‘Wheels Up, Guns Down’ riders face judge, reclaim impounded vehicles

DANIA BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Some riders from the “Wheels Up, Guns Down” protest spent Tuesday either in bond court or reclaiming more than 120 motor bikes and all-terrain vehicles that were impounded during the holiday weekend.

Motor bikes and ATVs could be seen locked behind a fence at Mac’s Towing Service in Dania Beach. The vehicles were all allegedly used by riders who swarmed the streets for the protest, held during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, meant to push for an end to gun violence. However, officers said, the ride poses more of a danger than it does in sending a positive message.

By day’s end Monday, Miami-Dade officers had made 17 arrests, confiscated over 70 vehicles and handed out dozens of tickets. Four guns were also confiscated.

In Broward County, at least 27 arrests were made and almost 50 vehicles were confiscated.

Tuesday morning, Pedro Ortiz, a rider arrested in Miramar, faced a Broward circuit judge. “Sir, you’re charged with fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement, resisting an officer without violence, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, reckless driving,” said the judge.

In Miami, Arnold Doe faced Circuit Judge Mindy Glazer. “He’s from Baltimore, white dirt bike,” she said as she reviewed court documents, “so he’s doing wheelies.”

Christopher Potter from Ohio also spent the night in a Miami-Dade jail. “He ran four red lights, one into oncoming traffic, drove in a reckless manner,” said a prosecutor.

Meanwhile, other riders picked up their impounded vehicles.

“We’re told in the previous years, they’re only taking dirt bikes and four-wheelers ’cause they’re off-road terrain vehicles, which I understand. I didn’t bring my dirt bike for that reason,” said Elyja Rivera. “I didn’t bring a dirt bike. None of my buddies brought a dirt bike.”

Rivera and his friends came across Alligator Alley from Naples to participate in the event when police impounded their vehicles. Now, he is waiting to reclaim his bike from Downtown Towing.

“We were all compliant, none of us were rude. Got off all our bikes, took all our keys,” Rivera said. “They all sat us down, ran all of our plates, license – all of it. None of us had stolen bikes. No dirt bikes were with us in the group.”

North Carolina resident Chris Smith said the “Wheels Up, Guns Down” rides help deter behavior that could end in gun violence. “It’s a way to keep us off the streets. There’s a million other things we could be doing,” he said. “Instead of riding bikes, we could be selling drugs, trying to kill the next man, but instead, bikes bring bonds.”

Smith’s ATV was confiscated as he tried to get on Interstate 95. However, Florida Highway Patrol troopers were blocking entrances.

Other bikes were taken to Midtown Towing in Miami. “I [was] working 14, 16 hours yesterday,” one employee said.

Midtown Towing told 7News that the vehicle owners have up to 35 days to reclaim their vehicles. If they don’t make it in time, their bikes will be crushed.

All in all, many of the riders said the potential for injury and arrest was worth the risk. “No, it wasn’t worth it to lose my ATV, but the experience is definitely worth it,” said Smith.

Smith said that in North Carolina, riders are able to own ATVs without a title. This is not the case in Florida.

Smith does not have the title for his ATV, so he plans to remain in South Florida as he tries to get his vehicle back.

Despite the arrests, crashes and vehicle confiscations, officials said there were not any major disruptions in an event that is difficult to control.

“If we do chase one, we get one. There’s another 200,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “What did we gain by putting the public in danger for one motorcyclist? We can’t be chasing them. We’ve got to do things in a responsible way.”

Some said it’s time for lawmakers and law enforcement to start thinking out of the box before someone seriously gets hurt. “Maybe we might be able to do something where they can go and ride somewhere and not necessarily be on the streets, if we can find such a place,” said Zabaleta.

Copyright 2018 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.