NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A motorcyclist who prosecutors said triggered a chain of events that led to an intense confrontation between the driver of a sport-utility vehicle and a group of other bikers appeared in court on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, bikers gathered Wednesday night to rally support for one of their own who was run over by the SUV.
Bail was set at $1,500 cash for Christopher Cruz, 28, at his arraignment, which he later posted. His license was also suspended and the judge ordered him to turn over his passport.
Cruz told the court he lost his passport saying, “My girlfriend had it, I’m not too sure where it went.”
Cruz was charged with reckless endangerment, reckless driving, endangering the welfare of a child and menacing. He was also charged with unlawful imprisonment.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, Cruz hightailed it out of court following the hearing, holding his girlfriend’s hand. He headed to a waiting cab and shouted an expletive before leaving, 1010 WINS reported.
His attorney promised a fight to clear his name.
“His motorcycle was struck, and he stood right there,” said attorney H. Benjamin Perez. “He never assaulted this man. He never tried to assault him in any way, and he does not know any of the other motorcyclists who were involved in this beating.”
Cruz was arrested Tuesday in connection with Sunday’s incident between a large group of bikers and the driver of a Range Rover on the Henry Hudson Parkway.
The NYPD said Cruz was the biker seen on the video shot by a fellow rider, braking hard and forcing Range Rover driver Alexian Lien to rear-end him.
Watch The Full Video Below: WARNING — GRAPHIC IMAGES
Other bikers then swarmed the SUV. Police said Lien – who was in the vehicle with his wife and 2-year-old daughter — was frightened and took off. He allegedly ran over Edwin “Jay” Mieses, a cyclist from Massachusetts who has since been hospitalized with critical injuries.
About two dozen riders are then seen in the video slowing down, surrounding the SUV and blocking its path. Some of the bikers also get off their motorcycles and approach the vehicle.
Police said some of the bikers begin to damage the Range Rover, though it’s not clear from the video. Lien’s wife and their 2-year-old daughter were also inside the car.
“They take their helmets and they start to dent his car and apparently his tires are slashed there,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
The bikers chase after the Range Rover for about two miles. The SUV eventually gets off the highway around West 178th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, police said.
As Lien gets stuck in traffic, the bikers surround his SUV again, police said.
One of the riders is seen in the video jumping off his bike, ripping off his helmet and using it to bash in the driver’s side window. A second biker is seen running up and hitting the driver’s side rear window with his fists.
At that point, the video ends but Kelly said Lien is pulled out of his car and beaten up. Lien was taken to the hospital where he needed stitches to his face. His wife and child were unhurt.
As 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported, bikers gathered in front of St. Luke’s Hospital Wednesday night to show support for Mieses, the cyclist who was run over. They said the video does not show the whole story, and argued that Lien was acting dangerously.
“All bikers are not violent. All bikers are not gang members. All bikers are not out there starting trouble,” said biker Jose, who was not on the ride.
Jose said the bikers initially gathered around the SUV for no other reason than to check on Mieses.
“When they stopped, they were checking for his safety,” he said.
Jose said that he thought charges should be brought against Lien for running over Mieses.
“He definitely should be charged. If he ran over your family he should be charged,” he told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider.
One of the men seen pounding on the SUV is Allen Edwards of Queens. He turned himself in and was charged, but on Wednesday morning, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute for now.
“We are taking Sunday’s crimes extremely seriously and will proceed with charges in a manner that enables us to build the strongest cases possible,” Karen Friedman-Agnifilo, chief of the Trial Division that is handling the case, said in a statement. “Prematurely charging individuals with low-level crimes does not further the goals of the investigation and could weaken the cases we expect to bring against the perpetrators of serious crimes. After we investigate the facts and each person’s individual actions, we will know what charges can be supported by the evidence. There is still a tremendous amount of investigation to be done.”
Mike Zeleny, president of the Sport Bike Riders Club, believed the video showed bad judgment all around.
“I think they should investigate it fully before they charge anybody,” Zeleny said. “You know, and I think both parties — the driver of the Range Rover and the motorcyclists — could have handled things differently.”
Police are still looking for the biker seen in the video smashing the SUV’s window with his helmet.
Police questioned the man who videotaped the incident on Tuesday night. He was not arrested. Authorities are still reviewing evidence and speaking with witnesses.
Prosecutors said they intend to take the case against Cruz to a grand jury.
Perez said Cruz had nothing to do with the attack against Lien. He said his client called 911 after the initial collision and remained on the scene.
“The bottom line is that my client had nothing to do with what happened to this gentleman, and he does not know the people who, you know, beat this gentleman up on 174th Street,” Perez said. “He never left the location of the accident, and he at no time ever assaulted this man or his vehicle, for that matter.”
Meanwhile Tuesday, police were still seeking to question the biker who smashed the window of Lien’s SUV with his helmet. They have isolated two photos of the suspect from the viral video.
One of the suspects has a flag sticker of “Guyana” on the rear of his motorcycle, police said.
Police said their investigation continues – aided by additional video they’ve collected from other riders and witnesses.
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