It's the story that just won't go away. For the past day or two now, new details have emerged about the incident that took place this past weekend in New York City. In case you missed it (and if you did that, you also probably have no idea how Breaking Bad ended), the video is at the bottom of the post.

Now, why am I talking about this?

This affects us all no matter what your point of view, so I'm going to share mine. It's tragic for the young man who was crushed by the car and by all accounts may never walk again. It's tragic that a large group of motorcyclists think they can take over a highway and intimidate drivers. It's tragic that a car driver got scared. But what's most tragic is the media's coverage of it.

Let's start with the facts:

1. It is beyond doubt that these motorcyclists initiated the confrontation. They were clearly swarming the car and brake checking (or so I believe it's called). The speculation is the riders were making room on the Manhattan West Highway to stunt, but there's no evidence of that.

2. It's beyond doubt that the Range Rover touches the rear wheel of a motorcyclist doing a brake check. No-one is harmed at this point, but it inevitably leads to a confrontation as the motorcyclists stop and swarm the car.

3. It's beyond doubt that the Range Rover, after about 10 seconds, decides to use his vehicle as a weapon and deliberately run over at least one rider and his machine. That rider will never walk again.

4. It's beyond doubt that the motorcyclists pursued the car in order to confront the driver.

5. It's beyond doubt that two motorcyclists then assaulted the car driver.

So, who's to blame?

Well, you can say the motorcycle riders were clearly agitating the driver in Point 1. This is (I am told) illegal under New York State laws. The prudent thing for the car driver to do would have been to pull over and report it. I'm sure the driver had a phone and camera. A fews pics of license plates and a quick call to the police and it's done.

For Point 2, the motorcyclists could and should have realized they don't own the road. They're not on a police escorted ride so they can't take over the road. If one of them got bumped, they should have let it go. No one was hurt at that point. And besides, they too could have called the police, right?

Point 3 is ugly. I've seen this a number of times. The driver used his car as a weapon and deliberately tries to injure another human being. Isn't that attempted manslaughter? And then, after deliberately causing harm to another person(s) and their property, he flees the scene of the accident! Isn't that another crime right there?

Point 4 is stupid. Realizing what the driver has done, a number of bikers attempted to chase him down. All the camera man needed to do was catch up and get a good shot of the driver's license plate, call the cops, hand over the memory card and it's game over Range Rover.

Instead, it ends with the horrific scene most people will remember. Gangs of bikers swarming a car and beating the driver.

Can we agree that both sides are to blame? Nobody knows what started it, but both the motorcyclists and driver decided to deal with it their way. Tragic. But not as tragic as how motorcyclists are being portrayed in main stream media as a result.

As ABC News said: A group of motorcyclists riding in New York City on Sunday chased and then attacked the driver of an SUV after he collided into a biker, while one biker filmed the entire confrontation, police said today.

It continues ...

* The Range Rover then tapping the fender of a motorcyclist...

* The motorcyclists then began damaging the Range Rover and slashed one the tires...

* As he was attempting to flee, the SUV driver hit a motorcyclist before speeding off...

The news headlines demonstrate an institutional bias against motorcyclists. Across the board, the car driver is portrayed as the victim. Other news outlets are no better:

  • NYPD Hunt For Bikers Who Attacked Driver (Sky News)

  • Range Rover driver chased by bikers in New York road rage incident (Telegraph UK)

  • After Motorcyclist Is Struck, Driver Is Pulled From S.U.V. and Beaten, the Police Say (NY Times)

Yes, the motorcyclists involved in this incident are idiots. Riding illegally, slowing traffic, doing break checks. They're squids. I for one hope the riders involved are both caught and punished to the full extent of the law. However, at no time did any of the motorcyclists use their vehicle as a weapon.

The car driver did. It's hard to see him "hitting" a motorcyclist as anything other than a deliberate attack. Sure he's "defending" his family, but how much danger are they really in? Until he hit three bikes and crushed one human, no- one appeared to be attacking him in any way other than verbally (the tire slashing has not yet been confirmed).

This is going to end badly for motorcyclists. Firstly, any time more than a few of us ride together, drivers will remember it, so will lawmakers. Remember the Ride of the Century? That didn't end well either. Before you know it, legislators and public opinion may push bikes out of major cities and there will be no more bikes anywhere.

'The Ride of the Century' Went On Despite 50 Arrests, Dozens of Bikes Impounded

'The Ride of the Century' Went On Despite 50 Arrests, Dozens of Bikes Impounded

This holiday weekend, the Ride of the Century or ROC is happening in St. Louis, Missouri. It's the largest annual motorcycle gathering in the area. Thousands of mostly sport bike riders from near ...

What can we do about it? I don't know but we need to think of something and fast. Should we wear open face helmets and three piece suits to show how distinguished we are? Do we need to wave and smile at old ladies and children alike as we pass them at legal speeds? Do we need to stop and help car drivers stuck on the side of the road? Because like it or not, this video is how drivers see us today.

Whatever happens, let's not lose sight of the fact that the car driver was at fault, too. And just as the law will punish the riders, the law must equally punish the driver.

The story in full...

7 Comments
You must Log In to submit a comment

@Agent3012 - I appreciate you going to the letter of the law - people tend to make assumptions about the law rather than look it up. My one "bone" to pick is that "New York Self Defense Statute: § 35.15 Justification; use of physical force in defense of a person. " is about physical force - is a weapon (in this case a car) a considered "physical force"? (I'm Canadian so I don't know if it's the case...) BTW I like the walking analogy...

