on a dime, unless you hit something like a car's rear end. Since I started cycling I've learned to respect cyclists and be extra careful when they're around when I'm behind the wheel. If you happen to be driving behind a rider/group of riders, a gentle tap on the horn usually works.

Also, to my fellow riders, courtesy is always appreciated. Red lights and stop signs are there for a reason. Treat others the way you'd like to be treated. Please refrain from egging hot-tempered drivers on. It's a no-win situation.

Perhaps the whole incident was based on machismo - 50/50%... Perhaps RON PETERSON did everything in HIS power out of pure vindictive assault on the doctor because of other driver incidents HE HAS HAD. PERHAPS Peterson is a "hot head" too; assuming the doctor is... Peterson admitted on the stand that when the doctor first yelled out the window - "Single file", because Mandeville is a narrow canyon road; he (Peterson) responded F--k you!!! Is that the proper response of a purportedly respected coach, who should be aware of the dangers of bikes and cars sharing the road...??? PERHAPS the doctor was weary after a night shift in the ER... PERHAPS, rather than the charge of MAYHEM, he abruptly stopped to voice his disdain back at Peterson; NOT TO INTENTIONALLY CAUSE AN ACCIDENT. PERHAPS the bikers should have backed off when they felt that a "situation" might be forthcoming, instead of following on the heels of the vehicle - Testosterone flowing...

PERHAPS Ron Peterson is looking for a large cash payout as well... - since he has refused to settle, as the other biker did....

PERHAPS Ron Peterson and the young jury really didn't rule with BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT in mind.... Perhaps they didn't examine the consequences of their unfair action. YES, IT WAS AN UNFORTUNATE ACCICENT... But, did it deserve a life sentence to prove a point for the biking community??? The doctor, a 30 year ER veteran, will never be able to practice medicine again... The loss of their home to foreclosure, and the financial inability to remain in California has also seriously damaged his INNOCENT, SWEET WIFE and damaged her career in California - SHE, TOO, WILL BEAR THE BURDEN OF THE JURY'S DECISION FOR LIFE...

PERHAPS Ron Peterson should examine his rage!!! PERHAPS the Prosecutor, should feel a little guilty for her interpretation of the incident and her theatrics to demonstrate it to the jury - yes, she was replete with props, including doctor's coat and baseball bats... PERHAPS the jury shouldn't have been so biased to what they perceived to be fact, and should have spent more than a few hours deliberating so they could make it home in time for dinner and not inconvenience their day...


hard to believe folks defend this guy. the cyclists he passed and then assaulted were riding at the maximum speed limit so they had every right to take the whole traffic lane and it is actually safer to do that given the road they were on.

He wan't being impeded or forced to wait, nor was he doing his own "police work" dealing with "lawless" bicycle riders.

Thank you Ace,

As you said, the cyclists were going the speed limit and per CA vehicle code had every right to take the lane. (To non-riders, going 30 mph downhill is easy.)

If you read full accounts of the incident (i.e., not the incomplete reporting from the LA Times), the doc had been honking at them and revving his engine while closely following them. Then, he whipped around them, the verbal altercation ensued and then he assaulted them with a deadly weapon (his car).

Moreover, this wasn't the first time he did it; there is a record of him menacing other cyclists.

No matter how you slice it, this guy was a complete menace. And yet, car drivers on this comment board are whining about stop signs. Oy vey...

Now he has a felony conviction to go with that malpractice judgment on his Medical Board file. Do you think he is going to lose his license?


Yes, let's say this cyclist is also a hothead.

Now let's get to the point -

If you try to seriously hurt someone, you must be punished. That is the point of the law.

I can run around and verbally antagonize someone all I want - and it's still illegal for them to try to seriously hurt me. But with cyclists against cars, this hasn't been upheld.

Dr. Thompson has been made an example. It had to happen, because you can't go around attempting to KILL someone.

If you can't see the simple fact that cutting off and slamming breaks on cyclists may KILL them, then I'm afraid that more motorists are going to have to be made examples of in the future.

You don't get to physically threaten someone's life and get away with it. I don't know what world you live in.

I have been riding a bicycle for years and have done some really stupid things. Police do not give bike riders a hard time--usually they aren't around. Just like police are not usually around when drivers make mistakes.

Many young kids whose transportation is satisfied by bicycle are killed because they do some really stupid things. Some cyclists disregard the rights of drivers by going through stop signs and stoplights. That can be a costly error. Drivers of course often disregard the rights of bicyclists by completely ignoring them and forcing them to make right turns because the drivers want to make a right turn--forgetting that a bicyclist could be hit. There are some real jerks driving cars, and there are some real jerks riding bicycles. Most of the experienced bicyclists that I know--the kind of people who would rather ride a bicycle than drive a car--are respectful for drivers.

Unfortunately bicyclists are difficult to see as are motorcycles and mopeds. I think Dr. Thompson went beyond what a driver should do as a result of actions of bicyclists. If he wanted to stop in front of the riders, he would have gone about a quarter mile ahead of them and then stopped.

