Emotional Plea Does Not Change Facts

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The CHP carefully examines all evidence and conducts a thorough investigation into traffic deaths involving police officers. The CHP investigative report determined no evidence existed to support LBPD Officer Coutchie had cause to be speeding the night of his death.

I suggest you take the time to read the CHP report before you make further speculative remarks and allegations based upon hearsay.

Officer Coutchie was speeding 30 MPH over, double the posted speed limit. A driver cannot predict or ostensibly react to yield right of way to an oncoming motorcycle traveling at excessive speed, visibility impaired at night.  CHP determined the officer’s excessive speed to be a “significant factor” in his death.

Citizen driver was not arrested at scene, had a clean driving record, was not cited by LBPD and no drugs or alcohol were involved. The driver was not prosecuted. This speaks volumes as to who was “primarily at fault” in the accident and death.

Accident occurred while the officer was heading in the direction of the police station, near end of his shift. The head on collision broadsided a large truck, which had initiated a turn. A motorcycle traveling at such an excessive reckless speed, at night, is a grave reckless danger to themselves and other innocent drivers, pedestrians and citizens of this city.

Officer Coutchie did not activate his siren nor activate his emergency lights to notify vehicles and pedestrians he was speeding.

Officer Coutchie did not notify dispatch of an engagement or pursuit. All calls and alerts sent and are recorded by dispatch; none were recorded by Officer Coutchie indicating speed pursuit.

LBPD may want a hero, the citizens of Laguna Beach may want a hero, but a true hero doesn’t break the law or risk the lives of citizens he is sworn to protect without just cause.

It is time the LBPD take accountability for facts proven by the CHP investigation and issue an apology to the citizens of Laguna and moreover to the families involved. After the CHP investigation, the Coutchie family has dropped their lawsuit. A recent lawsuit filed by our city, is not the appropriate action, considering the facts. Our new chief of police has the opportunity to turn this unfortunate loss into improved officer training measures to improve safety. Many officers have been witnessed around town unnecessarily breaking vehicle codes under the guise of public safety. Citizens deserve a police department that acts responsibly to protect residents, aptly illustrated by Howard Hills.


Lolena Smiley, Laguna Beach

The author is a friend of the civilian driver involved.

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