OC Sheriff threatens to victimize an Orange County cyclist a second time; road raging driver allowed to walk

Prepare to get mad.

Or maybe livid is a better word.

Just a day after a widely circulated open letter called on the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to charge a truck driver who used his vehicle as a weapon to threaten a cyclist, the department recommended that charges be filed.

Against the victim.

According to the LA Times, Bryan Larsen was riding his bike on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point on May 31st when he captured video of a truck driver attempting to run him off the road before the passenger — who turned out to be the driver’s wife — hits him with a thrown Gatorade bottle; they then try to smoke him out as they took off.

Maybe she thought he looked thirsty.

Larsen was originally told that no charges could be filed because sheriff’s deputies did not actually witness the assault themselves.

Which is not true, of course.

Police are required to witness an event in order to file a traffic violation or misdemeanor charge; however, there’s no such requirement for felony charges. And using a large truck to intimidate a vulnerable road user should certainly qualify.

I’ve also been told by members of other departments that video footage can be used as evidence, as well as eye witness testimony. At the time, Larsen was riding with another cyclist who could verify everything seen on the video.

After the video went viral and was picked up by local news stations, the sheriff’s department reconsidered and conducted an investigation. Though based on the results, not much of one.

Even though the driver reportedly used his massive truck as a weapon to threaten the rider and attempt to force him off the road, they declined to charge him with anything. At all.

Instead, the Orange County Register reports they recommended that the OC District Attorney file an assault and battery charge against the driver’s wife.

And that charges be filed against the victim for apparently inciting the attack through his use of obscene language directed at the couple.

Charges are also being recommended against the bicyclist, he said, who is suspected of using “offensive words in public, likely to provoke a violent reaction.” Officials suspect the cyclist made “rude, disparaging comments” before the incident was recorded on his cellphone, (Lt. Jeff) Hallock said.

This, despite the fact the US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that offensive language and gestures are protected as free speech under the 1st Amendment. And even though Hallock makes it clear investigators are only assuming that Larson said something so offensive as to justify a violent attack with a deadly weapon.

As if anything could.

Would they still feel the driver was justified if he had pulled out a gun and started shooting at the cyclist? Legally, there’s no difference; only the choice of weapon used.

And never mind what actually precipitated the event. Unless Larsen suffers from a rare form of Tourette’s Syndrome or mental illness that forced him to swear without any provocation, he was clearly responding to something the driver had done before the camera started recording.

What, we may never know, since the threat of criminal charges will now force him to remain silent. Which is probably the real intent.

Legally, there’s no valid case against him. So the question becomes, why is the OCSD trying so hard to intimidate the victim of a violent crime — while letting the primary perpetrator off scott-free?

And what does it say to every other bike rider south of the Orange Curtain when even video evidence isn’t good enough to get the authorities to give a damn about our safety — let alone threaten us for reporting it?

Sheriff Sandra Hutchens and her department are sending a clear message to everyone who travels by two wheels that we remain second-class citizens in her jurisdiction.

And if something bad happens on her watch, just keep your mouth shut about it.

Or else.

13 comments

  1. richard says:

    The video has enough of a preamble duration to rebut the sort of glib resistance Abu grab era resentment fosters ….eventually I hope- and we do know the shock such only apparently gleefull satisfaction declaring our assault and assailants caughn candid enough camera if we have experi anything like this…. I also thinknk the Amazonunt of smoke amazing amount makes it qtworth watching….he/they should be afraid… Wife must NEVER SIT IN WINDOW SEAT AGAIN. Or goto trial on attempted murder.

