Investigation into crash between teen, cyclists in Waller Co. 'not handled appropriately,' DA says

HEMPSTEAD, Texas (KTRK) -- More than two weeks after six bicyclists were injured when a 17-year-old driver plowed into the group, the top prosecutor in the county didn't hold back his frustration about the investigation into the incident.

"This case was not handled appropriately by the investigating agency. PERIOD," Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis wrote in a Facebook post. "Despite being encouraged by the Texas Department of Public Safety to treat the scene as a crime scene and to contact the D.A.'s Office for advice on how to proceed, the investigating agency chose not to do so."

RELATED: Teen intended to 'smoke' cyclists, but plowed into them instead

The crash that happened on Sept. 25 on Business 290 involved the cyclists and a 17-year-old driver. Witnesses told ABC13 that just before slamming into the group, the teen driver was trying to agitate the cyclists by blowing exhaust smoke into their path in a practice known as "rolling coal."

The teen was released from the scene after interviewing with investigators, and no arrests have been made in the case.

Eric Braun, the editor of Texas Endurance News, has also been covering the developments in the case.

"When nothing happened to the kid that hit those cyclists, you know, it becomes really hard to be patient with that," Braun said.

He said cyclists are becoming more fearful of riding in the street, and charges would go a long way to make them feel more comfortable on the road.

Officers with the Waller Police Department were on the scene along with Texas DPS and the Waller County Sheriff's Office.

"The actions of the Texas Department of Public Safety on scene were professional and we are thankful they were there to assist. We are also working with the Waller County Sheriff's Office to gather the evidence they are able to provide as they arrived on scene to backup Waller P.D. Sheriff Guidry has been most helpful in this regard," Mathis wrote.

Mathis went on to address rumors of a connection between the driver and Waller city officials and promised his office was looking into whether any criminal interference occurred.

"At this point we can confirm there are some connections, but have yet to see evidence of a city official directing the officer on the scene as to how to handle this particular situation," he said.

Mathis also said last month that the district attorney's office will lead the investigation into what led to the crash. Mathis told ABC13 he first heard about the crash from social media, rather than from law enforcement.

In September, Mathis said that possible charges could include the felony of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He said the evidence will be presented before a grand jury, likely in October or November. They will determine whether to indict the teenager on criminal charges.

Cyclists across the country are talking about the case.

Joe Cutrufo, the executive director of BikeHouston, sent ABC13 a statement expressing similar frustrations.

"It has become increasingly clear that Waller Police have left many stones unturned, so it's a relief to know that District Attorney Mathis has heard the outcry of advocates and the public, and is working in good faith with the victims attorneys to complete a thorough investigation," Cutrufo said. "When a driver uses a multi-ton truck as a weapon against people riding bicycles, there has to be an appropriate response from law enforcement. Without it, we fear some drivers will be emboldened to threaten and assault others."

Charlie Thomas and Peter Wilborn are attorneys representing the six cyclists who were hurt. They said in a statement that they expect more to come from the district attorney.

"On behalf of the six people injured while riding, we are aware that the Waller County District Attorneys Office has prioritized this crash investigation and we have confidence that they will charge the driver at the appropriate time," they said in a statement.

ABC13 has reached out to the Waller Police Department for reaction to Mathis' comments.



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