Police have made an arrest in the extraordinary case of a gang of bikers who terrorized a family of Alexian Lien, 33, in New York City. One of the bikers filmed the entire chase and attack and then posted it on YouTube. He may have succeeded in incriminating his colleagues, including Christopher Cruz, 28. Cruz was charged with reckless endangerment, menacing, reckless driving and acting in a manner injurious to a child less than 17. (Update: A second suspect — Allen Edwards, 42, of Queens, charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and menacing. He is believed to be the man seen on video below striking the Range Rover windows with his fists.).
One jacket has been identified as belonging to a New Rochelle motorcycle club. Moreover the videographer is identified but has not responded to inquiries. The bikers were engaged in a rally that they call “Hollywood Stuntz” in which they engage in obnoxious road stunts and generally harass drivers. The police arrested 15 people, confiscated 55 motorcycles and issued 68 summonses for the stunts starting in Times Square unconnected to the Lien attack.
The video shows Lien and his wife and child being stopped by the group. The bikers reportedly started denting the SUV with their helmets and may have slashed its tires. Lien is shown trying to escape by running over motorcycles and hitting at least one person. That person Edwin Mieses may be left a paraplegic after surgery for injuries to his heart, lungs and ribs.
The video shows the bikers pursuing the fleeing SUV and making an attempt to enter it when stopped in traffic. Ultimately, bikers catch the SUV a third time and shatter the windows and attack Lien in front of his wife and daughter. Lien was pulled out of his car and slashed and beaten by the bikers.
A person attacking in self-defense is afforded some leeway in flight. In torts, Lien would not have been able to use the vehicle to hit Mieses or others to protect the vehicle from property damage. You are not allowed to use force calculated to cause serious bodily injury or death in defense of property. However, the attack on the vehicle can be viewed as a threat to the family and thus the broader privilege of self-defense would apply. It is not clear that Mieses was attacking Lien but his motorcycle appears to be one of those blocking his escape. While the bikers can claim that the physical assault only came after they were attacked, it lends credence to Lien’s fear for his family. Moreover, even if responding to an attack on them, the common law does not extend the privilege of self-defense for the bikers to cover retaliation (which is involved in the pursuit and trapping of the family before the attack). The bikers may clearly seek a citizen arrest in blocking the SUV but the attack escalated such an effort into an unprivileged assault. At that point, the SUV does not appear to be moving or threatening the bikers.
The criminal and tort liability of the bikers could be based on their participation in trapping the family like fleeing game. The thuggish conduct of the rally before the attack could be cited as evidence of their culpability and modus operandi. As for the family, Mieses and other could sue by claiming that they are not part of those threatening the family and were negligently run over by Lien. In other words, this could be a complete mess with over-lapping and conflicting claims.