Imagine, while on the highway stuck in traffic, you witness a collision between an SUV and a motorcycle. Before you know it, you see the SUV surrounded by other bikers who begin to attack and assault the SUV driver. You whip out your cell phone and make a video of the scene. What should you do now?
Earlier this month, fellow drivers in New York found themselves in a similar situation. Thanks to technology, a few concerned citizens were able to record an assault that took place on Manhattan’s West Side Highway. The amateur video footage, which went viral, caught bikers swarming around an SUV, then the driver plowing over one of the motorcyclist to flee the scene, and ended with the driver pulled out of his vehicle and brutally beaten in front of his family. Authorities have used this footage to bring charges against the driver and six other motorcyclists.
The facts so far demonstrate that the video footage collected is instrumental in figuring out the sequence of events. So far, the police are using the video footage as a starting point to determine what charges to bring against each party.
As the events have unfolded, more citizens have come forward with footage they recorded on their cell phones and iPads. As a result, some initial charges have been dropped and others sustained against the bikers and the driver. The video coverage also promises to play a key role at trial. The prosecutors are very likely to use the footage to demonstrate the physical force and brutality exercised in this in assault.
The extra video footage off of peoples’ cell phones and iPads provides missing links to the puzzle. Thanks to the extra clues, authorities are learning and identifying new facts about this case everyday. A few simple steps by average citizens have helped resolve this case in a matter of weeks.
How to identify an assault:
Many individuals would not be able to identify or recognize if a crime is taking place, especially if it is an assault. An assault occurs when someone threatens bodily harm to another in a convincing manner. In this case, the bikers and driver were charged with assault and gang assault. Under the model penal code, for an act to be considered an assault and to rise to the level of an actionable offense, two elements must be present:
- The act was intended to cause apprehension of harmful or offensive contact, and
- The act indeed caused apprehension in the victim that harmful or offensive contact would occur.
The punishment for committing an assault upon another person varies state to state. Under Massachusetts law, (Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 265 sec.) 13A(a), anyone who commits an assault can be punished by imprisonment for up to 21 years or by a fine of not more than $1000 dollars.
If you see something, say something
If you ever find yourself witnessing an assault, you should immediately report it to the authorities by calling 911. If you do not have signals or are unable to make a call at the time, do not get involved if you feel you may be at risk of being harmed. Also, if you used any technology while witnessing a crime and have any evidence that may be helpful, you should immediately turn it over to the authorities instead holding onto evidence. The key here is not to put yourself in danger and possibly, escalate the situation further. If you end up in the unfortunate position of witnessing a crime and can provide any clues to resolve the situation, you have done your part as a concerned citizen.
The Role of Technology
This high profile biker assault is not the first case where video footage plays an important role in determining and sequencing events of a crime. The Boston Marathon Suspects were identified were identified through private security camera footage from storefronts, and photos and recordings taken by innocent bystanders. The FBI was able to identify the suspects only after 3 days because of the overwhelming about of recordings and photographs they had received.
Thanks to easy access to smart phones, iPads, and digital cameras, it is easier now more than ever to capture images and clues to a crime electronically. If you ever come across such information, it is imperative that you hand this information over to the police. Every bit helps when you are trying to piece together a puzzle.