Teen who hit 6 bicyclists with truck while allegedly harassing them faces felony charges, authorities say

A 16-year-old Texas boy is charged with multiple felony counts after he allegedly hit a group of six bicyclists with his pickup truck while trying to blow exhaust on them, authorities announced Monday.

The Waller County district attorney’s office said in a statement that a teenager who drove his vehicle into bicyclists training for a triathlon, hitting all six riders and sending four to the hospital, has been charged with six counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — one charge for each cyclist hit on Sept. 25. The teen, who has yet to be publicly identified, was not charged or cited by police after the incident, despite accounts from victims and witnesses that he deliberately antagonized the riders.

“Over the last six weeks this office has assigned its own investigators to seek out evidence, and to interview the victims and witnesses,” the statement said. “Earlier today the juvenile voluntarily surrendered himself, and was detained by representatives from the juvenile justice department where he will be held in custody until further orders of the juvenile court.”

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Rick DeToto, the teen’s attorney, told The Washington Post in a statement that his client and the family had no comment “due to the confidentiality laws surrounding juvenile cases.”

“My client and his family continue to pray for the quick recovery of the injured bikers,” he wrote.

The announcement comes weeks into a case that has caused an uproar in the Houston area over law enforcement’s handling of the event.

Around 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 25, members of an eight-person cyclist group training for the Ironman Texas triathlon saw a black Ford pickup swerve into their lane and get ahead of them near Waller, Tex., according to one of the riders. The driver allegedly accelerated the truck on Old Highway 290 and harassed the group, spewing them with black exhaust in what’s called “roll coal” — a practice in which drivers of diesel pickups intentionally engulf pedestrians, cyclists or other motorists in black smoke.

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But the driver drew close, and his Ford Super Duty truck collided with six of the eight riders. Chase Ferrell, who was riding near the group that was hit, told KRIV that he “heard a lot of crunching” and “tires screeching.”

“I thought someone was dead,” he said.

After hitting the cyclists, Ferrell said, the driver stopped and got out of his truck to survey the wreckage. The teen allegedly asked those at the scene, “Do you think I’m going to jail?” Ferrell recalled telling the driver he had done “something really freaking stupid.”

“You should go to jail,” he recalled saying to the driver.

Although four of the riders were hospitalized for their injuries, the 16-year-old was not arrested. Instead, the boy’s parents showed up, and police let the teen leave after they had finished questioning him.

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That course of action by the police set off a backlash from critics and bike safety advocates, who described the crash as “egregious.” Many in Waller County pointed to the case of Victor Tome, who killed two riders in 2017 when he intentionally plowed into a small group of them. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole this year after he was convicted of capital murder.

DeToto, who described his client as “a young man in high school with college aspirations” and “a very new and inexperienced driver,” told KPRC at the time that the fact that police didn’t arrest him the day of the crash meant they didn’t think he did anything illegal.

“Clearly, they determined a crime had not occurred,” he said in a statement in September.

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For six weeks, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis and his office interviewed victims and witnesses and worked with a crash reconstructionist to examine why the driver hit the cyclists. Mathis said prosecutors were investigating whether there was any “criminal interference” between police and the parents of the driver, as they are a prominent family that owns several businesses in the area. Mathis also has criticized police for not treating the crash site as a crime scene.

Waller Police Chief Bill Llewellyn acknowledged to the Houston Chronicle that police “mishandled” the scene, but he denied that the department had been influenced by the prominence of the driver’s family.

The decision from the district attorney’s office came days after a Texas driver outside Houston walked free following a deadly collision with cross-country cyclists that killed a Massachusetts man and injured six.

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In the Waller County case, prosecutors thanked the Waller County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety for helping with the investigation. The district attorney’s office also extended his sympathies to the riders struck by the teen.

“We wish them the speediest of recoveries on their long journey ahead, and remind everyone to share the roads, obey the traffic laws, and to treat each other with the respect that we all deserve,” prosecutors said.

Jonathan Edwards contributed to this report.