(NEW YORK) — The motorcyclist accused of causing a collision with an SUV Sunday in Manhattan that led to a high-speed chase and assault on the driver was officially charged in a New York court Wednesday with reckless driving.
Christopher Cruz, 28, is the only person to be charged so far in connection with the incident, which was caught on video by a helmet camera on one of the motorcyclists. The melee left one motorcyclist hospitalized in critical condition and the driver of the SUV with stitches.
Cruz’s attorney, H. Benjamin Perez, said his client didn’t even know the motorcyclists involved in the assault. Cruz denied the charges against him, but no official plea was made Wednesday, Perez noted.
“He had nothing to do with the beating that happened on 174th Street. He was not there,” Perez said. “He never assaulted this man. He never tried to assault him in any way.”
Cruz, of Passaic, N.J., had his license suspended and passport revoked as part of his bail conditions.
According to police, he was part of a group of 20 to 30 motorcycle riders who surrounded a Range Rover on Manhattan’s West Side Highway on Sunday afternoon. The bikers were trying to clear the road so they could do tricks and the Range Rover was in their way, investigators said.
Cruz allegedly cut the Range Rover off in traffic and slowed down, leading the Range Rover to bump the back of his bike, police said. Other motorcyclists then slowed down even further around Cruz and the SUV. In addition to the reckless driving charge, police charged Cruz with one count of unlawful imprisonment for his role in not allowing the SUV to move.
“Even if his motorcycle slowed down, [Cruz] had absolutely nothing to do with what happened with this gentleman,” Perez said, referring to the driver of the SUV. “He doesn’t know anyone involved in the beating at all.”
Perez noted that after Cruz’s bike was hit, Cruz got off the motorcycle and tried to start the procedures for an accident report.
“His motorcycle was disabled. The police came. He stood there. He fully cooperated with the police. He visited the police station twice before his arrest and he’s been fully cooperative throughout,” Perez said.
The driver of the Range Rover was Alexian Lien, who had his wife and 2-year-old child in the car, according to police. As motorcyclists surrounded him, Lien took off, speeding through the group and hitting three motorcyclists as he fled, and other bikers chased him up the road and then assaulted him.
One biker who was hit, Edwin Mieses, 32, was critically injured and taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, where he is in critical condition. Mieses’ wife, Dayana Mejia, said her husband might be paralyzed from his injuries.
The video shows other motorcyclists chased Lien’s SUV and eventually stopped next to it before one bashed in the Range Rover’s windows with a helmet. Lien was then assaulted, police said, but the assault is not part of the video.
Lien was treated for minor injuries and released, said police, who are still searching for the suspects who assaulted Lien.
Earlier Wednesday, police released from custody another motorcyclist, Allen Edwards, who had turned himself in for questioning on Tuesday.
Police said Edwards had been cooperative but investigators are still unraveling a “massive knot of information” about Sunday’s confrontation. They said Edwards could be charged later.
Edwards was seen in the helmet-cam video banging on the SUV’s window with his fist, but the video ends before the rest of the altercation can be seen.
“There was no rush to charge him,” a law enforcement source told ABC News. “This is actually a very complicated situation.”
“He may have intervened to stop the beating” the source said.
Police are still investigating the incident, police said, including any actions the SUV driver may have taken before the video begins.
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