Cook: The bike ride that won't end

Cook: The bike ride that won't end

January 17th, 2014 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Anders Swanson read the Chattanooga police incident report on Thursday afternoon.

"They admitted it," he said.

Swanson, 30, is a leader in the Chattanooga cycling community. Saturday, he was riding the 6-3/4 mile reservoir loop on TVA's Raccoon Mountain when he was approached by teenagers from the nearby Lookout Valley community.

First, they came in an older model black Chevy, blowing an air horn at Swanson.

"They thought it would be funny," the report states.

The teens and Swanson exchanged words at a stop sign; Swanson, who recorded the encounter on his cell- phone, had just called security.

The teenagers drove off, swapped out the black Chevy for a white 4Runner, and returned to the reservoir, finding Swanson at the parking lot as he was unloading his bike.

They pepper-sprayed him in the face.

"Aggravated assault," the police report reads.

Yet the most crucial part of the report comes on the last page, when Chattanooga police officer Amanda Morgan describes what happened on Sunday afternoon -- five days ago -- when she visited the home of the first teenage suspect.

With his parents in the room, he confessed.

"They saw Mr. Swanson again and approached him. They exchanged words. [Name redacted] then sprayed Mr. Swanson in the face with Mace," the report states.

Morgan then went a few doors down to the home of the second suspect. Both parents were there. He confessed, too.

"[Name redacted] pulled out a can of Mace and sprayed Mr. Swanson in the face," the report reads.

So why haven't the two teenagers been charged and arrested?

That is the question that thousands and thousands of cyclists are wondering, as Swanson's story continues to spread across the bike community in America. Cyclists are angry not only at the pepper-spray violence, but over the fact that the two teenagers have yet -- as of Thursday evening -- to be charged with any crime.

The report's second-to-last line may explain why.

"Further investigation revealed that all actions related to this incident occurred within Marion County," Morgan wrote.

It was an issue of jurisdiction: the assault occurred in Marion County, not Chattanooga. Officer Morgan couldn't arrest anyone.

"There's two sides and it's still under investigation," Marion County Detective Gene Hargis said earlier this week.

Hargis met with the teens on Monday at the Marion County Sheriff's Office, where they told him a very different story from what they'd told the officer from Chattanooga on Sunday. This time, Swanson was the aggressor.

"They said they were scared," Hargis said.

That Swanson had intimidated them. That Swanson had leaned in the window. That Swanson had scared them so badly, they pepper-sprayed him.

So hours later, when Swanson arrives to press charges, he learns something that hits him worse than the Mace: that the teens' parents may want to take out a warrant for his arrest.

"I've got to remain impartial and figure out what happened," Hargis said.

That was Tuesday. Hargis, who did not return calls Thursday, believed his investigation should be done by today. He said he'd not seen the Chattanooga police report.

When he does, he'll see that there is not one single sentence in the police report about the teens feeling threatened, intimidated or vulnerable.

They admit to blowing an air horn at Swanson. They admit to leaving, picking up friends, swapping cars and returning to Raccoon Mountain, one of the teens telling the officer that "they went back up to the same area to talk with Mr. Swanson."

About what? Spandex?

Even the parents seem contrite and apologetic, not defensive. And now they may press charges? There's no hint of that anywhere in this report.

"... parents advised he is normally a good child and does not get into trouble," it reads. "They are not certain what caused this behavior."

That's a good question.

But it was not Anders Swanson.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.