Alexian Lien beating
On September 29, 2013, on New York City's Henry Hudson Parkway, an altercation took place between motorist Alexian Lien and motorcyclists participating in a rally called "Hollywood's Block Party". The altercation began with a minor traffic accident when one of the bikers pulled in front of Lien and slowed dramatically, an action sometimes referred to as "brake checking". Lien stopped his vehicle and was quickly surrounded by bikers. Lien accelerated to escape and struck one of the bikers, critically injuring him. A chase ensued, ending in Lien being pulled from his vehicle and beaten.
The bikers included off-duty New York City police officers. The attack was caught on video and garnered international attention. A number of bikers are facing assault and other criminal charges, and legislation has been proposed to regulate motorcycle rallies in New York City.
On September 29, 2013, a group of motorcyclists were participating in an annual rally organized by a man named Jamie Lao. Rallies organized by Lao in the past involved performing motorcycle stunts and an unauthorized ride through Times Square. During the 2012 ride a year prior, "Well over a thousand motorcycles, dirt bikes, quads, four-wheel vehicles" rode through Times Square." according to New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. The group did not have permits to do so. Driving through Times Square has been illegal since it was pedestrianized in 2009. Kelly reported that the altercation with Lien was not the only problem involving the group on September 29. Over 200 other people had complained to the police about the reckless driving of the bikers on Manhattan's streets that day.
On New York City's Henry Hudson Parkway, a sport utility vehicle (SUV) driven by motorist Alexian Lien was involved in light bumper contact with motorcyclist Christopher Cruz. Cruz reportedly sustained minor injuries. According to the video, Cruz merged in front of Lien and appeared to slow down before being struck by the SUV. Following the incident, authorities familiar with such organized rides stated that Cruz was not attempting to cause a collision, but was attempting to slow traffic in order to clear a section of roadway to perform stunts on their motorcycles.
Lien and many of the motorcyclists stopped their vehicles. The video shows many of the bikers gathering around the Range Rover driven by Lien. Lien, 33, is a Chinese American banker. His wife and two-year-old daughter were also in the vehicle. The video was shot from too great a distance to clearly show the actions of the bikers surrounding the vehicle, but police report that some of the bikers beat on the vehicle and that a tire was punctured. Lien accelerated to escape, reportedly driving over three motorcycles and a rider, named Edwin Mieses, who had dismounted and was in front of the Range Rover. Mieses was severely injured, suffering a fractured spine and punctured lung.
The bikers then followed Lien for several miles. Lien's wife called 911 four times in an eight-minute time span during the drive. A few minutes later, the video shows Lien stopping for a red light and a biker is seen running up and opening the driver’s side door before Lien accelerates again to escape. Several minutes later, the SUV came to a halt behind other vehicles at a red light. One of the bikers then dismounted his motorcycle and struck the driver's window of the Range Rover with his helmet, shattering it. Lien was then dragged from the vehicle and assaulted. Another uploaded video shows Lien laying on the ground with bikers stomping on him and beating him with their helmets. Bikers also smashed other windows of the SUV and started to pull out his wife and daughter before a bystander named Sergio Conseugra intervened, stepping in between the bikers and Lien. Conseugra says one biker grabbed Lien's wife and said "you're going to get it, too" before other bystanders yelled at him to stop and the biker let her go. Lien sustained lacerations to his face and sides, requiring stitches at a local hospital.
A video of the incident quickly went viral after it was uploaded by a biker to Live Leak with the caption, "A black Range Rover ran over a group of bikers in New York City during an annual street ride." The incident was covered widely by national news networks. Following the publicity for the video shot on September 29, other videos surfaced of the group on other rides. One video, shot in 2011, shows riders driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic, driving on sidewalks, running red lights and surrounding and threatening the driver of a Prius. The bikers beat on the window of his car, but the driver was unharmed.
