Driver Charged In Berkeley Crash That Killed Elderly Professor Was Legally Blind, May Have Been Eating While Driving

BERKELEY (CBS SF) — A driver accused of hitting an elderly professor in Berkeley in April was legally blind at the time, had no driver license and may have been eating food from a bowl, according to police.

98-year-old Joseph Luft was crossing Sacramento St. at Bancroft when police say he was hit by a car driven by 56-year-old Robert Gilchrist.

Luft was conscious following the crash but died of his injuries later that night at the hospital.

According to a court affidavit, Gilchrist told police that he was legally blind and his driver’s license was expired in 2000. Berkeley Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said last week Gilchrist also had a bowl of partially-eaten macaroni in the car, but it was not clear whether he had been eating it at the time of the collision.

In an Oakland courtroom Wednesday, Gilchrist’s original misdemeanor charges of vehicular manslaughter were amended to felony charges. He was scheduled to return to court on August 14 to enter a plea.

He was being held on $60,000 bail.

Luft was psychologist who taught at San Francisco State University for more than 20 years and who co-invented the Johari window, a diagram used to help people understand relationships with others and themselves.

The Luft family released a statement after his death in April that described him as a World War II veteran who had taken his daily walk for more than 50 years.


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