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City Attorney Responds to Mom's Allegations

Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern provided a statement Wednesday addressing concerns raised in a May 11 letter to the editor from Tammy Sorenson, whose 13-year-old son Brandon was killed in a traffic accident one year ago, on May 16, 2011

Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern provided Alameda Patch with the following statement today, May 16. (You may read Tammy Sorenson's letter here.)

This past week a letter from Mrs. Tammy Sorensen, the mother of a child killed in  an automobile/bicycle collision, was published by a number of Alameda media  outlets. Mrs. Sorensen expressed a number of complaints about how she felt the Alameda Police Department handled the situation.

Let me say on behalf ofthe City that the passing of Brandon Sorensen was tragic  and our hearts go out to the family. The loss of a child is truly terrible for a family and for a community.

The Sorensen family has retained legal counsel and filed claims against the City.  As a result, the City is restricted in what information it may provide publicly.  However, as Mrs. Sorensen noted, the Sorensen family and their attorney have  been provided full copies ofthe police reports. The Alameda Police Department  has done its best to handle this matter sensitively and professionally. Unfortunately, nothing anyone does can change the outcome of  the family's loss.

I will, however, address some key questions which have been raised.

QUESTION 1: Is the accident report a public record?

ANSWER: State law makes vehicle accident reports confidential, except to a limited list of those involved, according to California Vehicle Code Section 20012. The Sorensen family, and their attorney, received a copy of the entire report.

QUESTION 2: Is the name of the driver who caused the accident a public record?

ANSWER: The name of the driver is in the accident report, which is confidential  under state law as described in answer to the first question. Therefore, the City  cannot provide the name to the public.

QUESTION 3: Why was the driver involved in the accident allowed to treat Brandon on the scene, yet Brandon's mother was “pulled away by the scruff of
her neck"?

ANSWER: Immediately after the accident occurred, more than one person tried  to aid Brandon Sorensen. The Alameda police officers arrived on the scene  within two minutes and immediately took control of the accident scene. That included making certain that medical help was being administered to the victim  without obstruction and securing the scene to avoid additional injury to others. Officers are trained to handle grief-stricken loved ones in a sensitive manner. No one at the scene pulled Mrs. Sorensen away by the scruff of her neck. ln fact, a female officer was called to the scene to provide support for Mrs. Sorensen and offered to drive her to the hospital. Mr. Sorensen and another family member arrived and the family all went together to the hospital. The female officer was dispatched to the hospital for the dual role of investigating the accident and providing support to the family along with a Children's Hospital social worker. The female officer remained at the hospital until all the family members left.

QUESTION 4: Why was Brandon found 100 percent at fault when the driver  allegedly admitted to turning around and talking to a passenger in the back seat, and then turning around to see a sweatshirt on her windshield, feeling something go bump, but kept driving?

ANSWER: Given that the attorney for the family has filed government claims,  which are prerequisites to filing a lawsuit, the City cannot address specific factual assertions which are part of the collision report.

QUESTION 5: Why did the city keep all of Brandon's belongings for months but  return the SUV to the driver so soon?

ANSWER: The Alameda Police Department followed its protocol for handling and  preserving evidence. The SUV was processed and released upon completion of gathering evidence. The victim‘s belongings took Ionger to process. There  seemed to be some delay in releasing certain items due to miscommunication between family members as to who was retrieving what items from the Alameda Police Department. However, all items have been released to the family.

QUESTION 6: Mrs. Sorenson is questioning APD’s integrity, and says her son did not get justice from APD and the City. What happened?

ANSWER: The attorney for the Sorensen family has made these and other  unfounded allegations about the Alameda Police Department while pursuing a  legal claim against the City. The Alameda Police Department's activities did not  cause the tragic accident. The responding Officers used their best professional  training and sensitivity (many of them are parents themselves) to insure medical  aid was administered to the victim, the scene was secured, and a thorough investigation conducted.

Janet C. Kern
City Attorney

virgo May 18, 2012 at 06:19 PM
E.- thank you for pointing out that none of us know what kind of help tammy is getting. it was making me mad that people on here are commenting that she needs "help" which i will assume they mean counseling. she never said she wasn't getting that and it's none of our business either way. people need to realize that the grieving process of losing a loved one such as a child is very long. it's not something that is going to go away over night. her letter was, IMO, venting frustrations about still not having any answers to what happened. anyways, thank you for standing up for your aunt.
Jon Spangler May 19, 2012 at 06:57 AM
Like Brandon Sorenson, I rode my bike everywhere as a kid. When I was 13, I had been delivering prescriptions on my bike for a local pharmacy for almost two years. I was lucky enough to survive those days not knowing much about safe bicycling or the California Vehicle Code. Now, at 60, I spend some of my time teaching bike safety to adults, kids, and families. It grieves me that, but for some small amount of ignorance, inattention, confusion, or distraction, Brandon might be still alive today. From what I have read and heard, he was a young man much like me, full of excitement about life and bicycles. I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that no one else is injured or killed on a bike here in Alameda because of unsafe conditions or unsafe behavior. It will not be enough but I will do that much. May Brandon rest in peace and may all of us who mourn him find healing.
Darlene May 19, 2012 at 04:24 PM
My deepest condolences go out to the Sorensen family for their loss. It was very painful to read Mrs. Sorensen’s Letter to the Editor; I couldn’t even read it in one sitting. Mrs. Sorensen has nothing to gain by lying about what she experienced. Imagine having to see your child lying in the street, surely in distress, and then having the situation perverted by those who are void of feeling basic human compassion and concern; I emphasize this point especially for those whose intelligence is so limited that they have drawn a correlation between the Sorensen family’s loss with profiting from a law suit. I am sure that Mrs. Sorensen would give up everything to have her son back. I do not know whether or not law suits have been filed, nor do I care. A law suit is the legal recourse that we have in a Capitalist society; if our Society’s use of money to right the wronged is offensive, then perhaps you should move elsewhere. Taking offense over someone exercising their rights to legal recourse is not only ineffective, but also quite ridiculous. Lastly, there is much talk over Mrs. Sorensen seeking help. Why? Is there any other way to feel after suffering a tragedy that is far worse than death? Grief is not a dysfunction; it is a primal emotion. If you cannot be sad about the death of your own child, then when can you be sad?
Tom Brody May 20, 2012 at 05:53 PM
One of the take-home messages for us all is this -- when driving, do not rubberneck to gaze at nearby traffic accidents, do not turn around to talk to other passengers, do not use cell phones, and do not fiddle around with iPods, iPhones, iTouches, iGizmos, or iWidgets.
Gabriel Gustafson November 09, 2012 at 09:11 PM
Tammy, I miss Brandon so much I am siting on my bed after working on my car and thought about him and started crying . I remember ridding to harbor bay every weekend with him and then coming over and eating lemons with sugar and it made u laugh about our faces (: I miss you guys a lot, please give me a call or text miss u (: 1(605)759-8884

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