The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is looking to crack down on what it described as a local bicycle gang that has carried out a series of attacks, including an incident that left a victim paralyzed.
The subjects, often riding in groups of five to 30, have menaced people in various locations around the city, according to CMPD. They typically travel on bicycles, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
What started as a group of joyriders, CMPD said, has become more dangerous. Some of the riders, police said, have been found carrying weapons, including “ghost guns” and AR-15-style rifles. Ghost guns are bought online as parts and assembled at home, and because the guns have no serial numbers, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement officers.
“We’ve seen an uptick of violence with this group,” Captain Brett Balamucki said at a news conference on Wednesday.
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On Sunday, April 17, officers responded to a reported assault in Romare Bearden Park involving the group. Investigating officers obtained cell phone video of the victim and two suspects in a physical altercation.
Police said one suspect punched the victim in the head and fired shots into the victim’s vehicle, striking the victim in the spine. The victim will likely be paralyzed for life, CMPD said.
Police arrested an 18-year-old suspect and seized a gun that had no serial number. The suspect told the police he assembled the gun himself.
Another 18-year-old suspect was accused of firing the gunshots that injured the victim. His mother took him to the Mecklenburg County jail, where he was arrested.
Since January 2021, CMPD has arrested 28 people and seized more than eight bikes, three dirt bikes and two ATVs related to the group. Some members of the group are as young as 11 years old, CMPD said.
Balamucki said the riders have posted videos to social media that show members carrying out dangerous acts.
“They are not only putting themselves in danger, but they are putting the public in danger as they ride around,” he said.
Last week, Balamucki said, CMPD officers found two juveniles, ages 12 and 13, in a parking lot trying to steal bicycles with cord-cutters they carried in their backpacks.
In another incident, police allege that three juveniles — two 12-year-olds and an 11-year-old — were riding scooters in the middle of traffic. One was accused of pulling a replica air gun on a driver. All were charged in the incident, and their parents were cited and must make a court appearance.
Balamucki said CMPD will increase its presence in areas where the riders frequently gather around the city. While not all are trying to cause trouble, he said, they must understand the risks of riding in the middle of streets.
“If you are going to ride a bicycle or a scooter around uptown, follow the rules and the law and continue not to do reckless behavior,” he said.
Balamucki said people should call 911 and not confront the riders if they see the groups behaving recklessly. Tips can also be reported anonymously to Charlotte Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.