  2. richard says:

    In California it is illegal to register any diesel without modern pollution controls. IF this truck was modified it is now illegal and let me beg it be promptly deregistered; I.E. TODAY. Removing the modification is not enough either. Deporttion is the normal rule for such equipment. Unss FORMALLY/UNFEASABLY remanufacture d enabling the hobby- let it be so! Diesel engines don’t pollute….people who abuse them do.g hydperlink was far too subtle. We all have a duty to h arass ‘smokers on site….silence would be evil. This was abglobal warming deneyers apparently? Not too soon to start jailing yem …likely too late to intervene in planet bake. My keyboard newly flaky sorry. Editing not possible….spurious letters won’t delete. ac

    • Erik Griswold says:

      Note that the truck is registered in Texas. I wonder if the person who owns it is resident in California?

  3. Darwin says:

    We need to get organized and make the cops do their job.

  4. The OC Dist. Atty can file charges against the cyclist, but they will have to prove he provoked the threat. He’ll have only the driver’s word for that.
    What would be the OCSD’s or DA’s reason for filing against the cyclist?
    The same as filing against the driver: to curb road rage behavior that escalates to physical assault. No, I’m not blaming the cyclist. But I am suggesting that if we want to play in these political and legal arenas– and we must– that we have to escalate our game, too.
    As hard as it is to moderate our behavior– and I have the fastest middle finger in the West– we’ve gott’a do it. No surprise this assault took place in Dana Point where CA Rep Dian Harkey was mayor; she hates bicyclists because they’ve run stop signs and red lights and been rude to her in the past. Chickens come home to roost, that’s all I’m sayin’.

  5. ValleyBall1 says:

    What a sad day for cyclists – especially those in OC! One thing is for sure: stay off PCH if you can; between the deaths and run-ins with cars, it’s too risky on Pacific Carnage Highway. I used to get my weekly 100 by riding PCH but will opt for other — less traveled — streets and trails.

  6. […] it. But they are willing to charge this cyclist for words they didn’t actually hear. Bicycling in L.A.‘s Ted Rogers sums up the Orange County Sheriffs’ response […]

  7. Craig Kobayashi says:

    If this review is to be believed, the OCSD wants to deter cyclists from collecting video evidence that could compel the investigation of crimes caught on video.

    https://www.facebook.com/apancroft/activity/839980336012465

  8. Dan Wahls says:

    Maybe I’m missing some earlier video, but what I can see from this video above is something that is not altogether clear. What I do see/hear is the cyclist (1) at the start of the video on the far left side of a bike lane who then starts weaving in and out of the bike lane – not sure what or why he is videoing the ride but all it seems to show until the alleged “assault” is his weaving in and out of the lane, (2) the rider then turns the camera towards a white pick up truck and shouts at the driver and the passenger that they are on video, (3) a full Gatorade bottle is shown in air (possible she tried to hand it to the rider and then tossed it up in the air a bit?) – it almost looks to me that it’s possible the person was trying to give the cyclist the bottle (is that possible – it looks like they slowed down to hand him a Gatorade and the passenger seems to be trying to tell him something), and (4) the cyclist continues to yell at the passenger and the pick up truck (which is now in the traffic lane completely) then pulls away quickly – perhaps because they have been told by the cyclist that they are one video and presumably will be reported. Again, did I miss something here – another video portion? At no time was the truck ever in the bike lane.

    • bikinginla says:

      Let’s see. By your account, the occupants of a truck traveling at highway speed notice a bike rider appears to be thirsty, and graciously attempts to hand the rider a bottle of Gatorade. Evidently being insane, he instead swears at them and films their failed attempt at courtesy, before the truck inadvertently drifts to the right and, badly in need of a tune-up, accidentally leaves a trail of smoke behind.

      Yeah, that could happen.

  9. Marcus says:

    So the cyclist was “asking for it”? Maybe his attire provoked the attack? Really, OC? Going to start charging rape victims for promiscuity also?

  10. Bud says:

    If this cyclist is charged we need to get as many cyclists together as humanly possible and fill the courtroom and protest. We should et the television stations know and ask them to cover this miscarriage of justice……

  11. Today’s Gatorade is full of High Fructose Corn Syrup. It is radically different from the formula developed at the University of Florida.

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