May 10, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has issued a Class C Felony charge of Involuntary Manslaughter in the First Degree for Joseph Lasala, the driver in an April 3, 2016 hit and run accident on Independence Avenue that killed cyclist Anthony P. Saluto. The 31-year-old Lasala also faces a Class D Felony charge of Leaving the Scene of a Motor Vehicle Accident.
The incident occurred just before 6:00 p.m., near the intersection of Independence Avenue and Forest Avenue. According to the Probable Cause statement attached to the charges, Lasala was driving eastbound in a silver 2002 Lexus 300 at a high rate of speed when he drifted into the westbound lanes and struck a bicyclist, later identified as Saluto. Emergency medical personnel announced Saluto dead at the scene.
Two witnesses – one driving in a westbound vehicle and a pedestrian standing on the north side of Independence Avenue in the vicinity of Paseo Blvd. – saw the silver Lexus veer into the westbound lanes and strike the sidewalk, several utility poles, and Saluto. Both witnesses indicated that there was no other vehicle involved in the crash.
Lasala was interviewed by a detective at the crash scene, where he admitted driving the Lexus involved in the crash but initially claimed that another vehicle struck his car before making contact with the cyclist. Lasala later said that the bicyclist rode out in the street suddenly in front of the Chouteau Court apartment complex, making a crash unavoidable. Lasala further stated that he was not distracted or under the influence at the time of the accident.
Crash scene investigators ultimately determined that the impact with the bicycle was a head-on collision. The investigators determined that Lasala’s vehicle was traveling between 47 MPH and 56.4 MPH at the time of impact. Surveillance video of the crash showed Saluto riding his bicycle westbound, in the northern-most lane. Lasala’s Lexus can be seen hitting Saluto before crashing into the northern sidewalk off Independence Avenue. The Lexus was eventually found south of Independence Avenue, on Lydia Avenue.
An initial examination of Lasala’s blood conducted at Children’s Mercy Hospital found benzodiazepine, cannabinoids, cocaine and opiates in his system at the time of the crash.