“Doing Stupid Stuff”: Vegas Driver Arrested After His Friend Kills A Cyclist and Himself By Hanging Out Of Speeding Van

There is a bizarre and tragic case out of Las Vegas. Rodrigo Cruz, 22, is under arrest after he drove a speeding van down Hollywood Boulevard as his friend, Giovanni Barajas, 20, leaned out of the window to smack a bicyclist. He hit Michele Weissman, 55, who died from her fall.  The hit caused Barajas to fall out of the van and die.  Now Cruz could face a murder charge, if prosecutors change their minds and increase the charges levied against him.

Cruz was charged initially with only two felony counts of failure to stop at the scene of a crash and a parole violation in a 2016 robbery case.  The Sun reported that prosecutors indicated that they were unlikely to charge Cruz with murder.

I was surprised not only by the report on the charges but the curious gap in Nevada laws from misdemeanors to felonies on vehicular homicides. There are a couple of misdemeanor offenses followed by a felony with high predicates.

The lightest charge would come under NRS 484B.657 for vehicular manslaughter where a motorist “proximately causes the death of another person through an act or omission that constitutes simple negligence.” However, this misdemeanor charge is not appropriate for reckless driving, as here.

The step up in the criminal code is reckless driving causing death under NRS 484B.653 where penalties can go as high as  six months.

The next step up is vehicular homicide (NRS 484C.130) but this generally involves a fatal DUI following three prior DUI convictions. This is a category A felony that can come with a possible life sentence. However, again, the predicates seem quite demanding.

Notably, straight murder in the first degree under Section 200.030 includes “lying in wait” for a victim, which could be claimed when you are driving to hit unsuspecting drivers. That would be a stretch however and this does not seem like a murder in the first degree case.  Then there is murder in the second degree that includes all other types of murders.

This would seem a case of criminal assault or battery if the jury believes that Cruz drove to facilitate the attacks.  That could then be used in a novel felony murder theory. Indeed, in many states, both deaths can be charged against an accomplice.

However, in Nevada, felony murder is simply a subset of first degree murder and only encompasses crimes “in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, invasion of the home, sexual abuse of a child, sexual molestation of a child under the age of 14 years, child abuse or abuse of an older person or vulnerable person pursuant to NRS 200.5099.”

That brings us back to criminal assault or battery. In Nevada, assault is defined as the deliberate attempt to use force that places someone in a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. That tracks the common law definition of civil assault. It is treated as a misdemeanor. However, battery under NRS 200.481 includes a felony for the deliberate touching of another person in an unlawful way that caused substantial bodily harm. It can result in a five-year sentence for seriously bodily injury without a deadly weapon. If you use a deadly weapon, it can result in up to 15 years.

The question is whether a car can be treated as a deadly weapon.

It seems unbelievable that Cruz did not know that his friend was trying to strike pedestrians given his hanging out the window and Cruz’s driving near pedestrians. If a jury believes that he had knowledge and was participating in the lethal game, he was an active participant in the battery. The speed of the van was the force that killed Weissman. Cruz was controlling that speed as well as the steering of the van.

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This was more than a failure to stop at an accident scene. Certainly, for Weissman’s family, such a charge is unlikely to bring a sense of justice for the senseless killing, particularly for her husband Lonny.

36 thoughts on ““Doing Stupid Stuff”: Vegas Driver Arrested After His Friend Kills A Cyclist and Himself By Hanging Out Of Speeding Van”

  1. Thanks for the info – but the last picture you have posted is not Shelli . It is her sister and her husband Lonny ( his sister in law ) on the boat .

  2. It is the fault of the bicyclist for being an “attractive nuisance.” It is not the driver’s fault.

  3. the punishment should fit the deterrence, as all punishment is nothing but deterrence. it isn’t retribution, rehabilitation, or restitution.

    to me, causing the death of someone in this fashion is akin to inadvertently causing someone’s death in a fight, where a punched person hits his head on a curb and dies: is 3rd degree homicide, otherwise known as manslaughter.

    if existing penalties aren’t enough to deter young mudbrains, they must be increased. since they took this person’s life with an intentional, unnecessary, callous act, our young hero can be likewise redacted, in my view.

    it’s all about the deterrence, you see.

    1. as all punishment is nothing but deterrence. it isn’t retribution, rehabilitation, or restitution.

      Thanks for the ex cathedra. Been an education.

  4. Please just allow evolutionary principles to thin the gene pool. Some acts and thoughts are evident that civilization sometimes works against the logic of nature.