Is this incident welcome news to bicyclists? Yes, because we all know that we have been hassled by drivers who are completely aware that the bicyclist is totally vulnerable, and by drivers who also aware that there is little chance that any harassment they give to bicyclists will come back to haunt them.

Is this incident going to change much in the relationship between drivers and bicyclists? Probably not. Most drivers will probably not read this article, and most bicyclists (those who ride safely most of the time) will probably just continue to ride because it is part of them to ride, knowing that one day an inattentive driver or a malicious driver can kill them. Even knowing that most bicycling accidents are the fault of the rider, dedicated riders continue to ride.

I drive a 4x4 Toyota Tundra, and let me tell you these cyclists scare the crap out of me. They might even scratch my car! Or cause me to be 1 minute late! How dare them!

I'd rather they soil the environment and take up more space in traffic driving trucks like mine.

Errr, this case has nothing to do with stop signs or traffic signals. The man told police that he intentionally and suddenly hit the brakes to teach the cyclists a lesson. Mandeville does not have stop signs or traffic signals during that portion of the road. You may empathize with his frustrations, but how do you sympathize with the intent to harm with a vehicle?

By the way, the Cat 1 racers involved in the incident had GPS units similar to the Garmin 705. Collected data shows the cyclists were riding AT SPEED LIMIT. Since cyclists are considered vehicles, I fail to see any reason to sympathize with Dr. Thompson.

Is assault with a deadly weapon punishable in California with public execution by firing squad?...No?...Well, can't win 'em all.

As a bicyclists I agree there are those bicyclists that will not follow the rules of the road so call the police. I was also involved in a situation where a pick-up truck passed my group of four Tandems in single file he also pulled in front of the leader and put on his breaks not once but twice we pulled off the road called the police and they said they knew who he was and would take care of it. Never saw him again

As a bicyclists I agree there are those bicyclists that will not follow the rules of the road so call the police. I was also involved in a situation where a pick-up truck passed my group of four Tandems in single file he also pulled in front of the leader and put on his breaks not once but twice we pulled off the road called the police and they said they knew who he was and would take care of it. Never saw him again

Of course motorists cannot and should not demand that cyclists modify their behaviour. What a ridiculous suggestion! How about motorists modify their behaviour and just go slower for a change? And no, motorists weren't there first. Cyclists were there first, any fool who can read a history book knows that.

If motorists drove slower it would make the roads a lot safer and cost us tax payers a lot less money spent on emergency services, and we'd not have those lengthy delays caused by high-speed auto accidents. So let's have a little less self-righteousness from all you angry motorists who think Dr Thompson had a leg to stand on. Cyclists can justifiably demand that motorists such as the dangerous Dr Thompson - and you - drive slower.

And to those friends who distort the truth, declaring his actions 'an error of judgment' or 'a brief lapse' of whatever smooth veneer he chose for the day, would you say the same if your daughter had been the one smashing through his rear window, tearing half her nose off? I didn't think so.

What Thompson did was sick and wrong. He will need therapy whether he goes to prison or not. His violent streak harmed not only all those cyclists he bullied and terrorized over the months and quite possibly years, but also his family who are now paying the high price for his disturbing actions. What a swell guy... you sure you want him in your golf club?

Motorists think they own the roads. One hundred years ago, cyclists made the same mistake. History has proved that both parties are entirely wrong in this assumption.

The absurd fiction that bicycles belong on the road with automobiles caused this. Bicyclists disrupt traffic and overtly break the law, selfishly and incorrectly believing that they have an entitlement to inconvenience the vast majority of motorists. We've all seen these idiots cycling 15 mph in the flow of traffic that would otherwise be moving 40. Bicyclists riding where they shouldn’t caused this. This MD was nothing more than a scapegoat for protecting bad policy. Running into a car is bad cycling. Cyclists staying off roads where they don't belong (such as this) will avoid this.

It's really hard to believe that he would do this on purpose. I pray that it was done by accident so that the Lord can make the judgement. Two wrongs don't make a right, for those of you wishing him death practically. Remember, you reap what you sow. If it was deliberate, he will have to pay. But it is definitely not for any of us to decide. I worked with him in an emergency room for 15 years. I can honestly say he was a very good Physician.

Chris is an uncommonly gifted individual. An outrageous sense of humor, a musician, an MD. In spite of these gifts, he is one of the most short tempered, narcissistic, rage - aholic individuals I've ever worked with. His favorite phrase was "God help you if you slow me down!" We worked together for four years.
As sad as this episode makes me, I know in my heart that Chris meant to hurt those guys.

Yes, Mr Thompson was convicted BUT there is NO mention of his sentencing. Anyone heard or seen the details in print?

All ER docs are psychopaths so no doubt this guy is guilty.

« | 1 2 3 4 5 6


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: