"A p a r a d i g m s h i f t o n t w o w h e e l s "
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| A BEnt Exclusive
Is Alexian Lien The New Bernhard Goetz?
by Deme Spy*
Video analysis shows driver plowed through bikers in act of road rage after prior hit and run of motorcyclist
|The press chiefly portrayed the September 29th SUV-biker altercation as an instance of an enraged biker gang terrorizing an innocent motorist and his family. Yet eyewitness reports and a closer analysis of the video indicate that the incident was likely initiated, and escalated, by the SUV driver's road rage.
Witnesses report that, prior to the start of the video, the altercation began because the SUV driver threw a water bottle at the group of motorcyclists.
Witnesses further indicate that Lien was impatient and attempted to drive through the group of riders. "The SUV didn't want to wait" said eyewitness Michael Anthony during an interview, "he decided he wanted to come into the center lane and started pushing his way through the bikes". Anthony participated in the ride but was not charged or otherwise involved in the incident.
At this point Anthony and other witnesses say Alexian Lien, the SUV driver, knocked a biker down three miles prior to the start of the video but continued to drive on after this hit-and-run, refusing to slow down. These incidents are what prompted rider Kevin Bresloff to turn his helmet camera on.
Here’s what Bresloff's now infamous video reveals happened next (which can be viewed at youtu.be/UikE81FKHb0).
At 26 seconds Christopher Cruz, the biker who moved in front of the SUV and slowed down, was struck by the SUV. Cruz was purportedly trying to stop the SUV in response to Lien’s fleeing the scene of the earlier collision. Upon advice of his lawyer, and contrary to the vido evidence, Cruz later states during an ABC News interview that it was never his intention to force Lien's vehicle to a stop and that he was merely changing lanes.
The media by and large reported that the SUV’s hitting Cruz from behind was unintentional. Yet the video shows Cruz maintained visual contact with Lien, and was staring straight at the driver behind him right before the impact. As bikers know to make eye contact with drivers in risky situations, Cruz would likely have attempted to move out of the way if he saw that the driver was not paying attention to him. This suggests that Lien ran into Cruz intentionally in a dangerous game of chicken.
At 44 seconds, with the stopped Range Rover surrounded by the motorcyclists, zooming into the video shows a biker in a white shirt next to the SUV jerking away from it, apparently trying to open the SUV door. There are no other forceful or animated movements anywhere near the SUV, or anywhere else in the crowd for that matter, until the SUV peels off at 50 seconds, plowing through the motorcyclists.**
Now here comes the important part. After the jerking motion, the biker in the white shirt begins walking away in front of the SUV, the crowd’s heads begin turning away, a biker is seen starting to ride forward, and a few more are seen shifting their bikes into first gear. Whereas the crowd was mostly still while it was focused on the altercation, the cyclists at that point begin moving and refocusing their attention elsewhere. Reading a crowd is instinctive to most of us and it is an important piece of information that has been overlooked here: the bikers were starting to move on as if the "show's over".
This version of events is a far cry from Lien and his wife’s self-serving statements, adopted unquestioningly by the press despite this video evidence, that "the mob began to beat the car and slash the tires". The fact that the car later drove a long distance at high speeds, some commentators have noted, belies this justification for running over the motorcyclists.
Of course, something else may have been transpiring behind or around the SUV that was not reflected in the video, or that the crowd did not telegraph. But Lien’s version is patently contradicted by the visual evidence, which appears to indicate that Lien gunned the three ton Range Rover into the crowd after the altercation had already ended.
The time frames involved here were mere seconds, and nobody can say for sure whether or not Lien panicked and hit the accelerator after the bikers began to disperse. However, his confrontational driving, his throwing a water bottle at the bikers, his decision to keep driving after downing a cyclist, his apparently intentional striking of Cruz, and his near-lethal decision to smash through the crowd of motorcyclists patently contradict the image of a frightened motorist simply trying to protect his family. Rather, this suggests a string of decisions borne out of road rage at the bikers who had intimidated him (and possibly damaged his luxury vehicle).
From this analysis it appears that Lien feloniously assaulted Cruz and the other bikers, including committing attempted murder in the second degree (a class B felony). If this is the case, then the entire sequence of events that follows has an entirely different meaning, both legally and morally.
The motorcyclists were well within their legal right to attempt to stop the fleeing felon, and in fact would normally have been considered good Samaritans. Even if his perception of a life-threatening situation was reasonable after his acts of road rage, the danger Lien placed his child, his wife and himself in was a direct consequence of his own felonious actions, negating any legal justifications he could otherwise have claimed.
