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At the intersection of 26th Ave. S.W. and S.W. Andover St. in the North Delridge neighborhood of West Seattle, where an alleged July hit and run involving a car and bicycle has resulted in assault with a deadly weapon charges for the driver.

Assault with a deadly weapon charge levied against driver in car vs. bike collision

A West Seattle woman is facing a second degree assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly intentionally striking a bicyclist in North Delridge during a Monday morning commute in July, and her victim was a well-known cycling advocate for West Seattle.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office filed charges against Erika Soerensen, 37, on Oct. 10. The charges were first reported by SeattlePI.com on Oct. 15.

According to charging documents, Seattle Police Department Detective Al Cruise investigated the alleged hit and run and pieced together a case through multiple witness testimonies and by speaking with the victim, 32-year-old Jake Vanderplas who is co-founder of West Seattle Greenways, a group dedicated to implementing safe routes for bicyclists and pedestrians throughout the peninsula.

Soerensen, the accused, told police she has no recollection of hitting the cyclist, according to the court.

Cruise’s report states it all started shortly after 8 a.m. on July 8. Vanderplas said he was cycling northbound on 26th Ave. S.W. (which is a greenway alternative to traveling on Delridge Way S.W. he is working to develop) where the speed limit is posted as 20 mph. Suddenly, he said, a small dark-colored sedan came screaming past him well above the speed limit, bouncing over speed bumps. The driver’s best intentions to move quickly, however, were thwarted as Vanderplas said he caught up with and passed the vehicle at traffic circle. Vanderplas said the road narrowed and he was forced into the middle of the lane … and a confrontation.

Vanderplas wrote about the alleged incident in a letter to the Seattle Bike Blog on July 8. From his account: “As I crossed the intersection, I looked back at her while pointing to the brand new 20 mph speed limit signed I’d worked for two years to bring to the street. I can only guess that that action is what set her off. I heard muffled cursing from inside the car behind me.”

Soerensen allegedly pulled up close behind the cyclist and followed within inches while wailing on the horn until a stop sign at S.W. Andover St. where she pulled up alongside and started screaming at Vanderplas. Vanderplas said he turned right onto Andover and Soerenson followed before suddenly and – according to the victim and several witness accounts – intentionally swerved into him while he was traveling in a bike lane, knocking him off his bike onto the sidewalk. Vanderplas suffered a left hand injury but declined medical attention and was able to grab a license plate number as Soerensen allegedly took off.

A tenacious witness who told police she witnessed the entire encounter decided to flip around and follow Soerensen. She obtained the license plate number and called police before following the suspect onto the eastbound West Seattle Bridge so she could pull up alongside her and get a physical description. Police interviewed two other witnesses who had similar recounts of the event.

According to court documents, Det. Cruise visited Soerenson at her Delridge neighborhood apartment on July 14 to talk about the incident. He said she allegedly claimed initially she was at work during the incident, but soon changed her story to a recollection of following “a cyclist that was riding 5 miles per hour in the middle of the street, but she did not have any sort of collision with him.”

In defining the assault with a deadly weapon charge, detectives said Soerenson’s 2002 Nissan Sentra weighs in at 2,519 pounds while Vanderplas’ 2007 Schwinn LeTour weighs around 30 pounds. Deadly weapons include vehicles under Washington state law RCW 9A.04.110.

In Vanderplas’ letter to the Seattle Bike Blog he wrote, “This woman has shown that is not fit to enjoy the privilege of driving, and we need to all work together to keep people like her off our streets, and to keep our families and friends safe.”

“As for me,” he continued, “this incident will double-down my desire to make sure everyone in Seattle has the ability to get around safely.”

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