Police Warn Against MLK Rideout in South Florida

Authorities are warning people against participating in the so-called “Wheels Up, Guns Down” MLK Rideout this year, as an ATV rider who was involved in a crash Sunday is facing charges.

ATV and motorcycle riders have been taking part in the massive South Florida rideout on Martin Luther King Day in recent years, but police and the Florida Highway Patrol say they are doing all they can to stop it this year.

“FHP will have more troopers on patrol and will use aircraft to monitor traffic and take enforcement action to ensure the public’s safety,” FHP spokesman Joe Sanchez said at a news conference Monday outside Miami-Dade Police Department headquarters.

Miami-Dade Police say that over the last year, not just on the MLK holiday, but across the year, there were 1,100 accidents and seven people were killed riding ATVs.

“The hardest part of our job is knocking on the families’ door and explaining to them that they just lost their loved one and it’s a very somber moment,” Det. Jeffrey Childers said.

Last year’s rideout left two people dead and saw dozens arrested. Anyone breaking the law can face a fine, be arrested, and can have their motorcycle, dirt bike, or ATV confiscated if police catch them.

Just this Sunday, police in Hollywood say an ATV rider who was involved in a crash was arrested. Erik Bell, 33, was illegally and dangerously driving a four-wheeler in the area of 64th Avenue and Johnson Street when he crashed into a car, police said.

Police said Bell was part of a group of more than 100 dirt bikes and ATVs driving recklessly on city streets. When officers arrived on the scene, a majority of the drivers had already fled.

Bell, who also had a loaded handgun in his waistband, was charged with reckless driving, fleeing and eluding, committing a third-degree felony while in possession of a weapon and failing to register a motor vehicle.

“Leave the bikes off the road. When you drive your illegal vehicle on city streets, you are endangering not only yourself but those around you. Don’t put innocent lives in jeopardy. There will be consequences to these careless and unsafe actions on the roads,” Hollywood’s acting police chief Chris O’Brien said in a statement.