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‘Rolling coal’ is assault, says District Attorney – but still no arrest after Texas teen hits six cyclists

Special Prosecutor appointed over Saturday’s incident near Houston, but police investigation continues to drag on

‘Rolling coal’ – where a driver of a truck modifies their vehicle to enable it to emit thick clouds of black smoke (as shown in the above video) – constitutes assault, according to the District Attorney of a Texas county where on Saturday a teenage driver engaging in the practice crashed into six cyclists, two of whom needed to be airlifted to hospital.

A Special Prosecutor has been appointed to investigate Saturday’s crash near Houston, but police in Waller County have yet to make an arrest, provoking outrage among local cyclists, including some who were on the group ride, training for Ironman Texas, with several questioning whether the driver of the pick-up truck involved may be related to local law enforcement officials.

> Outrage as teen driver who hit six Texas cyclists as he deliberately blew exhaust fumes at them remains free

Writing on Facebook, Elton Mathis, the District Attorney of Waller County, said: “Your comments (even the less than flattering ones) have been instructive to this office on how prevalent the problem of ‘rolling coal’ is not only in Waller County, but across the nation.

“Rolling coal when a person is in the vicinity and when the individual rolling coal intentionally or knowingly causes that excess exhaust to contact that bystander is AT A MINIMUM an assault. They are causing their vehicle to ‘spit’ on a living, breathing, human being that is worthy of dignity and not having his or her person violated.

“That simple assault is easily elevated to a jail eligible offense if bodily injury occurs, which can be caused by entry of toxic particles into mouth, nose and eyes.

“Waller County law enforcement agencies all across the county are being reminded today of the availability of these and other charges which can be brought against individuals acting in such a criminal manner,” Mathis continued.

“The underlying investigation and gathering of evidence by Waller P.D. [Police Department] is still progressing. Thank you for your input and the positive exchanges we have seen to educate those who are ignorant of this commonplace occurrence,” he added.

Special Prosecutor Warren Diepraam, a former first assistant DA to Mathis and expert in vehicular homicide cases, has been appointed to the case, reports Click2Houston.com.

Rick DeToto, who is representing the driver, said in a statement: “The police did an investigation at the scene. This included speaking with eyewitnesses to the accident.

“After their investigation, they decided not to charge my client and did not even issue him a traffic ticket. Clearly, they determined a crime had not occurred,” he insisted.

“My client stopped immediately, called 911, attempted to render aid and co-operated with police.”

But Joe Cutrufo, Executive Director of Bike Houston, insisted that the driver needed to be held to account.

“We are afraid that if this driver gets away with it then other drivers in Waller County, or anywhere really, will be emboldened to attack, harass and threaten cyclists because they know they can get away with it,” he said.

In a statement, Charlie Thomas of Huber, Thomas, and Marcelle (Bike Law Texas) and Bike Law National’s founding attorney, Peter Wilborn, of Wilborn Law, who are jointly representing the six cyclists, said: “We hope that anyone who wants to share this horrific story with the public will be as interested at a later, more appropriate date, as they are now.

“And we hope that knowledge of this incident will change the way that people talk about bike crashes, and the impact they have on their victims’ lives. They are very different from automotive collisions. They are NOT ‘accidents’.

“Charlie, Peter, our entire Bike Law community, and I hope that increased awareness and accountability will encourage others to join us and our partnered organisations (like Bike Houston) in our fight to mitigate these kinds of events with legislative, procedural, and policy changes needed to improve safety and calm traffic for all road users, especially those who are most vulnerable.”

Waller County Police Department is continuing to investigate the case.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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37 comments

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hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes

Good news everyone!

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/teen-driver-waller-county-texas-cyclists-hit_n_618a0675e4b055e47d7f1ea3

Quote:

Waller County, Texas, officials announced felony charges on Monday against a 16-year-old pickup driver accused of crashing into a group of cyclists while trying to blow exhaust on them. The collision sent four bicyclists to the hospital. 

The Waller County district attorney said his office had filed six charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against the driver, one for each biker hit by the truck, the culmination of a weeks-long investigation into the incident. The driver voluntary surrendered and will remain in custody until a juvenile court decision.

I'm suspicious that it's a juvenile court, but maybe the U.S. allows juveniles to drive.

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wycombewheeler replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Good news everyone!