  5. Things can go left so fast during a prank. I don’t understand why all those shows about people getting pranked or hurt are so popular. It’s Schadenfreude in its most literal sense. Many find it to be really funny, but all I can think of is how much it must have hurt.

    That was probably the spirit in which this train wreck occurred. One would think that an adult, however young, could figure out that knocking someone over while speeding past them in a car is deadly. But there seems to be a regular disconnect that a vehicle is a deadly speeding object. It’s not a video game console.

    2 people dead, and gone forever, over something this stupid. Barajas orchestrated his own demise, which must be very painful to his family. But Michele Weissman was completely innocent. She was killed by a stupid prank by a couple of idiots. How is her family supposed to find any peace?

    And they just left her there? Did Cruz leave his own friend, too? Or did he at least stop when he fell out?

    1. That was probably the spirit in which this train wreck occurred.

      He knocked a 55 year old woman off her bike to amuse himself and the head injury she received was so severe she died. ‘Probably the spirit’ my a**.

  6. It is not uncommon to arrest/charge someone under the most easily provable (for the purposes of Probable Cause) felony violation and then levy other charges as the investigation progresses. That way it gets the person remanded into custody and you are not limited on 48 hour holds. The intent is generally to prevent flight but preserve the PC for later when it can be articulated with greater certainty. Fatal accident investigations often require extended periods of time to conclude, especially if reconstruction or toxicology tests are involved.

    I am not surprised by the felony hit & run and parole violations being so far the only booking charges. The elements of the former are essentially being involved in a motor vehicle collision then leaveng the scene. That’s usually cut and dried. I’m not intimately with Nevada criminal procedure, but in general parolees are considered “in custdody” of the state but allowed to remain in society. The accusation of a parole violation allows the state a greater degree of flexibility to hold the person in custody than would be the case of a non-parolee at this stage.

    I strongly believe that some form of assault will be levied against this man if the PC against him is golden. That should follow soon.

    1. Darren….Help! I posted a movie link and I realized I need it deleted because it’s attached to AOL, and I can’t access my email!!! .
      It’s on the Happy Halloween post, and the link is an Abbott and Costello movie trailer.

      THANKYOU

    1. The deceased perpetrator had a Fakebook page. Had over 1,700 ‘friends’. Advertises himself as having been born in some burg in California and having attended ‘El Dorado High School’ in Las Vegas. So, not technically a DREAMer.

      Some buddy of his took pictures of him while he was taking selfies, and he posts them. So, a mess of pix of him staring into his ‘smartphone’. We used to have a subscription to a publication called The Funny Times. They had a couple of brutally amusing features. One was “Least Competent Criminals” and the other was the “Darwin Award”. He’d merit an entry in both sections of the paper.

    1. The ‘plausible explanation’ is that he pushed a late-middle-aged woman to the ground for kicks and got himself killed in the process.

      1. “the knockout game” is a despicable amusement of baggy pants urban savages who like to find and oldish person preferably white and try and knock them out with one punch

        it’s occasionally tried on Asian victims too

        2020 saw plenty of that as in the past years, but, it was swamped among the other outrages

        here we have the wheel of karma spinning fast on one of the two perps

  7. Eye for eye . Tooth for tooth . Hand for hand . Life for life .
    Because we have not adhered to true justice , people continue to do things to others
    without fear of retribution .
    Punishment is not only a penalty for the guilty , it is a deterrent to the rest of humanity .

    1. Technically a life was paid for a life. What you are suggesting is two lives for the one. He is going to jail. By any stretch this is bad. He will be punished.

      1. The guy leaning out the window killed the woman. The guy driving the vehicle and allowing a passenger to lean out the window should be held responsible for both deaths.

  8. The specific charge won’t matter because they’ll just let this guy off. He should go to prison but a Hispanic recidivist is a protected class of person! And since white folks are “bad” and to be punished, these days, the victim won’t be considered at all. They’ll let this guy go. He’ll never even go to trial.

  9. We have the CEO of Twitter lying before a Senate committee on bias locking accounts and the Prof. is talking about some obscure hit and run?

  10. Cruz was charged initially with only two felony counts of failure to stop at the scene of a crash and a parole violation in a 2016 robbery case.

    Such a credit to the community.

    1. Arty:

      Even moreso: “Additionally, Cruz is being held in a 2016 robbery case. In May 2016, Cruz was sentenced to four to 12 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of armed robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery, Clark County District Court records show. He was given credit for 285 days of time served.”

      Any guesses on his immigration status?

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