A “motorcycle takeover” in Bakersfield ended with a multi-vehicle pileup and three arrests on Saturday, the latest incident in a relatively recent phenomenon that police are concerned endangers the safety of motorists and strains law enforcement resources.
Organized on social media, the “takeovers” bring hundreds of participants from across the state to Bakersfield and other cities. An offshoot of street racing gatherings, the motorcycle takeovers feature dirt bikes and ATVs, which travel throughout the city in massive packs that disregard traffic laws and public safety.
“We’ve found that when people come to a city that is not their own, they do not care what they do here, and it definitely plays out in the behavior of individuals,” said BPD spokesman Sgt. Robert Pair. “A lot of people think it’s innocuous, teenagers blowing off steam, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not an innocent event where kids are just blowing off steam. A majority of the people that we’re contacting are adults.”
The takeovers have been associated with assaults and robberies, and those who complain risk the wrath of the participants. One driver for Uber who accidentally stumbled into a takeover off Buck Owens Boulevard earlier this year was robbed at gunpoint, according to BPD.
Police rarely have advance warning of the events, leading to difficulty in enforcing traffic laws. Participants have been known to block traffic, and they generally do not comply with law enforcement commands.
"They rarely will stop for us," said BPD Traffic Sgt. Ken Sporer. "If they are on a dirt bike and I’m in an SUV, the logistics of that are difficult."
On Saturday, a crowd near the intersection of Cottonwood Road and Feliz Drive became confrontational when approached by officers, according to a BPD news release. Officers had already impounded one motorcycle associated with the group, and would go on to impound more vehicles throughout the day.
One rider from Sacramento, Andrew Wade, 27, abandoned his motorcycle near Union Avenue and Columbus Street to flee officers on foot, BPD said in its news release. He was arrested on suspicion of resisting arrest and an unrelated parole violation warrant. An officer suffered minor injuries during the pursuit.
But it was during a chase of about 100 riders beginning near Brundage Lane and P Street that the most damage occurred. BPD said the riders drove on both sides of the road, using both the median and sidewalk. One of the riders turned to make an obscene gesture toward the pursuing officers when he struck a detour sign and lost control, according to the news release.
This caused a pileup involving eight to 10 people.
Two suspects, Daniel Hernandez, 20, and Brad Russell, 32, both of Bakersfield, were arrested on suspicion of trying to flee on foot. Four vehicles were also impounded, BPD said.
Although the police department was able to deploy multiple officers on Saturday, there is no guarantee they will receive advance warning next time. And that worries officers who are concerned about the general safety of Bakersfield's roadways.
"This weekend, we were able to have the resources to take more enforcement action than we have in the past,” Sporer said. “When there’s two or three hundred and we can send two or three of us, obviously the odds aren’t in our favor."