CLEVELAND — Authorities in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have had it with illegal dirt bike riders running amok in city streets, popping wheelies, blocking traffic, putting residents at risk and generally being a nuisance.
Wednesday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O'Malley announced the indictments for three individuals who were recently arrested during Operation: Wheels Down, a law enforcement sting that occurred last month with an aim of stopping illegal off-road vehicle activity in the city and surrounding areas.
Charged are Johnathan Rivera-Ortiz, Christine Vazquez and Luiz Ortiz.
All three are charged with one count each of failure to comply, a third-degree felony; aggravated riot and inducing panic, both fifth-degree felonies, according to their indictments.
“These charges send a stern message that it is no longer business as usual for illegal dirt bike riders in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County,” said O’Malley. "We commend the Cleveland Police Department, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office, and the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s collaborative effort to apprehend these individuals and help make our streets a safer place."
According to authorities, on May 21, the day of Operation Wheels Down, Vazquez was riding on the back of Rivera-Ortiz's motorcycle near West 58th Street and Detroit Avenue when an officer initiated a traffic stop. Rivera-Ortiz fled from police at a high rate of speed before being caught near West 130th Street and Lorain Avenue.
Rivera Ortiz is also accused of orchestrating "a large-scale dirt bike ride in Cleveland."
"He advertised the ride on social media platforms to multiple cities and called for dirt bike / ATV riders to take over Cleveland and make it a 'wheelie show,'" the prosecutor's office said.
The same day, officers tried to pull over Luiz Ortiz near West 53rd Street and Lorain Avenue. Authorities said Ortiz nearly struck police vehicles while making an illegal U-turn. He was arrested after he fell off his bike.
The three arrests were part of a larger group of arrests that day. According to Cleveland police, 15 felony arrests were made, 30 citations issued and 15 vehicles were confiscated. Of those vehicles, two were ATVs that had been reported stolen. Officers also seized two firearms.
Following the sting, Cleveland police issued a news release stating:
"The City of Cleveland is aware that this illegal activity causes annoyance and alarm to our residents and puts citizens lives at risk. The City remains committed to ensuring that law enforcement has the resources necessary to continue to enforce laws and ensure safety on our streets and within our neighborhoods."
Illegal dirt bike riders aren't something new to Cleveland. The city has been dealing with illegal ATV and dirt bike riders for years.
Just last month, Cleveland Public Safety Director Karrie Howard said the city is working on an ordinance to stop reckless riders from taking over the city's streets.
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