HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police are launching an undercover operation along the Columbia Tap Trail after five cyclists were attacked and robbed in a two-week span.
HPD Executive Chief Larry Satterwhite said he believes the first attack happened on May 22. ABC13 spoke with the victim, who asked to conceal his identity out of fear for his safety. He said he was knocked off his bike at about 11:30 a.m. near Anita Street.
"I was pushed and pushed hard and landed on the ground. (I) propped myself up on my elbow, and within seconds, one of them had pulled a gun on me just a couple of feet from my face, and I knew that the others were behind me," he said.
The cyclist said he believes the attackers were young teens.
"Emotionally, I couldn't connect the incongruity of somebody that young presenting that deadly of a threat. I couldn't process it," he said.
He told ABC13 the teens asked for his cell phone password and counted down as he struggled to share it - out of breath.
Still, he said he is more frustrated by what happened next.
"When I walked into the police station, I said to them, 'This is (going to) happen again. 100%,'" he recalled.
And it did happen again. Four more times.
Satterwhite said it is likely the same group is responsible for each attack, and the violence is escalating. The last two victims were hospitalized. On Monday night, a 20-year-old man was shot in the leg.
Satterwhite said police are increasing patrols in the area with uniformed and undercover officers on foot, bike, and ATV.
Ed Pettitt, who founded Friends of the Columbia Tap, is upset this is what it took to get help.
Safety improvements, like callboxes, have been in the works along the trail since 2017, but few have come to fruition. He pressed Houston City Council on the matter just last week, describing bureaucratic dysfunction between the City Parks and Trails departments.
"If there's any accountability, it needs to come to me," Third Ward Councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabaz said.
Evans-Shabaz said she could not speak to the actions of her predecessor. However, her office has authorized more than $100,000 for improvements along the trail this budget cycle. There is no timeline in place yet for when constituents will see them.
"When an area is forgotten about, or people really don't care because of where it is, then nothing is gonna get done," Delores Ford, who lives in Cuney Homes, which runs along the trail, said.
"To say that this area is forgotten is not quite true. We are trying to do everything that we can within reasonable means and according to our funding. I know how they feel and certainly sympathize and empathize with them, but I certainly have not forgotten this area of town where I was raised," Evans-Shabaz said.