Friday, June 14, 2024

Driver intentionally hit cyclists, killing one, in brief rampage, Huntington Beach police say

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Huntington Beach police are searching for a motorist they believe intentionally struck bicyclists in three separate incidents that occurred in less than an hour Sunday evening. Two riders were injured, and the third was killed.

All three incidents happened in Huntington Beach in an area bordered by Heil Avenue, Edwards Street, Warner Avenue and Springdale Street.

Police are searching for the unidentified driver of a black Toyota four-door sedan that sustained front passenger-side bumper damage, according to witness reports.

“We believe that the incidents are related because the three locations are close in proximity and also based on the victims’ and witnesses’ statements,” said Jessica Cuchilla, a Huntington Beach police spokesperson. “They all described a similar vehicle.”

The first attack is believed to have happened at 10 p.m. A male cyclist was struck while riding his bike through the crosswalk at Warner Avenue and Edwards Street. The driver fled the scene, and the cyclist suffered minor injuries.

Half an hour later, police received a call about another hit-and-run of a cyclist, this one at Brad Drive and Edwards Street. The rider in the second incident reported having been intentionally sideswiped by a driver who fled the scene. The cyclist suffered minor injuries, according to police, and was treated at the scene and left.

As officers were investigating that incident, another was reported within about 15 minutes.

The motorist, in this incident, killed the rider, police say.

About 10:45 p.m., Huntington Beach police received a call regarding a gravely injured cyclist at Heil Avenue and Springdale Street. Paramedics’ efforts to revive the injured man failed, and he died at the scene.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department coroner was in the process of contacting the slain cyclist’s family as of Monday afternoon. His identity was not released.

All three victims were male, according to Cuchilla, and they were all riding alone.

The news was “devastating but not surprising” for 64-year-old Mario Obejas.

The Torrance cyclist is vice president of the Beach Cities Cycling Club. The South Bay organization has about 250 riders of all skill levels.

Obejas said attacks from “road-raged drivers” were all too common.

“There are drivers who carry a lot of anger when they’re out, and they’re looking to take it out on someone,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re often the target.”

Obejas said he was nearly run off the road six months ago during a group ride on the Palos Verdes Peninsula with 40 cyclists. A truck driver screamed at the group of riders, referencing his hatred of President Biden, a cycling enthusiast, and nearly hitting Obejas.

“He kept yelling, ‘Biden sucks and you suck’ — and, man, we’re just a group of people in their 50s and 60s going out for a ride,” Obejas said. “It’s scary sometimes.”

The group began wearing portable cameras, Cycliq models, while on rides three years ago after a hit-and-run collision injured a member in Venice. Obejas also suggests riding in groups to limit the chances of being hit.

“The camera is really important because it’s not a he-said-she-said thing,” Obejas said. “It’s a matter of having footage you can hand over to police as evidence.”

Cuchilla said Huntington Beach police were asking the public’s help for any information or video that might have been taken that night.

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