I biked to work yesterday morning. I had been debating whether I should or not because the strap tore on my bag and I didn’t have a bag to carry my stuff in but I thought it would be good for my soul to just have a quiet commute after all the news from the last couple of days.
I was about 30 yards from the end of the bike path where it meets the sidewalk at the Iwo Jima memorial.
As I approached the last little stretch of path there were 2 people walking towards me. I thought they were together at the time, but I don’t think so. The person walking on the right side of the path (so my left) had a dog with him and the dog was exploring the grass. The person walking on the left side of the path (the right side for me) was walking on the very far left side of the path.
I was riding slowly cause my legs were tired so I didn’t say anything but the person on my side of the path made eye contact with me. I got within about 20 feet of him and he did that awkward step left, step right, step left thing a few times and I thought “oh maybe he doesn’t realize he is supposed to walk on the right side of the path. Maybe he’s afraid to move because he doesn’t know where I’m going to go and he thinks I might run him over.”
So when I was about 15 feet away I pointed my finger towards the other side of the path and said “if you walk on the right it will be easier” meaning easier for passing. I almost didn’t say anything and just went around him in the middle, but I figured he would encounter a number of other bikers so might as well take the extra second to let him know what the etiquette is.
He didn’t move though, he just smiled at me. I thought maybe he didn’t understand English. I moved to the middle of the path, and as I got close to the guy he took 2 quick steps towards me and shoved me!!!!!
I yelled “hey!” and by this point I was past him because even though I wasn’t moving quickly I was still moving and I turned on my bike and he was standing sideways on the path smiling at me. He wasn’t even moving away he was just smiling.
Homie was with me which is one of those perfect things because normally we don’t bike to work together. He shouted something (neither of us remember what he said) and jumped off his bike. At that point the guy turned and ran past him. Homie started to chase him on foot and I yelled “No! Just give me my phone!”
Since Homie’s bike has an awesome rack and my bag was broken and we happened to be going the same way he carried it for me.
He grabbed his phone out and handed it to me and I could see that the guy had stopped running. At that point a woman walked up to us, she had been about 10 feet behind the man and she saw what happened.
I told Homie to wait there and I rode after the guy while I called 911. I talked to the dispatcher and explained what happened. I could see the guy the whole time, he went down the path then walked across to the base of the Iwo Jima memorial. I kept following slowly while I gave the dispatcher a description of him.
By this point, we were now on the opposite side of the memorial and he was back to the access road that runs in a circle around it. He got to the road and stopped. He turned around and saw me and he just stood there staring at me. I stopped too and sat there on the phone with the dispatcher.
At that point he stared at me for so long that I thought maybe following him was the worst idea I’ve ever had. But he wasn’t very fast and I was still on my bike so I figured I could get away.
Then he scrambled up the embankment, over the guard rail, and onto the exit for Route 50 and started walking up the street back towards Wilson Blvd.
I kept telling the dispatcher where he was and she said “No I want to know where you are.” And I had a moment of panic when I realized I don’t know!!!! I don’t know the names of the roads! I just bike to the bike path and I don’t know what the streets are called!
I finally got up to the road to see the street sign. I could still see the guy walking and turning back to see if I was following him.
I wanted to continue following him and just update my location for the police, but I was afraid to leave Homie behind. I forgot in that moment that he had his work phone on him and both of my phones.
The woman who witnessed the whole thing gave us her name and number just in case we needed a witness.
We waited for the police and while we waited I started to worry that maybe it was a big over-reaction to call the police. I mean, yeah I wasn’t sure in that moment what the guy was going to do, but I could have waited to see if he took off or got more physical.
I wasn’t really hurt, so I was afraid that the police were going to feel like I wasted their time.
Apparently they take assault very seriously! Two marked cars and three unmarked pulled up. Two officers came and immediately confirmed the guy’s description and then the other cars headed out in the direction I had last seen the guy walking.
I explained what happened. The officers were trying to be diplomatic in their questioning and kept hinting trying to ask if this seemed like someone who was unstable, did he have any drug paraphernalia, did he have a lot of bags, etc. I kept saying “He looked like any other person out for a walk.” Finally I said, “No, he did not look homeless, he didn’t look crazy, nothing. He looked like your average, mid-50 year old white man out for his morning walk. He had on black running shorts, a white t-shirt, white and black running shoes, and a khaki baseball cap. His face was clean-shaven and his hair was short.”
The officers were impressed with my description. I didn’t tell them creepin’ on people is my hobby.
Then (and this is the part that kind of threw me) they asked if they picked the guy up if I wanted to prosecute for assault. The officer told me “We take assault very seriously, so if you want to prosecute we are happy to assist you.” And up to that point I wasn’t thinking he assaulted me, just “stupid dude pushed me.”
My initial reaction was no, but I asked Homie what he thought and he said it was up to me. I told the officers no I don’t want to prosecute. I just am more worried about encountering him again since I ride my bike or walk through the area regularly. They said they would do a report in case I encountered the guy again or in case anyone else encountered him and had issues. And then I headed off to work.
I only made it 1 block before a couple stopped me to ask what had happened (they saw me talking to the police). At first I was vague cause I was a little flustered, but then the woman clarified they live in the condos across the street and walk and bike through there so they were just concerned that he had tried to rob me. I told them nothing that crazy! Actually even more weird he just pushed me.
When I got to my office the adrenaline was wearing off and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to throw up or sit down and cry!
The creepiest part was that the guy was smiling at me! He smiled as we were approaching each other and after he shoved me he didn’t take off running. He stood there smiling until I reacted.
I told one person in my office what happened and she said “it almost sounds like it was a game to him” which perfectly described how he was acting. So that is kind of creepy.
I’m a little nervous about encountering him again. More, that I’m nervous about encountering him if I’m walking or don’t see him coming. If I notice him then no big deal cause I am faster on my bike.
He can change his clothes and I might not recognize him at all, but I only have one bike.
I often go out during the day and don’t bother to take my phone with me. It bothers me that I feel like I shouldn’t do that now in case I encounter him.
The whole incident today was very minor, but it bothers me that I’m nervous about being in the area in case I encounter this guy again. I don’t like that. And it made me realize that I am completely unprepared (when biking) for if something more serious happened.
I’ll admit, I texted my friend who is an officer in the area and checked to make sure I can legally carry pepper spray. I also looked up phone cases that will attach to my handlebars so that my phone is accessible in case I need it.
When I left my office this afternoon I found myself looking over my shoulder watching for the guy, afraid that I would encounter him again.
I hate that.