The driver who struck and killed a bicyclist on Northern Lights Boulevard in January will not face criminal charges.
An investigation by the Anchorage Police Department that lasted months and was made public Tuesday suggests that Eldridge Griffith, who was 65, was attempting to cross three lanes of traffic between the U.S. Post Office and Carrs just before 3 p.m. on January 2.
A driver in the far-right lane was able to slow down and avoid colliding with Griffith when he entered the roadway about a block from the nearest legal crosswalk, but investigators believe T.J. Justice's view of the cyclist was obscured.
The Subaru sports utility vehicle operated by Justice hit Griffith, sending him over the hood of the SUV. Griffith, who spent a career as a counselor at McLaughlin Youth Center, was pronounced dead at a hospital.
"His failure to yield to cross-traffic with the right-of-way resulted in his death," wrote assistant district attorney Daniel Shorey in a letter to APD explaining why charges were not pursued.
In the letter, Shorey cited surveillance video from the nearby grocery store that showed a vehicle shielding Justice's view of Griffith.
Police closed the busy stretch of road to conduct a test aimed at figuring out if Justice was speeding. That determined he was traveling between 38 and 46 miles per hour on a stretch of road where the limit is 35.
Using landmarks visible in the video and closing the heavily-trafficked road to try and measure speed, investigators determined Justice was driving about 41 miles per hour at the time of the crash.
"I do not believe that such speed is far enough removed from the speed other drivers maintain on that stretch of road to represent either reckless driving or excessive speeding," Shorey wrote.
While there was little question that Griffith entered the roadway illegally, there was significant attention given to marijuana present in Justice's system at the time of the crash.
Justice was arrested four times for driving while intoxicated, most recently in 1998, so his blood samples sent to the Washington State Police Toxicology Laboratory. A test confirmed he was not under the influence of alcohol but that he had THC in his bloodstream.
The lab review also revealed that Justice consumed marijuana the day of the crash and that he was a habitual user. Shorey wrote that at the time of the incident Justice had an "expected therapeutic level but not to a degree that one would expect adverse effects."
Coupled with video evidence suggesting Justice had less than two seconds to react and avoid Griffith while traveling on ice-slicked roads, the state decided not to pursue charges.
"I cannot reach the conclusion that the collision was either Justice’s fault or that it was his drug use that created or enhanced the risk of a collision," Shorey wrote.
The case is one in a string of bicyclist deaths that took a weeks or months to resolve by moving to charge suspects or dismiss charges.
4-year-old Ashley Xiong was killed May 19, police say when 46-year-old Her Thao collided with her bicycle. Thao was charged with homicide August 8.
Police also claim Jeffery Dusenbury, 51, was killed when he was struck on July 19 by Alexandra Ellis, 17. Ellis was charged August 7 with manslaughter.
Shorey acknowledged the wait can be frustrating but said it is important for the process to play out. The process, in the case related to Griffith's death, included out-of-state bloodwork, a lengthy police investigation, interviews with witnesses and a DA review, he said.
"The DA does not exist to simply charge everyone," Shorey said. "We exist to do justice, and occasionally there's justice as in this instance."