No criminal charges in fatal Columbus Ave. crash

MEDFORD, Ore. – There will be no criminal charges filed against a driver who struck and killed a pedestrian in Medford on November 3.

According to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office, there is “insufficient evidence to support proof beyond a reasonable doubt” the driver caused the death of Michael Bates in a reckless or criminally negligent manner.

Prosecutors described the events that led up to the crash, citing evidence showing the roadway on which the driver was traveling was wet due to rainy weather. In addition, the D.A.’s Office pointed out Bates was dressed in dark clothing as he entered the crosswalk where he was hit. Those factors, combined with glare from oncoming traffic, would have made Bates nearly invisible to the driver.

Surveillance video shows the driver didn’t “appear to be driving reckless or at a higher than the posted rate of speed,” prosecutors said. In the video, Bates enters the crosswalk and is struck by Whitlock’s vehicle, rolling onto the hood and coming to rest 55 feet from the crosswalk. Bates suffered significant head injuries and was hospitalized for seventeen days before dying from his injuries on November 20.

The driver was operating a City of Medford work vehicle at the time of the crash.

The D.A.’s Office acknowledges the driver’s failure to yield caused the death of Bates. However, “the evidence and statements collected during the investigation did not indicate intoxication, speed, and/or phone usage were the causes of this tragic event.”

Prosecutors said Whitlock’s actions don’t rise to the level of criminal conduct, adding, “The event that evening was a terrible accident that will forever effect [sic] Mr. Bates’ family…” and the family of the driver.

The case will be forwarded on to the Medford Police Department for review regarding any potential non-criminal traffic violations.

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