Denton high school students assault cyclists, get caught

When a car passes by as you’re cycling, and the occupants hurl objects at your faces, you might not assume that they’ll get caught.  You also might not assume that you’ll get to meet the hooligans, make your case for simple human decency, and have a police officer deliver cake to your house.

Don’t assume anything.

In 1980, when I was four, my family went to Richardson Bike Mart and bought a Raleigh for me, my first bike.  I immediately rode it around the block, and I heard from a car “hey kid!”.  I turned and looked, and a tennis ball hit right me between my eyes, hurled from a wood-paneled station wagon.  I fell off the bike and puked everywhere.  Face stinging, I trudged home.  That was my first bike ride, but I made it thirty years before feeling that sting again.

Last night at approximately 11 PM, 6 of us were cycling from the downtown square on Mulberry towards UNT.  Humans.  People with names and lives: David, Krystal, Lindsay, James, Renee, Howard.  UNT students, a commercial pilot, a UNT Psychology teacher, UNT staff members, and a vacationing nice guy.

At the Carroll Blvd intersection, we waited through the red light (which seems to not change for cyclists), and we proceeded through the (very short) green light.  Once through the intersection, we called “car back” and let two cars past.  As they were passing us, we saw a blur of arms hurling objects out the windows.  Something ricocheted off my arm, and Krystal was hit in the face (near the eyes) with half of a firm banana, stem attached.   From the cars we heard “Go! Go! Go!”.  We gave chase but couldn’t get close enough to see the license plates.  On Hickory, we flagged down a UNT police officer who was patrolling the 20mph Hickory speed zone.  We explained what happened, and the officer said he would “keep an eye out”.  He did not seem interested in the assault.

Banana hurled at our faces

We continued on towards a birthday party for a friend.  At Welch and Mulberry, I saw the white 2000-2004 4-door VW Golf TDI.  I pointed at the car, recognize the passengers, and one of them yelled “we’re sorry” out the window.  We sprinted behind them down Mulberry towards Carroll, and the light turned red, so the car paused.  I squinted and read the plate: Y84-PWJ.  Then, they were gone.

I called the UNT non-emergency line, and the dispatch told me to call the city police.  I read her the license plate number to pass on to the UNT officer who we spoke to.  We called the Denton Police, told them the license plate number, and they immediately dispatched a patrol car to the accident scene.  We sat alongside Mulberry, resting and talking.  From across the street, a very kind man walked over, excused any awkward politeness, and gave us half of a graduation-themed sheet cake.  I love Denton; because where else, really?.  We thanked him and gladly took the cake.  Suddenly, we noticed the white VW Golf going north on Carroll, past Mulberry.  What are the chances?!  Immediately behind the Golf was a Denton PD cruiser.  Wow.  And then the police blue and red lights came on.  Wow!  We rode over to the Northstar Bank parking lot where the officer and the car was, and we watched as several teenagers emerged from the car.

Motorist who assaulted us

Officer Weber asked them what happened, and the teenagers replied that their friends had thrown bananas at the cyclists.  Weber pointed out the banana smear on one boy’s shirt.  I asked the boys “if your friends did this, then maybe you can call and have them meet us here”.   They called, and surprisingly, the friends arrived in the maroon Honda Accord, CWN-658.

Seven high schoolers from Denton and Guyer high stood before us.

sevenbananathrowers

Officer Weber explained the seriousness of their assault, and that if Krystal had chosen to press charges, they would no doubt have been jailed.  We made our case for human decency, and that we couldn’t possibly comprehend what they were thinking when they assaulted us.  We explained that cyclists are human beings, and that the anonymity of driving should never change that cause for decency.  They apologized.  They seemed remorseful.  Some of them seemed strangely lighthearted, and Weber told them this wasn’t a laughing matter.  Some of the boys admitted that they’re about to go to college, and one mentioned going to Austin.  Officer Weber reminded them that an assault conviction could ruin those plans.  Krystal and I invited the teenagers to show some good will by volunteer working at the Querencia Community Bike Shop on any Saturday afternoon.  Who knows if they’ll ever show up.  They’d be welcome, for sure, but I doubt they have the guts to do a good turn.  I challenge them to prove me wrong.  If you’re reading this, high school guys, email info@qcbs.org and help us provide good community service to Denton.  We are not begrudging people, and who knows, you might actually like us.  Come ride with us sometime, and learn what it’s like to ride a bike here.  It’s usually pretty awesome.  Usually.