 

Alex, your analysis is spot on, great article. The contrary analogy suggested has numerous flaws but I'm not going into them piecemeal. The one thing that's missing is a greater analysis at the point of the video when things turned from traffic offenses and misdemeanors to felonious attempted murder. This is the game changer and what needs to be focused on. The prior harassment and property damage that likely occurred is mostly relevant to inform whether the SUV driver was reasonable in believing he had to run over the bikers in self defense. An analysis of the video shows that this was not the case, as the bikers just started to disband and move on when Lein gunned the SUV. It may have been a moment of panic but for a number of reasons, including witness accounts that Lein was aggressive in return or pushing back at the bikers' aggression, it's clear that (as you intimate) Lein gunned his Range Rover and ran over the bikers intentionally, in retaliation to the harassment, and in an act of road rage. As bad as the image of bikers smashing in windows may seem, if Lein did this intentionally he is the far bigger criminal here, in fact committing attempted murder, and the bikers' giving chase to a felon is also justified by the law. Their subsequent assault of him is not, but the fact that his injuries were relatively minor, and eyewitnesses indicate that the assault was called off because of others' intervention, belies media reports of a savage beating. There is a large group of people who believe that if someone harasses or assaults you, or threatens your property, you have the right to take their life, and cloak this under the guise of "self defense". Being more honest here, it's more a matter of defense of honor, and clearly in New York this is not recognized as self-defense. Even if someone is assaulting you you have the right to use just enough force to protect yourself BUT NEVER DEADLY FORCE unless you yourself reasonably believe your own life (or your family's life) is at risk. The video evidence simply does not support this, and in fact supports the view that the SUV driver committed attempted murder. Drivers and the media appear to be rallying behind Lein, even though it looks like he intentionally placed his child and family at grave risk by his felonious actions, because of anti-biker sentiment and other biases despite the facts of the case. He's shaping up to be the David Berkowitz of cagers. Thanks for sharing your unpopular but cogent viewpoint. D As for smiling at children and old ladies, I do this all the time. I also go out of my way to help motorists, animals and others in distress when I'm on two wheels, in part as an ambassador for riders. When I put my helmet on and get on my bike, I consider myself a white knight.

 

@Alex, I think that motorcycles being involved may be clouding the issue. Let's remove them, and imagine a situation where you're walking down the street with your family. You're suddenly surrounded by a large group of individuals running by you. They start pushing around you, and one individual slows their run so that they're next to you, where they start shouting at you. They then run up in front of you and immediately stop so that you accidentally walk into them. You stop walking, and immediately so does the group. They start walking back to your family and surround them, shouting threats, pushing against you. It's clear to you that they mean harm to you when they start grabbing at you. Do you stand there, or do you try pushing your way through the crowd to escape? If you do push your way through to escape, if you accidentally push one of the group members that has stopped and is blocking your path down, should others consider that "attempted manslaughter" by you if that person hits their head when they fall? The law says otherwise.

 
  • alex
  • 2013-10-02T13:08:02-04:00

@Agent3012 - I am not a lawyer (are you?) but I still say that though he may have met the letter of the law, it's hard to construe driving over another person as anything other than deadly force. Was the driver in such peril? I personally don't believe he was, but it's a very gray area.

 
  • lalune
  • 2013-10-02T13:02:22-04:00

LOL "We need to wave and smile at old ladies and children alike as we pass them at legal speeds." We already do that. Even beep a hello to the cows (real cows, dude.) The kids are cute, always watching and intrigued. :)

 

One thing to keep in mind is that the riders had already attacked the SUV prior to the video. As the video begins, and the camera passes the SUV, you can see the driver's mirror having been smashed out. It is also important to note that the rider who was run over was not on his bike. As per his own family, he had gotten off the bike and approached the SUV. The family claims he did so to help the rider tapped during the brake check, but in the video itself, that rider had already stopped and was at the driver's door, appearing to be trying to get access. The other rider gets off his bike, and walks back to the other side of the SUV, next to the passenger window. According to reports, several riders were attacking the SUV at this point, attempting to slash the tires, banging on the sides and windows.

 

The reason the SUV driver is not being charged is that his actions are covered under the New York Self Defense Statute: § 35.15 Justification; use of physical force in defense of a person. 1. A person may, subject to the provisions of subdivision two, use physical force upon another person when and to the extent he or she reasonably believes such to be necessary to defend himself, herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by such other person, unless: (a) The latter's conduct was provoked by the actor with intent to cause physical injury to another person; or (b) The actor was the initial aggressor; except that in such case the use of physical force is nevertheless justifiable if the actor has withdrawn from the encounter and effectively communicated such withdrawal to such other person but the latter persists in continuing the incident by the use or threatened imminent use of unlawful physical force; or (c) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not specifically authorized by law. 2. A person may not use deadly physical force upon another person under circumstances specified in subdivision one unless: (a) The actor reasonably believes that such other person is using or about to use deadly physical force. Even in such case, however, the actor may not use deadly physical force if he or she knows that with complete personal safety, to oneself and others he or she may avoid the necessity of so doing by retreating; except that the actor is under no duty to retreat if he or she is: (i) in his or her dwelling and not the initial aggressor; or (ii) a police officer or peace officer or a person assisting a police officer or a peace officer at the latter's direction, acting pursuant to section 35.30; or (b) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible criminal sexual act or robbery; or (c) He or she reasonably believes that such other person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary, and the circumstances are such that the use of deadly physical force is authorized by subdivision three of section 35.20.