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/teen-driver-waller-county-texas-cyclists-hit_n_618a0675e4b055e47d7f1ea3

Quote:

Waller County, Texas, officials announced felony charges on Monday against a 16-year-old pickup driver accused of crashing into a group of cyclists while trying to blow exhaust on them. The collision sent four bicyclists to the hospital. 

The Waller County district attorney said his office had filed six charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against the driver, one for each biker hit by the truck, the culmination of a weeks-long investigation into the incident. The driver voluntary surrendered and will remain in custody until a juvenile court decision.

I'm suspicious that it's a juvenile court, but maybe the U.S. allows juveniles to drive.

In Texas they can get a learner licence at age 15, and a provisional licence at age 16.

Your quoted text states he is 16.

 

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hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
4 likes

There's an update on this story: https://jalopnik.com/district-attorney-accuses-waller-police-of-mishandling-1847846381

DA wrote:

This case was not handled appropriately by the investigating agency. PERIOD. Despite being encouraged by the Texas Department of Public Safety to treat the scene as a crime scene and to contact the D.A.‘s Office for advice on how to proceed, the investigating agency chose not to do so. The actions of the Texas Department of Public Safety on scene were professional and we are thankful they were there to assist. We are also working with the Waller County Sheriff’s Office to gather the evidence they are able to provide as they arrived on scene to backup Waller P.D. Sheriff Guidry has been most helpful in this regard.

Also

DA wrote:

There has been some online and community speculation that the incident was handled in the manner it was because of connections between the motorist and Waller city officials. At this point we can confirm there are some connections, but have yet to see evidence of a city official directing the officer on the scene as to how to handle this particular situation. We will continue to look for any such criminal interference as the investigation proceeds.

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andystow | 2 years ago
3 likes

Here is a major (and very detailed) update from the Bike Law attorneys who are representing the victims.

https://www.bikelaw.com/2021/10/waller-bike-crash/

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hawkinspeter replied to andystow | 2 years ago
2 likes
andystow wrote:

Here is a major (and very detailed) update from the Bike Law attorneys who are representing the victims.

https://www.bikelaw.com/2021/10/waller-bike-crash/

Thanks for that link. The first impression that I got from reading that is that some states really hate cyclists and practically encourage victim blaming.

It's very concerning that civil action seems to be the only way that the cyclists are going to see anything even approaching justice.

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wtjs replied to andystow | 2 years ago
1 like

Thanks- that US lawyer link is very interesting- it also tells you the 4 US states to avoid when cycling (as well as Texas). Fortunately, you probably don't want to cycle in any of them

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Dingaling replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
1 like

.

In 2012, without the benefit of the above link referencing the '4 States' that are best avoided, I cycled from Montreal to Miami with a friend and we went through 3 of those 4- Maryland, Virginia & North Carolina. I would definitely give them a miss in future if I were thinking of doing anything similar.

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IanMK | 2 years ago
3 likes

A political/ideological motivated assault on members of the public that don't share your views would be described as terrorism in other circumstances.

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hawkinspeter replied to IanMK | 2 years ago
2 likes
IanMK wrote:

A political/ideological motivated assault on members of the public that don't share your views would be described as terrorism in other circumstances.

It's only terrorism if your skin is brown (at least in the U.S. - may apply elsewhere too)

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Dave Dave replied to IanMK | 2 years ago
1 like

That's not the definition of terrorism. It's just being an arsehole.

"Terrorism is the use or threat of action, both in and outside of the UK, designed to influence any international government organisation or to intimidate the public.  It must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause."

https://www.cps.gov.uk/crime-info/terrorism

Being an arsehole because you believe some nonsense political bullshit isn't terrorism. Acting as an arsehole with said beliefs _in an attempt to get society/laws to change_ is terrorism.

This isn't terrorism. In England&Wales, it'd certainly be aggravated assault, among other things. But claiming it's terrorism makes you look rather hyperbolic at best.

(Also, AFAIK, the US doesn't have a lot of laws regarding domestic (as opposed to international) terrorism. So the legal situation is even more complex.)

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wycombewheeler replied to Dave Dave | 2 years ago
2 likes
Dave Dave wrote:

"Terrorism is the use or threat of action, both in and outside of the UK, designed to influence any international government organisation or to intimidate the public.  It must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause."

In fact the dictionary difintion is

the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims

Political aim - cyclists should not be on the roads

Means of achieving this - intimidate any cyclists found on the roads, with close passes, threat of injury and clouds of smoke. And actual injury in this case too.

