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No criminal charges for Fargo driver who dragged bicyclist in fatal crash

A male driver of a BMW came to a stop in the HuHut parking lot after striking a bicyclist around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, and traveling approximately one block with the man underneath the vehicle. Fargo firefighters extricated the unconscious bicyclists and the driver was detained, according to Fargo Police Sgt. Michael Sanden. Forum file photo

FARGO—A 71-year-old Fargo man will not face criminal charges for fatally striking a 19-year-old bicyclist, who died in September from injuries suffered when he was dragged for a block under the man's car.

Cass County prosecutor Tanya Martinez decided not to charge the driver, Dr. Theodore William Kleiman, after reviewing the police investigation, eyewitness statements and traffic camera footage, according to a declination letter dated Thursday, Dec. 7.

The collision occurred about 9:20 p.m. Sept. 19 at the intersection of 17th Avenue and 45th Street South, a "busy commercial district in the City of Fargo," Martinez wrote in the letter.

Kleiman was stopped in the left-turn lane on 17th Avenue to travel south on 45th Street in his BMW convertible, while Randy Bryson West was northbound on the east sidewalk along 45th. Footage of the crash shows West riding a BMX-style bike with no lights and all factory-issued reflectors removed, the letter stated.

Kleiman had the right of way at the intersection, Martinez wrote, and one witness told investigators that West "did not attempt to stop at the intersection."

"West crossed the intersection, against a red light, while riding a non-compliant bicycle on the sidewalk," according to the letter.

Kleiman, who was cooperative and notably distraught after the collision, told investigators that earlier that evening he had two drinks at Porter Creek Hardwood Grill, a restaurant and bar in the area. A detective responding to the crash said he "did not detect an odor of alcoholic beverage," but Kleiman was asked to do an evaluation, the results of which indicated he was not impaired, the letter stated.

Kleiman told investigators that at the time of impact, he heard a loud noise he described as a "thump" and speculated he was having vehicle trouble and possibly "dropped the transmission out of (his) vehicle.''

Other cars started honking at Kleiman, who proceeded to the nearest parking lot about a block south of the intersection where West was hit. Kleiman got out of his vehicle and saw an unresponsive West under his car. First responders lifted the vehicle and extricated West, who died several days later at Sanford Medical Center.

Martinez speculated West likely realized he was not going to clear the vehicle in time, laid the bike down and slid under the vehicle. "This would explain why there was no hard impact and also why the bike did not get entangled under the vehicle," she wrote.

The prosecutor said she believes Kleiman's actions were "appropriate and reasonable at the time and the collision was not his fault and it certainly does not rise to the level of criminal prosecution."

Martinez said West's family has been notified of the decision. His parents, of Hildale, Utah, shared on Facebook after taking their son off life support Sept. 24 that West's lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys were donated. A celebration of life ceremony was held in Utah Oct. 2.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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