Alexian Lien and Rosalyn Ng live in an apartment just down from the New York Stock Exchange on a street where cops and private security and barricades and a bomb dog guard against the continuing threat of terrorism.
But terror of another kind awaited as the couple set off with their young child for a Sunday drive. They headed uptown in their black Range Rover past the 9/11 Memorial that three weeks before had observed the 12th anniversary of the attack.
Lien and Ng were celebrating a much happier marker, their first wedding anniversary. They continued past the new Freedom Tower, which was ultimately only steel and glass, no matter how high it soared into the sunshine. The family in the Range Rover was a living testament to the city’s resilience, a seeming triumph of basic good over craven evil.
As they drove uptown, the sky was blue, the temperature just right. The day itself seemed a victory until the air filled with a buzzing like that of huge bees.
From out of the peace and quiet came 30 or more motorcycles, part of an annual convergence on New York by bikers marking the end of summer. They had caused considerable chaos the year before, hundreds of them running red lights, going up on sidewalks, speeding into oncoming traffic, revving engines so as to send up huge billows of exhaust, popping prolonged wheelies much too close to pedestrians, and posting it all online thanks to a helmet camera.
This year, the police had set up “choke points,” checking license and registrations, issuing 68 summonses, seizing 55 bikes and making 15 arrests, one for a gun. Those who got through included the crew that now chanced upon Lien and Ng’s Range Rover. They cut in and out were generally so reckless that Lien became one of 200 citizens who called 911 about bikers that day.
In a video that appears to be from the same helmet camera of last year, the bikers can be seen swarming around the Range Rover as it proceeds up the parkway. A viewer can almost feel the thrill of biking on a glorious day become supercharged with the rush of riding in numbers.
Even during mass bicycle rides in the city, the participants are often overcome with a sudden sense of power that incites them to take over the whole street. The motorcyclists in the video appear bent on appropriating all of Henry Hudson Parkway as Lien and Ng and their child cruised up it on their Sunday anniversary drive.
One biker identified by police as Christopher Cruz of New Jersey, can be seen cutting in front of the Range Rover. He is looking back as he slows toward what seems to be a near stop, seemingly seeking to force the Range Rover to do the same.
The wearer of the helmet camera whizzes past an instant before the Range Rover apparently bumped the bike that cut in front of it. Lien could not have been reasonably blamed for the accident, but the bikers did not appear all that reasonable as they surrounded the now stationary Range Rover.
The bikers are known to halt traffic until there is a big expanse of empty road ahead where they can then hit harrowing speeds. That may have been the original intent of this stop, but the group now seemed focused on the Range Rover that had the audacity to hit a biker it in truth could not have avoided hitting. A biker is said to have smashed one of the Range Rover’s mirrors.
Lien seems to have been in understandable fear for his safety when his vehicle suddenly lurched forward, striking at least three bikes. The Range Rover can be seen in the video rising and then falling as it runs over a biker as well as a bike, breaking his legs and perhaps paralyzing him.
Lien kept going and the bikers pursued him, horns beeping, the big buzz now sounding frenzied, furious. He was coming to a ramp leading to the George Washington Bridge when he stopped again. A biker dismounted, ran over to the Range Rover, and began to yank open the driver’s side door.
Police say that at some point, the Range Rover’s tires were slashed. Lien sped away again, the bikers racing after him. He veered to the right and took the streets rather than the bridge. His tires went flat. He was trapped.
The helmet cam video ends as the real violence is about to commence. Imagine the fear of the child in the Range Rover as a biker came over and smashed his helmet against the driver’s side window again and again until the glass broke.
Even with such numbers, the bikers might not have been so bold if they had been dealing with a carload of men liable to meet force with equal or greater force. But Lien was a 33 year-old e-commerce executive with his young family. The bikers were pure bullies as they dragged him from the vehicle, beating him and slicing him with a knife. He lay bleeding in the street as his wife clutched their child, her first anniversary turned to horror.
Cruz, the biker who allegedly cut in front of the Range Rover, was arrested and was awaiting arraignment in Manhattan criminal court on charges of menacing reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child on Tuesday afternoon. Two women, apparently family members, asked the clerk when he might be expected to appear before a judge. The younger of the women said he had called her at 9 p.m. the previous night to say the police had asked him to come in for a chat.
“He said he was going in to see them and then I didn’t hear nothing from him,” he reported.
The clerk checked the computer.
“He was arrested at 12:45,” the clerk said.
“I can’t call him?” the woman asked.
“Only his lawyer can speak to him,” the clerk replied.
Lien had been taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he was treated and released. The press staked out his apartment building just down from the stock exchange, but neither he nor his wife had been spotted as of Tuesday afternoon.
Meanwhile the cops and private guards and the bomb dog continued their vigil against terrorism.