Sister of man killed on North Oak Park criticizes police investigation


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The family of an Arroyo Grande man who was hit and killed earlier this year while trying to cross a Grover Beach roadway on foot is questioning the results of a police investigation into the incident, which the family says is one-sided and erroneous.

In an April 9 press release, the Grover Beach Police Department detailed its investigation into the death of Justin Kissinger, a 33-year-old who was hit by a car on Jan. 21 while attempting to cross North Oak Park Boulevard near Brighton Avenue. In the summary of the investigation, which the Grover Beach Police Department released to the public via Facebook, much of the blame for the collision is put on Kissinger himself, who was allegedly wearing dark clothing, highly intoxicated by alcohol, and illegally crossing four lanes of traffic in the dark at night when he was hit.

But Kissinger's sister, Terra Kissinger, argues that the press release paints an inaccurate picture of the situation and fails to address many of the other factors that likely led to her brother's death.

"My brother's name has completely been shattered on the basis of an incorrect police report," Terra wrote in an email to New Times. "It's bad enough I lost my brother, but for it to be made to be all his fault to a speeding driver is just fire to the fuel."

Her main concerns are with what was left out—important findings that weren't included in the police department's press release, which is the report that's most accessible to the general public, and things that she says police should have done but didn't during the investigation.

According to a SLO County Coroner's report on Kissinger's death, witnesses to the incident said—and video footage appears to confirm—that because of oncoming construction and a lane closure, the driver who hit Kissinger was speeding up to pass a vehicle in the neighboring lane as the collision occurred.

Kissinger's body was found 88 feet away from his shoes, and it's estimated that Kissinger was hit at about 45 mph, according to a Grover Beach Police report on the matter. The posted speed limit where Kissinger was killed is 30 mph.

While that information was included in a detailed Grover Beach Police report on Kissinger's death, it was omitted from the April 9 press release.

Terra also takes issue with the lack of investigation into whether the driver who hit her brother was intoxicated at the time of incident. While the police report and coroner's report both detail Kissinger's high levels of intoxication on Jan. 21—nearly twice the legal limit—and his history of alcoholism, there is little mention of the driver's possible drug and alcohol use.

Although the police report states that officers who interviewed the driver at the scene of the collision "did not notice any signs of intoxication" and "did not smell any odor of any alcoholic beverage," Terra says the driver should have been tested.

While the Grover Beach Police report and press release on the incident states Kissinger was wearing "dark clothing," the coroner's report states that Kissinger was wearing a "light blue sweater," khaki pants, and a dark blue sweatshirt when he died. While early witness accounts included in the police report suggested that Kissinger was on the phone while crossing the road, that was later proven to be false through call logs and other evidence, according to the coroner's report.

Plus, there's a long history of safety concerns on portions of North Oak Park Boulevard, and residents living near the stretch of road where Kissinger died have long complained of visibility issues.

There's no doubt, according to all the various reports, that Kissinger was crossing the road illegally, intoxicated, and likely amid an argument with his girlfriend when he died, but Terra says that's not whole story. That, she said, makes it look like her brother was purposely trying to get himself killed.

"He loved his kids so much," Terra wrote to New Times, "and never, ever would do something like that."

The Grover Beach Police Department and city staff declined to comment further on this investigation. Δ



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