The NYPD faced criticism when some of the bikers involved in the chase and attack were identified as off-duty New York City police officers. Ten-year veteran and undercover detective Wojciech Braszczok surrendered to authorities and was arrested on October 8. An undercover narcotics detective has been identified by the press as being present but not participating in the assault. Sources have reported a total of five off-duty officers were originally present on the West Side Highway, and that at least two saw the assault.
Following the altercation, there was much discussion regarding whether this group of riders was a "biker gang". It was commonly referred to as a biker gang, more specifically, "Hollywood stuntz gang" in the news. However, Jamie Lao, who organized the rally, asserts that the title "Hollywood Stuntz" does not apply to the riders, but is a monicker he goes by himself. He denies being present for the incident. Many have pointed out a distinction between this group of riders and what we typically think of as a motorcycle gang. A report on the topic by the California Department of Justice stated that “outlaw motorcycle gangs are sophisticated organizations who utilize their affiliation with a motorcycle club as a conduit for criminal activity. The nature of their activity is generally conspiratorial, and their goals are attained through use of violence and intimidation.” While many of the bikers were found to have criminal histories and it appeared there were aspects of intimidation in the incident on September 29 as well as on the 2011 video, many pointed out that the bikers who gathered on that day do not have any affiliation with each other aside from participating in the ride. Former New York police chief and future police commissioner William Bratton said these groups are popping up nationally. They are typically organized online and congregate with the intention of performing high speed stunts en masse. Bratton explained that traditional motorcycle gangs are typically white, rooted in a specific neighborhood, and often are involved in drug dealing. These new groups are racially diverse, younger, loosely affiliated, and do not use the group for the purposes of furthering criminal enterprises.
Celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred was hired to represent the critically injured Mieses by members of his family, while the law firm of Massimo & Panetta, P.C., represents the Lien family. Allred claims Mieses was the victim in the incident. "He did nothing wrong...all he had done was get off his bike, go over and try to calm everybody down", she said. She reasoned that Lien could have honked his horn or told the bikers to get out of the way to give them a chance to part.
A total of 15 people were arrested, 55 motorcycles were confiscated, and 69 summonses were issued in connection with the September 29th event. Nine suspects have been charged in connection with the attack.
Christopher Cruz, who collided with Lien's vehicle at the beginning of the incident, was arraigned in Manhattan on charges of reckless driving and criminal imprisonment. Motorcyclist Reggie Chance, who was identified as the one who broke Lien's window with his helmet, and Robert Sims of Brooklyn, is shown on the video attempting to open the SUV's driver's door turned themselves in separately to Manhattan's 33rd Precinct on October 4.
Police have stated that they do not plan to file charges against Alexian Lien. In December 2013, Lien filed a civil suit against the city of New York for the involvement of an off-duty police detective in the attack. The suit accused the police department of failing to properly train their officers.
The charges against most of the bikers involved in the incident were lessened in December 2013 because of the lack of severity of injuries to Lien. “The victim’s facial wounds look to be healing in a way which does not constitute facial disfigurement under the law,” said Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Joshua Steinglass. The defendants, who were facing up to 25 years on charge of gang assault, are now facing up to 15 years if convicted on the lesser charge of attempted assault and attempted gang assault. A number of plea deals have been offered.
Lawmakers are attempting to introduce motorcycle safety legislation that would require a permit for gatherings of 50 or more motorcycles, and notification to the communities through which they would be riding. “We’re not splicing atoms here. This is something that’s very not uncommon. You know, permits are required for all kinds of public assembly and activities, and there should be a similar process for motorcycles," said state Senator Andriano Espaillat. The legislation was inspired by the September 29 incident as well as the death of Marian Kurshik, 78, in December 2013 after being struck by a motorcycle traveling in a pack and performing stunts. The driver of the motorcycle was also killed in the accident. "His feet was on the seat; the front wheel pulled up. He was going very fast," said a bystander. "This not only, I think, protects pedestrians. I think it also protects the motorcyclists themselves," said Espaillat.
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