After a good thirty minutes of discussion and apologies, Officer Weber let the seven teenagers go.  Do I think they committed crimes of assault?  Yep.  Do I think they understand the seriousness?  I think so.  Do I think they should’ve gone to jail last night?  I’m not sure.

Officer Weber had a really great, calm, wise demeanor over the situation.  He read the situation quickly and effectively, and he did an great job of expressing how serious the assault was.  He did a fantastic job, and we think he is an exemplary example for law enforcement.  On the other hand, the UNT police response left us feeling ignored.  With that experience and UNT’s intent to remove the Avenue C bike lanes, we couldn’t help but feel like UNT hasn’t moved forward with much of their Master Bicycle Plan beyond simply installing bike racks.  With great cycling Denton police officers like Tom Woods, Andy DeBerry, and Mr. Weber, we feel safer for their loyalty and outreach.  We challenge UNT Police to live up to the same standard and engage with Denton’s growing cycling community.

So after we finished talking to Officer Weber, he asked how we’d transport the cake home. We weren’t sure.  Officer Weber took the cake, drove it to our destination on Hickory, and handed it to us in the front yard.  The neighbors gawked and took pictures.  We grinned, thanked Officer Weber profusely, ate cake, and went to sleep.  I hope it’s at least another thirty years before any of us are assaulted by motorists again.

Remember:

  1. Avoid violent confrontation with motorists
  2. Memorize license plate numbers and call the police
  3. When things happen just right, a police officer could deliver cake to your house

cake for cyclists

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22 thoughts on “Denton high school students assault cyclists, get caught

  1. Devin says:

    What an amazing series of events! And you got pictures!?!?

  2. Jim says:

    That is awesome! Not only did this lift my spirits (usually these stories have unresolved, bad endings), it actually made me laugh with joy. I’ll pass this around. It would be great if even one or two of those kids took you up on your offer. Let us know if any do!

  3. Emily says:

    As a cyclist, I’m so pissed off at these boys. I’ve been honked and jeered at, had kids jump out of bushes to startle me, and been almost hit dozens of times. People in cars can be real jerks.

    As the big sister to one of the kids, though, I know that they are sorry. My little brother realizes that it was a stupid thing to do (he says they were trying to throw the bananas at each other, not at the cyclists…) and is planning on volunteering at the bike shop.

    He is coming to Austin in the fall and won’t have a car, so then he’ll get to experience first hand what it is like to ride on the streets. I hope this will teach him to be more careful.

  4. Renee says:

    As one of the cyclist I can verify that the bananas were thrown at us, not at the other car. The car was very close to us & I saw an arm go out the window & throw the banana that hit my friend in the face, then two more bananas were thrown at the rest of us but none of those hit anyone.
    They did seem sorry for what happened and I think we all reached an understanding but it was not an accident.

  5. James says:

    Why would they come back and apoligize if they meant to throw them at you?

  6. howard says:

    James, they obviously felt guilty and didn’t want to get caught. And they didn’t come back to apologize, or they would’ve stopped instead of running. Like Officer Weber said to us, “most criminals return to the scene of the crime.” They admitted to us that it was a “stupid thing to do.” I don’t interpret that as an apology for something accidental.

    Emily, thanks for your comment. Some of them looked remorseful, some of them didn’t. I do not believe this was an accident. Your brother should get some practice by riding in Denton before he goes to Austin. Lt Tom Woods in the Denton PD teaches a great cycling safety course, and I have no doubt your brother would learn valuable lessons from an internationally respected mentor in Police cycling.

  7. Noah says:

    Great post. You can’t blame the idiotic high school kids: they’re victims of the modern age. Hopefully, when they’re in college, especially the kid going to Austin, they will realize how important cycling and cyclist safety is.

  8. Noah says:

    Also, what is going on in that second picture of the kids? There’s a mini clone of the kid wearing black.

  9. howard says:

    Noah, good eye. The iphone panorama app cloned that guy, so I just now cropped out the ghost.

  10. msn says:

    I love how this turned out. I cannot help but think this incident and the way it was handled will pay dividends in the futures of these kids, maybe even the kids who did not appear to show remorse. We just never know what seeds might be planted when we demonstrate both accountability and compassion. And seriously, who among us *didn’t* pull some really dumb-ass shit when we were their ages?

