Ricardo Neis, the 47 year-old driver of a car that drove through a group of cyclists on a Critical Mass ride in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre last Friday has been charged with attempted murder, tomorrow the central banker will also find out whether he will be remanded in prison until he faces trial. In the meantime, according to his defence team Neis has been admitted to a psychiatric clinic "He's very shaken by the whole situation, stressed and not able to work" one of his defence lawyers told Ultimo Segundo.
Porto Alegre's police chief, Gilberto Montenegro said that Neis had "used the car as a weapon" he also appeared to pour scorn on Neis's story that he felt scared by some cyclists banging on the roof of his car. The police now have 30 days in which to complete their enquiries and the prosecution in the case will be in court tomorrow to apply for Neis to be remanded in custody. Commenting on the charges and the move to put Neis behind bars now the state prosecutor in the case Eugenio Armorim said "It's time to change the culture of impunity, especially in matters of transit. The prosecution has adopted an attitude that was expected by society".
Meanwhile It has also emerged that Neis has a string of previous convictions for both traffic and offences of violence including attacking his ex-partner, driving on the sidewalk, driving the wrong way down a street and speeding, a gun owned by Neis also went missing from his house and was found in somebody else's possession. In one piece of good news for Mr Neis, if our shaky grasp of Portuguese is correct, his employers the Brazilian central bank confirmed to local media that Neis would not be facing any disciplinary action from them
The incident, in which Neis ploughed his black VW Golf through 130 cyclists on a Critical Mass ride hitting 20 of them and injuring 8 was caught on film from by both participants in the ride and onlookers - none of those videos shows any evidence of aggression on the part of those taking part, in fact Neis's black VW Golf appears to come almost from nowhere as it speeds through the group of cyclists containing women, children and senior citizens. (You can view one of the videos at the bottom of this story).
Yesterday speaking to reporters after three hours spent giving evidence at Porto Alegre's police headquarters Neis said that he was "terribly upset" about what had happened but that the cyclists had left him with no alternative "I was being attacked, they broke the mirror". The police confirmed that the only damage to his car mentioned by Neis was to the wing mirrors – something which would appear to contradict an earlier statement from his lawyers that the car windows had been smashed by the cyclists prior to Neis driving through them. In his comments to the media Neis also seemed to depart from the defence line that he had acted as he did out of fears for the safety of his 15 year old son, Neis seeming to put more emphasis on his own safety and on fears of damage to his car.
According to the Brazilian newspaper O Jornal Neis told reporters on exiting the police station on Monday that he had been travelling with his son when he was attacked by the cyclists taking part in the Critical Mass ride:
"I am terribly upset with everything that happened. I very much regret what happened to them (cyclists) all, but I had no other alternative. I was being attacked, they broke the mirror," he said.
(At this point the O Jornal report becomes slightly more difficult for the powers of Google Translate to cope with (so if any Portuguese speakers would like to clarify we would be grateful).
According to Neis some members of the Critical Mass ride, who he said were acting as a "sort of militia" blocked his car and banged on the roof. As we reported yesterday one rider at the back of the ride Camilo Colling said that he spoke to Neis seconds before the incident.
Camilo Colling, told the Brazilian website Terra Brasil that he spoke to the driver just before the incident, asking him to be patient and stop behaving aggressively towards the riders in his path and warning him that there were children and older people taking part in the ride ahead. The driver allegedly replied "Yes but I'm in a hurry" before ploughing his car in to the group of cyclists in front of him.
Neis said that he fled the scene because he feared he would be lynched had he stayed, he also said that he had not abandoned his car, the police found it later on Friday night, but had left the documents in the vehicle. The police did not identify Neis as the driver of the car until Sunday which is either a commentary on his version of events or on the powers of detection possessed by the local police.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.