HENRICO, VA. – Not only is it rude to toss something out a window, it’s likely criminal when the object is intentionally thrown at someone.
Cyclist Oscar Ruiz hopes police can find the person who hurled a full water bottle at the group he was riding with in east Henrico last week. Ruiz was biking with two other cyclists back to Stone Brewing, near the end of a charity ride on March 17. The routes led cyclists out of the city and into Varina, crossing over the Capital Trail at times. Ruiz and his friends were not far from the 7-11 at Route 5 and Osborne Turnpike when a white SUV pulled up beside them.
In the video, after several cars pass the cyclists with no issue, one white SUV drives past with the window half down and the passenger throws the bottle towards the three cyclists. Weighing just over a pound --and feeling like a lot more when traveling around 45 mph -- Ruiz said the full bottle missed one cyclist’s head and hit him on the left arm.
“There was no provocation, so it was strictly they saw an opportunity to pitch a water bottle at a cyclist and I don’t understand that," Ruiz said. “What would your response be if your relative fell off a bike because they got nailed while riding -- would that be okay with you?”
“Why would they do that, I don’t understand," he added.
Ruiz has been riding for about 20 years and recently bought the bike camera, noting that cyclists are typically harassed and yelled at by drivers. He wished drivers had more patience for cyclists and pedestrians.
“It happens on a semi-regular basis and you learn to live with it," Ruiz said. “We try not to provoke drivers because we know who will win that battle."
Henrico Police said charges for this situation would depend on the investigation, and the Commonwealth Attorney's recommendations.
It isn’t clear right now if the crime would be a criminal or traffic violation. For instance, Virginia Code 18.2-154 labels "throwing a missile(classified as any moving object) at an occupied vehicle" as a felony criminal offense. A few years ago, five teens were charged with felonies for throwing snowballs at cars in the West End. The code applies to any missile thrown at train, cars, watercraft, motor vehicle or “other vehicle.”
“Clearly there is a violation of law, whether it falls under the code you are referencing or another one, it would be based on further investigation,” said Lieutenant Chris Garrett, based on a reporter's description. Garrett said events like this are not commonly reported to police.
CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said the person could be charged with assault and battery, a class one misdemeanor punishable up to 12 months in jail.
"Setting something in motion with the intent to hit is just like hitting someone with your own hand," Stone said.
Ruiz said he thinks the make and model of the SUV is a 2005 Saturn Vue. Despite enhancing stills from the video, Ruiz only has some guesses as to the license plate. He thinks the partial symbols are something like VBJ, YBJ -XBJ or L. He will be filing a police report with Henrico County.
Cyclist Darryl Lov Jr. said he sticks to the Capital Trail, a bicycle pathway that stretches from Richmond to Williamsburg, to avoid issues with drivers.
"It’s pretty shocking someone would throw a bottle at someone on the road," Lov said.
Cyclist Steven Reiss said he wasn't surprised, but definitely concerned.
“It doesn’t surprise me, it’s concerning, but more than anything I don’t understand why it happens -- we’re the least threatening people on the road," he said. “With our bicycles we’re lucky if we weigh 180 pounds total and yet for some reason drivers just have a problem with us sharing the roads with them."
The camera is made by Cycliq and attaches to the back of the bicycle as a rear camera and bike light.
“Primarily, I purchased this as a safety device," Ruiz said.
The incident won't keep him from his two-wheel jaunts.
“They really need to understand the potential impact on a person, either a pedestrian or a cyclist," he said.
If you can help identify the vehicle, driver or passenger, please contact (804) 501-5000.