The 16-Year-Old Texas Truck Driver Who Hit 6 Cyclists Has Been Charged With Felonies

Photo credit: Chase Ferrell
Photo credit: Chase Ferrell

This story has been updated as of November 9.

  • A 16-year-old truck driver ran over six cyclists out on a training ride on September 25, in Waller County, Texas. He has been identified as the son of Jason and Jennifer Arnold of Waller, Texas.

  • The driver was attempting to “roll coal” on the cyclists when he hit them, according to witnesses.

  • The driver was finally arrested on November 8 and indicted with six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is a second-degree felony.

After running over six cyclists on September 25, a 16-year-old driver from Waller County, Texas, was indicted on November 8 with six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and is currently in the custody of the local juvenile justice department. The charge is a second-degree felony with a punishment of two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

As a juvenile, the driver has only been identified as the son of Jason and Jennifer Arnold, according to a blog post by Bike Law, whose affiliated attorneys are representing the cyclists.

The investigation is being led by the Waller County District Attorney and a special prosecutor, after the Waller Police Department mishandled the case. They have begun the process to pursue prosecuting the driver as an adult instead, so that he may be held accountable to the fullest extent.

This update was published on October 19, 2021.

The six cyclists who were run over by a pickup truck driver in Waller County, Texas, on September 25 are all now recovering at home, according to an update posted by Bike Law and the cyclists’ retained attorneys on October 2.

Their physical injuries include “broken vertebrae, cervical and lumbar spinal injuries, broken collarbones, hands, and wrists—many of which require surgical intervention—as well as multiple traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, soft tissue damage, road rash, and extensive bruising.”

The Waller County District Attorney is now heading its own investigation and released a follow-up statement on October 11, which in part outlined its disapproval with how the case was initially handled both on scene and in the following days by the Waller Police Department.

“This case was not handled appropriately by the investigating agency. PERIOD. Despite being encouraged by the Texas Department of Public Safety to treat the scene as a crime scene and to contact the D.A.’s Office for advice on how to proceed, the investigating agency chose not to do so,” the D.A.’s statement read.

In its update from October 2, Bike Law also disclosed that it knows the identities of the 16-year-old driver and his 17-year-old passenger, and that the former’s local connections are “a legitimate reason for concern” over how the case was initially handled.

The D.A.’s statement also confirmed that the driver is in some way connected to Waller city officials.

“At this point we can confirm there are some connections, but have yet to see evidence of a city official directing the officer on the scene as to how to handle this particular situation. We will continue to look for any such criminal interference as the investigation proceeds.”

Bike Law further pointed out that Waller County and the surrounding areas have a history of being unfriendly towards cyclists, including a local judge who once outright acknowledged that the town “doesn’t like your kind.”

Bike Law also noted that the driver still hasn’t issued any kind of apology.

This below story was originally published on September 30, 2021.

On September 25, six cyclists were run over by a 16-year-old driver in a pickup truck in Waller County, Texas, outside of Houston. The driver was intentionally harassing the cyclists prior to hitting them, according to witnesses.

The group of eight cyclists total were roughly 75 miles into their training ride, in preparation for the upcoming Ironman Texas. They were near the Bettis Water Tower along Old Highway 290 when the pickup truck driver approached them. One of the cyclists, Chase Ferrell, was behind the main group of six cyclists and says the driver passed by and “rolled coal” on him first, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.

“Rolling coal” is when a diesel truck driver purposefully accelerates in order to emit black exhaust smoke. In order to roll coal, a truck owner must modify their truck—illegally—sometimes spending a couple thousand dollars to do so. It’s been dubbed a kind of “pollution pageantry,” but it’s also used to harass others, such as hybrid car drivers, pedestrians, perceived liberals or environmentalists, and frequently cyclists.

Ferrell then witnessed the driver speed up towards the group of six cyclists ahead of him in an attempt to roll coal on them next—and that’s when the driver plowed into them.

“The reason he couldn’t stop is because he was accelerating to blow more diesel fuel on these cyclists,” Ferrell said about the attack, according to Fox26 Houston. “He ended up hitting three people before his brakes even started.”

Photo credit: Chase Ferrell
Photo credit: Chase Ferrell

Four of the cyclists were taken to the hospital, with two being airlifted because of the severity of their injuries. There has been no update since on their conditions. The two other cyclists were also injured but did not seek medical attention. The driver remained on scene when authorities arrived, along with his parents; his name has not yet been made public.

The attack sparked outrage across the country, especially when it was disclosed that the driver had not been arrested on site, and is still not in custody, as of the latest report.

“It’s just disheartening and hard to see whenever our friends are being life-flighted out there, and the perpetrator, the kid, gets to be able to go home and sleep in his own bed,” Ferrell said, according to ABC13. “To have no injuries, to have no consequences. Seemingly, I’m sure he feels really bad, but that’s not justice.”

Photo credit: Chase Ferrell
Photo credit: Chase Ferrell

The Waller County Police Department is still investigating what happened, but the investigation will eventually be turned over to Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis. According to ABC13, Mathis said he first learned of the incident from social media, not local authorities. (The county D.A. and P.D. are separate entities, but still.) Mathis has stated that the investigation is a top priority. And more recently, he has acknowledged that what the driver did to the cyclists is by law considered an assault at the very least.

The Waller County District Attorney’s office released the following statement on its Facebook page on September 29:

Thank you for all the posts regarding the bicyclists that were run over on Saturday morning. Your comments (even the less than flattering ones) have been instructive to this office on how prevalent the problem of “rolling coal” is not only in Waller County, but across the nation. Rolling coal when a person is in the vicinity and when the individual rolling coal intentionally or knowingly causes that excess exhaust to contact that bystander is AT A MINIMUM an assault. They are causing their vehicle to “spit” on a living, breathing, human being that is worthy of dignity and not having his or her person violated. That simple assault is easily elevated to a jail eligible offense if bodily injury occurs, which can be caused by entry of toxic particles into mouth, nose and eyes. Waller County law enforcement agencies all across the county are being reminded today of the availability of these and other charges which can be brought against individuals acting in such a criminal manner. The underlying investigation and gathering of evidence by Waller P.D. is still progressing. Thank you for your input and the positive exchanges we have seen to educate those who are ignorant of this commonplace occurrence.

But rolling coal is just part of the issue, and just one method of harassing cyclists. This incident is just one of the countless vehicular assaults on cyclists, and other vulnerable road users, that occur every day across the country. Whether it’s out of negligence like distracted driving, inebriation, or malice as in this case, the terrible reality is that few drivers are ever actually convicted—even if a cyclist dies.

The 16-year-old driver is being represented by Houston lawyer Rick DeToto, who told the Houston Chronicle: “The police did an investigation at the scene. This included speaking with eyewitnesses… After their investigation they decided not to charge my client and did not issue him a traffic citation. Clearly, they decided a crime had not occurred.”

The six cyclists who were hit are being counseled by Bike Law, a national network of independent attorneys who specialize in helping injured cyclists get justice. There’s also a GoFundMe page to help offset expenses.

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