The California Highway Patrol has launched an internal investigation after a trooper was caught on video crashing into a motorcyclist during an attempted traffic stop and knocking him off his bike—a collision that fellow bikers say was intentional, but police claim was the end result of a chase that began on a nearby freeway, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The crash occurred during a Memorial Day Weekend group ride in Rancho Cucamonga, just east of Los Angeles in an area of Southern California known as the Inland Empire. Hundreds of bikers participated in the event, and many of them witnessed the incident as they waited at a stop light. One of them, a woman named Sonia Villalobos, happened to be recording a Facebook Live video at that exact moment—and it's her footage that's at the center of this firestorm.
In the video, dozens of bikers wait at the light as Sonia pans the camera around behind her. But as she points it forward towards the intersection, a police siren can be heard; suddenly, a motorcyclist on a sportbike passes across the frame with a CHP Dodge Charger patrol vehicle in hot pursuit. It appears that the biker begins to slow down and pull over as soon as he crosses the intersection, but the officer ends up striking him with his car and knocking him to the ground. As you might expect, the dozens of sympathetic witnesses don't take this very well.
As soon as the light turns green, the column of bikers races over to the spot where the trooper is handcuffing the motorcyclist, identified as 26-year-old Raul Garcia Martinez, as he lies face-down on the pavement. Many immediately begin shouting at the trooper that he intentionally rammed the biker, and a few bolder individuals actually try getting up in his face. Still others rev their engines has he tries to call for backup to drown out the radio while Villalobos documents the damage on his patrol car.
Fortunately, the bikers eventually decide to back off, and the video ends without a larger confrontation as Garcia Martinez is arrested. Without context, it looks like a textbook case of excessive force. But as Villalobos' video was passed around and outrage grew online, the California Highway Patrol decided to tell its side of the story.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the CHP claims that the officer first attempted to pull Martinez over on the nearby 210 Freeway after watching him use the shoulder to pass another car. Garcia Martinez allegedly slowed down briefly before speeding off and exiting the freeway; the officer followed him onto local streets, leading to the incident seen in the video.
Whether or not Garcia Martinez initially ran, it certainly looks like he was pulling over to potentially surrender in the video—though if he used that gambit on the highway, it might explain why the trooper apparently wanted to make sure he'd stop this time. While the initial report suggests the collision occurred "for unknown reasons," the newspaper reports that an internal investigator has been assigned to get to the bottom of it.
Garcia Martinez reportedly suffered scrapes and bruises on his leg, shoulder, and lower back. After getting checked out at a local hospital, he was sent to the West Valley Detention Center on suspicion of felony evading.