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Officials Defend Mistaken License Revocations

August 13, 1987

Undated (AP) _ California officials on Wednesday defended a decision to lift the driver’s licenses of suspected freeway gunmen without hearings, even though two revocations have been reversed in the last week for lack of evidence.

″We feel that our obligation is to protect the public interest,″ said Gina McGuiness, spokeswoman for the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Since mid-June, four people have been killed and 17 injured in more than 50 confirmed shootings and other attacks on Southern California streets and highways. Many of the attacks followed traffic disputes, but some apparently were random.

The Department of Motor Vehicles, in an effort to put the brakes on the commuter violence, started revoking the licenses of people arrested in such incidents.

Since the policy was adopted Aug. 4, the DMV has revoked the licenses of eight Los Angeles-area men accused of involvement in traffic violence. However, two of those licenses were quickly restored when police either released the men or failed to provide enough evidence against them.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the department for failing to hold hearings so the drivers could respond to the accusations.

DMV driver safety referees and other officials examine each case before deciding to lift a license, Ms. McGuiness said Wednesday from the department’s Sacramento headquarters.

″We do look at each record, we do look at the circumstances,″ she said. ″We don’t just automatically do it.″

She was unable to provide details of the allegations against any of the men who lost their licenses, or the reasons two of the licenses were restored.

In an apparently random attack Wednesday, a bullet fired from the side of an interstate highway in Cerritos passed through the cab of a pickup truck, police said. The driver was not injured, said Los Angeles sheriff’s Sgt. Bryan Williams.

Also Wednesday, acting Los Angeles Police Chief Robert Vernon offered one of the few statistical looks at the problem in testimony before a City Council committee.

In the first six months of 1987, Vernon said, there were 26 confirmed reports of gunfire on freeways within the city limits, up from 15 incidents in the last six months of 1986.

″Frankly, the root cause is there are an awful lot of rotten (people) out there with short fuses,″ District Attorney Ira Reiner told the committee. ″The only way you stop them is when you catch them and lock them up.″

Gunfire erupted on two California highways Tuesday after a one-day lull in reports of traffic violence.

On a highway near Los Gatos, south of San Jose, two cars and a tanker truck were hit by gunfire. No one was injured, but bullets smashed the rear window of one car and punched holes in the door of the other car and the truck, said police Sgt. Don Dequine.

Earlier, a motorist with a pellet or BB gun shot at three women driving into Laguna Beach, shattering a window but causing no injuries, said Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Ray Lardie.

Meanwhile, the family of a policewoman slain in a highway shooting last year filed suit against the convicted killer and his parents, contending they were negligent and inflicted emotional distress.

The suit, filed last week on behalf of the family of Patricia Dwyer, seeks unspecified damages from Harold Harvey Hawks and his parents. Hawks was convicted in May of murdering Dwyer, 45, in a traffic dispute that occurred while she was off duty and riding near Corona.

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