Whereas numerous of the riders were run over, with one left paralyzed, Lien suffered minor injuries. This suggests that the few bikers involved in the assault realized that the SUV contained a child and backed off, reportedly at the insistence of other bikers. One would think that if the “motorcycle gang” were as vicious as they were portrayed, Lien, who is of slight build, would have sustained far greater injuries after such a high-speed, high-stakes chase.
Another overlooked detail is that the biker who begins punching the back window at 6:21 in the video abruptly stops a few seconds later, probably because he saw there was a child in the back seat.
There was no reckless riding shown in the video prior to the chase, except perhaps when Cruz turned in front of the SUV to stop the hit and run driver.
Ultimately, whether some or most of these bikers were riding recklessly is a red herring and of little consequence when compared to an act of attempted murder that has left one rider, Edwin Mieses, paralyzed. This would be relevant only to decipher whether Lien was reasonable in believing he had to run over the bikers in self-defense. An analysis of the video shows that this was not the case, as the bikers had already started to disband when Lien gunned the SUV in an apparent act of road rage.
The original, overly simplistic, and patently biased story of ‘Family Terrorized by Outlaw Biker Gang’ begins to further melt away as more facts surface. As Slate reported, “[t]he Stuntz crew has been repeatedly referred to as a motorcycle gang . . . the reality of this situation [is that] whatever the Stuntz riders were, they weren’t a motorcycle gang,” adding that “the riders seemed to have had no formal affiliation; rather, ‘Hollywood Stuntz’ was just the name given to the rally that brought them all to New York last weekend” (t.co/GF4BaOorH4).
Reportedly, an NYPD detective and several other officers were participating riders. Any of these off-duty officers could just as easily have been the ones plowed over and left paralyzed which, at the end of the day, demonstrates just how irrelevant the injured rider’s criminal rap sheet is in assessing culpability.
If Mieses was actually trying to diffuse the situation prior to being struck, as some witnesses have claimed, vilifying him just adds another tragic dimension to the widespread misrepresentation of the incident.
For many motorcyclists, not charging Lien with attempted manslaughter if the evidence bears this version of events out would send a chilling message. One that would effectively give free rein to enraged motorists to hit bikers they feel are riding aggressively or in large groups--and to flee the scene under the guise of self- defense.
The most troubling aspect of media and public reaction to this incident is not just the prevalent anti-biker sentiment, but the expression of a strong racist and classist undercurrent, both seen in the assumptions made by police and the press, and in the charges issued (and not issued). While multiple bikers have been charged by police, Lien has not been charged with a single offense.
Instead of more salient headlines such as “SUV Runs Over Motorcyclists During Road Rage Incident,” we had headlines like “Gang of Bikers Attack Driver In Front of Family”, “Bikers Terrorize Family in High-Speed Chase”, and “Manhattan Motorcycle Gang Terrorizes SUV Driver”.
As one biker blog commented, “it's tragic that a large group of motorcyclists think they can take over a highway and intimidate drivers. It's tragic that a car driver got scared [and beaten]. But what's most tragic is the media's coverage of it” (eatsleepride.com).
Since the incident, motorcyclists in New York have widely reported that they are routinely targeted by police. Most are not stunters or packs of bikers creating mayhem, but law-abiding motorcyclists who are often stopped for minor infractions, or for none at all.
In an even darker development, an NYPD officer admitted on camera that one of his bosses is Lien's uncle who "sent the word down that all these bikes are gonna get stopped, are gonna get written" for "anything over 5 over the speed limit".
Notwithstanding shades of nepotism and police corruption, automobile drivers' anger towards aggressive bikers, or even a general anti-biker sentiment, may be the real reason behind the public’s troubling reaction. One online news poll found that only 4% supported pressing charges against the SUV driver.
So in the popular mind, Lien just might be motorists’ answer to Bernhard Goetz. However, unlike "The Subway Vigilante", a victim who shot his attackers, the facts here indicate that Lien was both instigator and perpetrator, assaulted only after fleeing from a series of criminal acts and felonies he committed that left an innocent motorcyclist paralyzed.
Where there is so much unnecessary suffering involved, there are important lessons to be learned.
Circumstances somehow led a law-abiding citizen to commit a heinous crime. Yet any solutions to preventing this from happening again must start by not being distracted by misleading generalizations--biker, criminal, family man--but by seeing all actors involved here as human beings. The widespread misunderstanding of what really transpired here has led to a string of injustices that scream to be revealed, remedied and prevented from occuring again.
To this day, although there have been arrests of many of the bikers involved, Lien has not been chargd with even a traffic violation.
My hopes for recovery especially go out to Mieses and his family, and to Lien's daughter, who had to witness the traumatic event.
* Deme Spy is founder of Biker Entourage, a motorcycle think-tank and riding group based out of New York City (bikerentourage.com).
** To zoom into the video in Windows 7, press "+" and the windows button.
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