Several weeks after a 45-year-old man was beaten by about 30 people riding ATVs and dirt bikes on East 125th Street in East Harlem, police said on Wednesday that they are looking for suspects in a homicide.
On November 4, around 10 p.m., the man, Arthur Cooke, was traveling east when a group member struck the passenger-side mirror of his car, according to the Police Department. Riders started beating him when he stepped outside to examine the damage. According to the police, one of the attackers pointed a gun in Mr. Cooke’s direction during the assault.
After being transported to NYC Health & Hospitals/Harlem, Mr. Cooke was declared dead on November 18 due to blunt force trauma to his neck and spine, per the department.
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The police claimed that Mr. Cooke’s car was driven away from the scene by a second man who they didn’t think was one of the riders.
Although they are forbidden in the city, ATVs and dirt bikes have been a source of contention for the city for many years. Swarms of riders pop wheelies, pull tricks and record themselves on video while a deafening roar fills the streets and avenues of Manhattan on occasion.
At times, the takeovers turn violent. After the driver of a car in Harlem accidentally hit one of the bikers in March, a group of dirt bikers pulled the driver and his adult son out of the vehicle and beat them.
And in 2013, following a chase that resulted in the beating of an SUV driver, locals in Harlem, the Bronx, Washington Heights, and Inwood started criticizing the city for failing to recognize the dangers posed by groups operating illegal vehicles.
After several incidents of violence from these groups the previous year, the city started to crack down, and a legislator proposed legislation to increase the fines for those driving the vehicles.
Mayor Eric Adams and Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell declared the city was intensifying its efforts to get the vehicles off the streets in June. According to Commissioner Sewell, the Police Department had seized more than 2,000 ATVs and dirt bikes across the entire city, an increase of about 80% from the same period in 2021.
“They are not only a nuisance and an annoyance to us, but they’re extremely dangerous,” Mr. Adams said at the time.
According to the Police Department, the city stops and tows any illegally parked vehicles that officers discover. Over 30,000 moving violations have been issued this year, and over 3,000 motorcycles, including dirt bikes and ATVs, have been towed or seized.
“The individuals who ride these vehicles illegally have no regard for traffic laws or public safety,” said Mr. Adams in a statement on Wednesday. “We will continue to target and crush these unauthorized and dangerous vehicles that do nothing more than terrorize our neighborhoods.”
The most recent victim of violence, Mr. Cooke, was a resident of Harlem and had been employed by Exodus Transitional Communities Inc. since July 2021 as a case manager and court advocate in the Alternatives to Incarceration program. The group said he was a father.
Mr. Cooke, who had served time in prison, stated in the organization’s annual report the previous year that he preferred to be “a part of the solution as opposed to a part of the problem.”
After visiting with staff members to seek assistance with his re-entry into the workforce, he was hired by Exodus. The organization’s founder and executive director, Julio Medina, announced Wednesday that the community had been “devastated” by Mr. Cooke’s passing.
We observed that his perspective changed from hopelessness following the completion of his sentence to hope and aspirations, and he was constantly encouraging his participants to do the same, according to Mr. Medina.
Wednesday afternoon, neighbors recalled a gentleman they described as respectful and kind standing in front of Mr. Cooke’s apartment.
“He was a light stepper, gentle giant,” said Sheryl Burnell. “Nothing about his behavior ever exhibited, you know, like aggressive, overly aggressive, or whatever you think would spark or start that type of altercation.”
A few electric bikes zipped through the streets as shoppers looked for deals and street vendors set up shop along East Harlem’s busy 125th Street.
ATVs and dirt bikes frequently ride back and forth on 125th Street, according to Tony Wilson, 61, “like they have nowhere else to go.”
Mr. Wilson stated, “It’s just showing off, popping wheelies, and that’s it. He continued, “Eric Adams needs to get all those bikes quickly.
Riders, according to Fatouma Koné, 25, who has spent her entire life in Harlem, are primarily looking to make a splash on social media and establish their reputations.
They are now more courageous, she said. Like they don’t care that there is police present.
For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.