When the driver is able to pass the cyclists directly, he is clearly not venting his frustrations about this encounter, so what is he doing other than trying to intimidate cyclists to stop using roads at all?

 

Go out with a knife and threaten/injure random members of the public? - terrorist

Got out with a truck and threaten/injury random members of the public? - just a driver

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
0 likes

The driver now says he was reaching for his phone, which is illegal, but still no mention of him being arrested.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/transportation/artic...

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wycombewheeler replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
2 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

The driver now says he was reaching for his phone, which is illegal, but still no mention of him being arrested.

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/transportation/artic...

a defence more likely to be credible, if he hadn't been "rolling coal" which isn't something that just happens randomly while driving along

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joe9090 | 2 years ago
1 like

I blame the parents...

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eburtthebike | 2 years ago
4 likes

According to one of the cyclists, the police were detaining the driver until his parents turned up, then they let him go.  You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that something very dodgy is going on.

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brooksby replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
7 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

According to one of the cyclists, the police were detaining the driver until his parents turned up, then they let him go.  You don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that something very dodgy is going on.

"Hey, Bob - what's he done this time?"

"The usual..."

"Oh, OK; thanks for bringing him home, see you at the lodge on Saturday?"

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nicmason replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

You have a real freemason issue dont you. There are about 2 million freemason in the USA so the odds on an accident involving a freemasons son being attended by a freemason police officer are a bit remote . BTW I'm not a freemason.

More likely would be some sort of political clout.

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wycombewheeler replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
0 likes
nicmason wrote:

You have a real freemason issue dont you. There are about 2 million freemason in the USA so the odds on an accident involving a freemasons son being attended by a freemason police officer are a bit remote . BTW I'm not a freemason.

More likely would be some sort of political clout.

While somewhere around 8million americans will be freemasons or close relatives of freemasons. out of a popultion of 330m, so around 2.5%

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mdavidford replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
1 like

I think maybe you need to look up synecdoche.

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brooksby replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
3 likes
nicmason wrote:

You have a real freemason issue dont you. There are about 2 million freemason in the USA so the odds on an accident involving a freemasons son being attended by a freemason police officer are a bit remote . BTW I'm not a freemason.

More likely would be some sort of political clout.

Where did I say Freemasons?

A lodge is also used in hunting; and in Texas, let's face it, way more likely reference is to hunting.

Are you particularly sensitive about freemasonry, for some reason?  3

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Rendel Harris replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
2 likes

There are also Elks lodges, Knights of Pythias lodges and many other fraternal organisations in the US whose members pledge to help each other when in difficulty.

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brooksby replied to Rendel Harris | 2 years ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

There are also Elks lodges, Knights of Pythias lodges and many other fraternal organisations in the US whose members pledge to help each other when in difficulty.

Which ones are the guy that drive little cars while wearing fezzes?

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Rendel Harris replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:

Which ones are the guy that drive little cars while wearing fezzes?

That's the Shriners, I believe - so memorably and brilliantly satirised by Laurel and Hardy in Sons of the Desert.

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nicmason replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

No just lost in admiration at the endless speculation on legal process and corruption  here in backroom lawyers corner. Sorry roadcc.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
4 likes

Well we know that driving the wrong way around a roundabout is not legal. Don;t need to be a backroom lawyer to find that out. 

 

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Hirsute replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
2 likes

That's funny because you are quite happy to make comments on the legality of stuff if it suits.

The idea that understanding the law is binary is just something you push. Many laws are self contained and since we are supposed to know the highway code with its statutory links, does that mean we all have to lawyers to pass a driving test ?

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nicmason replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
0 likes

I thnk you'll find that i dont routinely imply "something dodgy is going on " or "the police are lazy" etc But knock yourself out with that stuff if it floats your boat.

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Hirsute replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
1 like

Another irrelevant reply.

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nicmason replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
0 likes

You guys are all very similar in outlook. Are you part of a group . Freemasons ?

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Hirsute replied to nicmason | 2 years ago
2 likes

Not really nic. I hope you wouldn't lazily stereotype people into some group you constructed. When I have I ever made a comment about freemasons? I have criticised essex police for their lack of interest in close passes which is at odds with their supposedly safer roads policy.

I should have thought being a contrarian it was fairly easy to predict the responses and counter responses, so you shouldn't be surprised at the replies you get. They are consistent with the postion you choose to adopt.

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