The apparently well-connected teenage driver charged at long last after allegedly mowing down six bicyclists outside Houston after purposely belching a thick cloud of black diesel exhaust at them has been identified as the son of a competition livestock breeding family in the area.
On Monday, lawyers for the injured cyclists named the 16-year-old suspect’s parents as Jason and Jennifer Arnold of Waller, Texas. The couple, who specialize in raising and showing sheep and goats and serve on the lamb committee of the Waller County Fair, have a 16-year-old son who has won prizes for his champion lambs. In 2020, the young man’s 92-lb. “market goat” was named the fair’s grand champion.
Reached by phone, Jason Arnold, 43, immediately hung up when asked about the charges against his son, whose name The Daily Beast is not publishing pending a formal announcement by authorities. In a follow-up text message, Arnold, who also processes venison for local deer hunters, referred all inquiries to the teen’s lawyer.
“My client and his family continue to pray for the quick recovery of the injured bikers,” attorney Rick DeToto told The Daily Beast. “Due to the confidentiality laws surrounding juvenile proceedings, we have no further comment at this time.”
In the days after the crash, DeToto described the driver as “a young man in high school with college aspirations” who was a “very new and inexperienced driver. This was a serious accident but did not involve any criminal intent.”
The teen was allegedly “rolling coal” as he passed the group of riders—a practice that has been described as an “anti-environmentalist movement,” with drivers emitting acrid exhaust at pedestrians, bicyclists, and electric cars—moments before he reportedly reached for his cellphone and in the process, plowed his parents’ black Ford F-250 pickup truck into them. The cyclists were training along a stretch of road in Waller on the morning of Sept. 25, for the Ironman Texas triathlon. Their injuries included broken vertebrae, cervical and lumbar spinal injuries, and broken collarbones, hands, and wrists, in addition to soft tissue damage, lacerations, and multiple traumatic brain injuries. Four of the six were taken to the hospital; two were so badly injured, they were airlifted from the scene by helicopter.
After mowing down the cyclists, the young driver appeared to recognize that he had done something very wrong, according to one witness.
“His first words were, ‘I’m sorry—oh my God, did I kill someone?’” cyclist Chase Ferrell, who watched the horrifying crash unfold, previously told The Daily Beast. “We realized everyone was still alive, thank God. Then he said, ‘Am I going to jail?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to jail. That was really stupid.’ And he started crying, and that was about it.”
But police released the teen after questioning him, leading to outrage in the cycling community.
“All the people that were hurt were training for the Ironman Texas race. We’re two weeks out,” said Ferrell. “Everyone who was out there has had their hopes and dreams crushed by this idiotic reckless kid.”
Waller County DA Elton Mathis said at the time that the teen driver had connections to Waller city officials. A few weeks after the incident, Waller Police Chief Bill Llewellyn admitted his officers “mishandled” the situation but insisted that the driver’s family connections did not have any influence over the investigation.
In a statement issued Monday, Mathis said the suspect “voluntarily surrendered himself, and was detained by representatives from the juvenile justice department where he will be held in custody until further orders of the juvenile court.”
The 16-year-old has been charged with six felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
In their own statement, the cyclists’ lawyers said they “are happy to report that our clients continue to make advancements (no matter how small) on the long road of physical recovery ahead, and that their reasonable natures and respect for the process have allowed the criminal investigators and us to do our jobs. Our clients have shown us nothing short of remarkable patience and courage over the last month and a half.”
Last June, a driver from Waller was sentenced to life in prison for intentionally driving into a group of cyclists during a 2017 race, killing two people. In August, a drunk driver from Maryland who ran over seven cyclists, killing one, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crash. Texas has no law on the books expressly prohibiting drivers from rolling coal.