As I was riding down the strand towards the pier in Hermosa Beach yesterday morning, I heard a huge commotion. There were a lot of people in front of me, so I had to crane my neck to the side to see what was going on. The shouting and cursing grew louder; by now I was only a hundred yards or less from the pier.
A bike was on its side and a rider was cursing someone at the top of his lungs. The cursee was beating a hasty treat with a young child in tow. He kept looking over his shoulder and shouting epithets at the cyclist, who I recognized as my friend Douggie. It was 7:45 and I had planned to flip it at the pier and head back to Redondo for the start of the Donut Ride.
“Are you okay, man?”
“I think so,” Douggie answered, shaking with rage. “That guy just took me out.”
The man had vanished from view, but I’d seen him clearly enough. He was in his late 40’s, about 5’10”, maybe 200 lbs., and he had a skateboard tucked under his arm. The little kid was wearing a bright red jacket.
“I was coming along the strand and that guy was standing at the edge of the pavement. We made eye contact, I must have been going ten miles an hour or so. Then he leaned over, set the skateboard down, and gently rolled it right in front of my bike as I passed. There was nothing I could do.”
“Wait a minute. The guy did that? Or the kid?”
“The guy. The kid was standing there. They saw the whole thing.” He pointed to a man and his son, who were slack-jawed.
“Really?” I asked them.
“Yeah. Just like he said. It was unbelievable.”
“Then let’s call the cops. That’s a felony battery.”
The Hermosa police were there in a few minutes, and a lifeguard had spotted the guy shouting at the little boy on the other side of the dunes. The two reappeared in a few minutes and the guy tried to get in his car and leave. The cop stopped him.
The skateboard tosser was foaming at the mouth, ranting and raving at Douggie. “You were outta control, man! Outta control!”
“Yeah, I was out of control after you knocked me down, you asshole!” Douggie shot back.
The cop shut the guy up, sat him down away from us, and interviewed Douggie and the witnesses. It turned out that the witness and his son were cyclists themselves and were from Colorado, here on a short holiday trip. Welcome to California, man.
The cop went over to the guy, who continued to shout and rave and scream at Douggie, who’s a particularly careful rider. “Look, pal,” the cop said as the crazy dude denied everything. “There are two witnesses and the victim whose stories match perfectly. They said they saw you intentionally knock that him down with your skateboard.”
“They’re lying!” he shouted.
Then the little boy broke into tears. “Just tell him the truth, dad,” the boy implored.
There were a few terrible seconds of silence. The crazy guy hung his head. “I did it,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
The cop came back over. “What do you want me to do?” he asked Doug. “I can arrest and charge him.”
We all looked at the sobbing little boy. There was something terribly wrong going on and everyone knew it, especially the cop. What was less clear was that arresting the guy would make things any better. Douggie shook his head. “No, officer, I don’t want to press charges. But could you explain to him that he can’t be going around knocking people down like that? Someone’s gonna get hurt.”
The cop nodded. “Okay.”
By this time they’d run board tosser’s driver license and nothing had come up. “I’m really sorry,” the guy said again. He and the little boy got into the beat-up Volvo and drove off.
Douggie and I missed the Donut and ended up doing our own ride. Our heads were spinning the entire way.