Crash and a Long Burn
A Fort Worth couple involved in a serious car-and-motorcycle accident in the Stockyards several months ago say their struggle to deal with the aftermath of that accident has been made much harder by the Fort Worth police officer who responded.
Following a March concert, Nick and Mallory Roberts were leaving the Stockyards on their motorcycle around midnight when, the couple says, a black two-door Kia backed out of a parking lot and hit their bike, breaking Nick’s right leg in three places — in fact injuring it so badly that the leg and ankle are now held together by a rod and screws. Doctors say he may never fully recover. Nick, 42, a manager at the Lockheed Martin defense plant, has had several operations since. He’s missed three months of work, and his medical bills are mounting. But the couple hasn’t been able to recover any damages from the Kia’s driver, they said, because Police Officer M.R. Tyler allowed her to leave — in fact, may have told her to leave — without getting her identification and without taking down important information about the accident scene.
Many aspects of what happened that night are described differently by various witnesses and participants. But Tyler’s own report raises a number of questions. For instance, he characterized the accident as a “hit-and-run” but also reported that the Kia’s driver stuck around long enough after the officer arrived that he saw Mallory Roberts get into a physical confrontation with the woman — long enough, it would seem, for Tyler to have obtained identifying information on the woman and her car. The Robertses and their attorney, Hank Bauer, now claim that police are actively covering up the facts of what happened that night. “It appears that no one in the Fort Worth Police Department really cares to investigate this matter,” Bauer wrote in a letter to the department. He said there is “significant evidence” to suggest that Tyler fabricated portions of his report.
Fort Worth police officials declined to comment on most of the allegations raised by the Robertses and Bauer. Tyler declined to be interviewed until he could clear it with his sergeant, but after three weeks still was not returning phone calls from a reporter. Police Sgt. Rodney Bangs said the department is trying to find the driver of the Kia, but the investigation has “kind of stalled out because we don’t have any viable leads to follow up on. We don’t have a license plate number for the vehicle, but it’s still an open case.” He declined to comment on Tyler’s performance at the scene.
There may be someone else who knows the identity of the Kia’s driver, described by witnesses as an Hispanic woman in her 20s. Paul Smith, a friend of the Robertses, visited the Rodeo Exchange bar several days after the wreck, trying to get permission to pass out fliers asking for information about the woman. However, he said the manager, Chris Putnam, refused. “He told me ‘I know who she is. She’s a good customer of mine, why would I do that?’” Smith recounted.
However, Putnam told Fort Worth Weekly that he had never seen the woman before the night of the accident and doesn’t know who she is. Ronnie Williams saw the accident from a parked limousine, and his story confirms the Robertses’ version of the initial wreck — including that the Kia driver backed out and hit the motorcycle — though he differs somewhat on what happened afterward.
Williams said he stayed at the scene for about 20 minutes, trying to help the couple who’d been on the motorcycle. Mallory Roberts, 38, escaped serious injury, but Nick lay on the pavement, obviously injured, until paramedics arrived. Williams said the Kia driver was at the scene the entire time he was there. He and others said Tyler told the woman to move her car to an adjacent parking lot, which she did. After that, Williams said, he lost track of her. Before the Kia driver moved her car, however, Williams said that Mallory Roberts was behaving in a “very threatening” manner toward her. Tyler’s report says Mallory Roberts was actually “kicking and punching” the other woman, which Mallory vehemently denies.
Putnam, the Rodeo Exchange manager, gave a different account of the accident from all of the others. “It was really his fault,” he said. “He [Nick] was on the wrong side of the road and was mouthing off to everybody, and she [the Kia driver] backed out, then he ran into the side of her. Then his wife started telling this girl that she was going to kick her ass, and she got in her car and drove off. And I don’t blame her a bit.” Tyler’s report also says the Robertses were on the wrong side of the road and that the couple were arguing with people walking on the street. The report lists “road rage” as a contributing factor in the accident.
Nick Roberts said his motorcycle ended up in the wrong lane because he tried to maneuver around the other car, and that when the Kia struck them, the force of the impact pushed them even farther into the other lane. He also denies arguing with anyone before the wreck. “In the report it says that we were arguing with someone, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. The Robertses believe that because they were dressed in biker gear, Tyler made assumptions about their character, which led to his decision to allow the woman in the Kia to leave the scene. “That guy just totally judged us every step of the way, he made a serious error in judgment” Nick said. “We were on a bike, wearing leather, and therefore we were bad people.”
Mallory said, and witnesses confirm, that Tyler also threatened to take her to jail if she didn’t calm down, telling her to “shut the hell up.” Mallory said he also threatened to charge her husband with drunk driving, though he had not been drinking. The bike was impounded, though there were several people, including Mallory, who offered to take custody of it. Also, Tyler would not allow Mallory to go in the ambulance with her husband. He made her go home in a taxi, and friends then took her to the hospital. Tyler’s report noted that he arrived two minutes after the accident, then, almost seven minutes after his arrival, reported that the Kia was leaving the scene, southbound on North Houston Street. The report also refers to the arrival of a second officer several minutes before the Kia drove off.
According to Putnam, the woman in the Kia came back to the scene and spoke with the police officer after the ambulance left. “They took him [Nick] off to the hospital, and I don’t know what they did with her [Mallory],” he said. “After they left, I’m almost 100 percent positive that the girl came back and talked to the police officer.” Tyler did not mention any such meeting in his report. Since the accident, Mallory and Nick Roberts have endured the hardships of his numerous surgeries and other medical procedures, and are making major readjustments to their lives. Nick now walks with a cane — he had sustained an injury to his left leg while serving in the U.S. Navy years earlier, so now he has two bad legs.
Thus far, they’ve paid more than $2,000 in medical expenses out of their own pocket, and the bills are still coming in. Their health insurance is threatening to pass the buck to their auto insurance company, which is refusing to pick up the bill. Friends held an event at Smith’s house recently to collect money for groceries for the couple and their three kids. Mallory, an information technology manager for Trinkote, an industrial finishing company, said that she just wants to find the person responsible for the accident so that they can pay off medical bills. “I don’t care about large monetary settlements,” she said. “I care that my husband’s leg still has not recovered and his job could be in jeopardy if he has to take more time off of work — not to mention that now his leg is infected from a staph infection that he got while in the hospital.”
The couple said they hold no hard feelings toward the Kia driver, who they say left the scene only after being told to do so by Tyler. Their bitterness, in fact, is reserved for Tyler. “I think that officer needs to have his peace officer’s certification revoked,” Nick said. “He has no business on an accident scene judging people based on what they look like.” One of the things Nick said he remembers about the accident scene is that, as he drifted in and out of consciousness, he was comforted by the knowledge that the police were on the scene and that he wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not the person who injured him would be found. “All I had to do was turn my head and look at the license plate, but I didn’t even bother doing it,” he said. “I thought that was all taken care of.”