  11. Lauren says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m pretty impressed with the attitude of the cyclists involved. Thank so much for trying to both teach responsibility and bestow kindness to these kids. It really make me proud to be from Denton.

    One of the boys is part of a family I’ve known since childhood. I’m definitely going to be (strongly) encouraging him to pay forward that kindness by volunteering. Hopefully he’ll learn many things from the whole situation.

  12. Steve Magas says:

    This could have gone many, many different ways – from horrific life threatening injuries or death to a violent confrontation by kids and cyclists to absolutely no response from police… THANK YOU for reporting this as one of the very rare events that turn out … OK. Maybe the kids were snowing everyone, maybe they were truly remorseful… maybe they should have gone to the police station and had mom/dad bail them out before they were set free… or… MAYBE you guys handled it perfectly!!

    I’ve done 250 “bike cases” but have never had one where the facts lined up so well! Great Job folks!

  13. MOM says:

    The reason it lined up so well, thank you Denton Police Department, is because these kids REALLY ARE good kids. They are top 10 % in their class, Eagle Scouts, Choir kids.. they are respectful, active in service in the community, and kind. A night of ” naner” ing (throwing bananas at each other from cars) evidently went astray. I am still hoping it was an accident that the cyclist was hit. But notice that they did apologize before ever even considering the police being involved, that the friends in the other car returned when called, and that this parent and other parents are aware of what happened. These kids would be vouched for by not only their parents, but also their principal, teachers, and other adults- even Dalton Gregory ( I hope! ).
    With that defense said, let me say that I surely am sympathetic to the plight of bicyclists and strongly support the addition of bike lanes in Denton. Both my husband and I have ridden bikes across town and have to plan our paths carefully- and I’m still thinking it is dangerous. Believe me, we slow down for bicyclists, smile and wave and give a thumbs up. AND these kids are/will become the same kind of people. So thank you for shaking them up, and we are very grateful that no one was hurt. We add our sincere apologies as well.(But maybe you could limit the run of this article?……)

  14. [...] account comes from Bike Denton, one of a group of bicycle-focused blogs in and around the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth. [...]

  15. Opus the Poet says:

    I found this link through the Facebook page Cyclists Against Reckless Drivers. I live in Garland and was assaulted with a deadly weapon while riding my bicycle back in 2001 and the police did nothing to find the guy in spite of the severe damage inflicted on me and the truck I was hit with. Kudos to Denton and UNT PDs for finding and detaining the miscreants in this case, and to you for showing the human kindness you did. I know I couldn’t do the same after my experiences.

  16. [...] blog about an assault from a motor vehicle on some cyclists that ended up pretty good, considering. Denton high school students assault cyclists, get caught I couldn’t be as magnanimous if it had been me instead of [...]

  17. danceralamode says:

    Just a response to Mom’s request to limit the run of the post. I will take your word that these are good kids who let something get out of hand. However, throwing objects from a car, at a cyclist or another car, is an assault, vandalism, or any other charge that has direct and serious ramifications. They are lucky that the only consequence is this blog post and not a police report or assault conviction. We all have to pay for our mistakes. Let this post (and the others) be a reminder to them (not only to influence their own behavior but their friends’ for the better) for the rest of their lives.

    We all have to live with our mistakes and the ramifications/consequences. I think the cyclists already did these kids a good turn by not being vindictive and not pressing charges. But a lesson still has to be learned, and a lecture from a PD is not quite enough. They need to think about it for awhile. I’m sure you’re a great mom and just want to spare your child any embarrassment, but he earned this embarrassment and consequences as a direct result of his actions. Best of luck to him, you, etc.

  18. Steve Magas says:

    As the dad of a “good kid” I can relate to the ire of the parents here. Fortunately, that probably helped. Cops on the scene develop a good gut and had he sniffed ANY kind ot attitude from the kids here I’m sure it would have gone differently.

  19. Banana112 says:

    hahahahahahahahaha that’s awesome. What are you guys doing riding bikes at midnight? That’s weird. Haha faggots

  20. stinky says:

    Well, all I can say is, it may be just a bananna. But what about the next step? Will it be a pinapple? How about a coconut?!?!

  21. Dennis says:

    Krystal should have pressed charges, make those idiots think more while they are in lock up.

  22. Pesonally says:

    I would have pressed charges..
    That charges were not pressed indicates extremely inspired spirits.
    May we all be mindful of this young woman’s example and may we all heal swiftly from this encounter.

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