Friday, August 13, 2010

Bikers cause cop to crash, taunt him after wreck -- Tukwila, WA

Talk about adding insult to injury.

A State Patrol trooper was pinned in his car, dazed and bleeding profusely from a neck injury after a rollover accident, but the first people who stopped by the side of the road didn't help.

Instead, two motorcyclists, who were part of a group the trooper had been chasing before he crashed, clapped and laughed at him Tuesday evening on Interstate 5 in Tukwila, the State Patrol says.

"Seeing a cop down was hysterical to them. They thought it was the funniest thing they ever saw," said Trooper Cliff Pratt, State Patrol spokesman. "They didn't know whether he was going to live or die and they didn't care. That's what makes it so hard to swallow."

After a night at Harborview Medical Center, Trooper Brian Salyer was released Wednesday and is recovering at home. Meanwhile, Pratt said detectives "have good descriptions and a really good idea of the group we are looking for," but declined to release additional details.

The State Patrol offered this account of the incident:

At about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Salyer spotted a group of about 10 motorcyclists on sports bikes racing over the interchange between southbound Interstate 405 and northbound Interstate 5 at speeds of more than 100 mph.

He attempted to pull them over, but they refused to stop. Salyer narrowed in on the pack's leader, trying to get identifying information from the motorcycle.

As he did, two other bikers in the group cut him off, forcing him to swerve and slam on his brakes.

Salyer lost control of his patrol car on the ramp from I-5 to northbound state Highway 599, struck the guardrail and rolled several times before ending up in a ditch.

As he lay pinned in his wrecked car, at least two of the motorcycle riders pulled up to within 30 feet of his car, got off their bikes and began clapping and laughing. They rode off as other motorists began pulling up to the scene.

Salyer was treated for a concussion, head and neck lacerations and bumps and bruises, the State Patrol said.

According to State Patrol spokeswoman Trooper Christina Martin, witnesses told police that there may have been as many as 60 to 70 riders in the group and that the two that taunted the trooper may have been behind his patrol car during the pursuit, she said.

Even if they weren't speeding, the two riders who taunted the trooper could face charges for failing to summon assistance for an injured person, Pratt said.

According to the state law, a person can be charged with the misdemeanor if he or she was present when a crime was committed, or knew that a person was injured, and failed to call for help.

State Patrol policy on the pursuit of motorcycles is not black and white, Martin said. While it's true that a patrol car cannot typically outrun a sports bike, it is not against policy to pursue riders in some instances.

"Realistically, it's pretty tough to catch them, but every once in a while they stop," said Martin.

According to Pratt, all of the motorcyclists in Tuesday's incident appeared to be riding Japanese sports bikes, which are also known as "crotch rockets" or "cafe-style motorcycles."

In contrast, according to Martin, riders of Harley-Davidson motorcycles generally cause fewer concerns for law enforcement on the roads. "Typically, our Harleys don't cause any trouble. They're riding around trying to be safe," Martin said.

Because the motorcycle-racing groups are "tightknit and don't trust or talk to law enforcement," detectives expect the investigation to take some time, Pratt said.

In addition, Salyer's car was not equipped with a dashboard camera, he said. Pratt said not every patrol car is equipped with a camera because of the $300 to $500 cost.

According to Pratt, troopers frequently encounter speeding motorcycle riders in the summer and they are not limited to riders on their way to impromptu rallies.

"It's a very, very small group, but it makes the rest look bad and casts a dark cloud over the entire sport ... ," said Pratt, who rides a motorcycle. "Their main goal is to go around violating traffic laws and using the highway system as their playground and they don't care if someone lives or dies."

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