Melee of cyclists / Ogden incident leads to four arrests
Sunday, August 9, 2009
By Trent Toone
OGDEN -- Was it a friendly group bicycle ride through downtown Ogden or a confrontational melee that included obstructing traffic, assault, obscenities and alcohol?
Depends on who you talk to.
Numbers vary from 35 to 70, but a large group of cyclists, referred to as Critical Mass, was taking a monthly ride to celebrate cycling and assert their rights to the road on Friday when Ogden police say things got out of hand. Four individuals were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and public intoxication.
Matt Hasenyager, owner of Skyline Cycle and one of the bicyclists, said the group was obeying traffic laws and having fun.
However, police reports indicate some were hostile, disrupted traffic flow, yelled obscenities and made gestures at motorists while intoxicated.
The trouble started at the intersection of 23rd Street and Grant Avenue when a woman motorist stopped at a red light and was suddenly surrounded by bicyclists. When the light turned green, she was unable to pull forward and honked her horn.
Cyclists responded by yelling obscenities and someone threw a cup of soda pop and hit the woman in the face, the police report said. When she pulled forward, her vehicle bumped one of the bicycles, causing minor damage to the fender and wheel. Then she called police.
"They demanded she be arrested for aggravated assault, but it wasn't intentional," said Ogden Lt. Mike Ashment. "The woman didn't want to pursue anything."
The group continued its ride to 24th Street and Lincoln Avenue, where two individuals halted traffic, entered the intersection and began escorting the other riders through even though the light was red, according to the police report. Angry motorists were forced to maneuver around the pair and more gestures were made and obscenities yelled, Ashment said.
The scene was observed by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper and Weber County deputy who were assisting the Ogden City gang unit for the weekend. They arrived and instructed the two cyclists to leave the intersection and talk with them. One complied, but the other pedaled away after the group.
Deputy Trevor Petersen pursued the individual, eventually tackling him off his bike. Petersen's actions surprised the group, which then surrounded him. He ordered them to move away and called for backup, the report said. Eventually more than six officers arrived to help disperse the irate crowd.
Four individuals were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and public intoxication. They are Samuel Mc-Kay, 26; Sara Fulks, 33; Donald Hall, 61; and KC Shirra, 19. A 12-pack of beer was located in Fulks' backpack.
It was a bizarre scene, trooper Chris Turley said.
"I have never encountered something like this. Usually people are very law abiding, but the crowd was very hostile. Many were intoxicated and smelled of alcohol," Turley said. "It was unusual behavior."
Hasenyager was riding with the group and recalls the scene as one of chaos and confusion. He said his friend that was tackled didn't know the deputy wanted him to stop.
"It was hard to know who he (the deputy) was talking to when he said 'Stop sir, stop.' There 30 of us," Hasenyager said. "I don't think the police department as a whole was out of line, but this individual (the deputy) could have handled it in a different fashion. If it had been handled differently, without physical force, I wouldn't be talking about it right now. Maybe tickets could have been written."
According to several Web sites, Critical Mass is a bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in hundreds of cities around the world. The ride was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to cyclists. Participants have insisted that these events should be viewed as "celebrations" and spontaneous gatherings, and not as protests or organized demonstrations.
Ashment and Lt. Scott Conley both find it odd that the group is out promoting fun and bicycle awareness, yet failing to comply with traffic rules and other laws.
"It doesn't jive," Ashment said.
"Why are they so confrontational with public? Why do they have alcohol in their backpacks? From what I am being told, they were they individuals escalating the situation," Conley said.
Hasenyager didn't see the incident at 23rd and Grant, but said has heard several different versions of what happened. He said it was heartbreaking to see this all happen, but the bottom line, he said, is that Ogden is an outdoor hot spot.
"The best we can do now is move this in a positive direction, learn a valuable lesson and move forward, and be better because of it."