My 4th of July Bike Ride

by Suza Francina on July 21, 2009

Guest Editorial by Ojai Resident Thomas Sherk
I am writing to let people know what really happened on the 4th of July.
Some time in June I saw a Letter to the Editor in the Ojai Valley News by Earth Friend Gen for the July 4th Almost Naked Bike Ride. I decided to do the Ride because I was raised by a hippy mother who brought us to nudist beaches and camps throughout childhood. I recently talked with my mom who is gravely ill and not long for this world. Out of a tribute to her, I decided to participate. Prior to the 4th, I had never met Earth Friend Gen.
As a group, we met at the Y and rolled on the bike path towards the parade. Turning left on Bristol, we approached the parade crowd from the rear. As we got closer, a middle aged white male approached me and pulled a knife out of his front pocket, opened it and stepped towards me, saying, “I will cut your f*****g nuts off.” He continued walking towards me. I had to back up when he was within a foot of me. He threatened two other people on bikes next to me in the same way.

I immediately turned around and warned other riders, including parents with small children, to “Stop. There’s someone up here with a knife.”
As I turned back around after warning the others, I saw the guy with the knife handcuffed, leaning against a car. I assumed the guy had been arrested by the police.
I found out ten minutes later that the guy had not been arrested and was walking down the street. Out of fear and anger I decided to continue biking down the parade route. I made it a few blocks until Sgt. Joe Evans told me I was breaking the law—so I stopped.
I was impressed with Sgt. Evans because he really seemed to respect me, and I gave him my full respect in return, even to the point of asking him if it would be better if I put my shorts on. He said, “It wouldn’t hurt.” And I said, “Going by in a blur on my bike is one thing, but standing here on the street as a crowd forms, is another.” So I put my shorts on.
I asked Sgt. Evans if I was arrested and he replied, “No.” But he did give me a ticket for illegally participating in the parade.
I told Sgt. Evans about the guy with the knife who threatened me. He asked me if I wanted to press charges. At the time I was very shook up about what had happened and thought that the other two riders would press charges so I told him I wasn’t going to.
As I was going back home a little later, a photographer named Brian from the Ojai Valley News told me that he had been told by an officer that the guy with the knife was going to get away with it unless someone pressed charges. After thinking it over, I went to the Ojai Police Station Saturday afternoon to file a complaint. I was told that the person I needed to speak with, Sgt. Evans, would not be in until 7pm. Since the fireworks show was that evening, I decided they were all probably very busy so I told them I’d be back Sunday at 7pm to file charges. So I did, and the case is moving forward.
I just want to let people know what really happened on the 4th of July. The group was met by violence. Even though there are people in the community who disagree with my decision to do what I did, I’m upset with people praising a guy who threatened me with a knife. What’s worse? A group of scantily dressed people, or a mad man illegally brandishing a weapon?
So, I ask anyone who witnessed what took place on Bristol and Ojai Avenue on the 4th of July to contact Sgt. Joe Evans at the Ojai Police Department. Their number is (805) 646-1414.
Or e-mail Sgt. Evans at:
Cell: 805 947-8077
For related Ojai Post Story and Comments see Parade and More?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

violet rose July 22, 2009 at 5:40 am

What makes you think people want to see a bunch of naked people anyway? I say he was a hero for trying to stop you and prevent you from exposing yourself to small children all over town. Just because you were raised by a hippie mother does not make it ok to do anything you please even if she’s gravely ill. You people who were not adults during the hippie era have no concept of the feelings and what went on then. You’re all just a sad imitation of the real thing. Get a life and do something new that has never been done before and might take real courage.


Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

maybe you should change your name to “violent rose”


GS July 22, 2009 at 7:54 am

My dad (who raised me on his own) was no hippie…Reagan loving conservative actually. However, while growing up, I was exposed to all manners of life and freedom of expression. Not only the yearly Renaissance Fair but nude art exhibits, etc. All of his friends were so different from one another. I think it is best to be taught to love and appreciate all walks of life. The parent that not only shields their children from other people “doing what they do” but actually shows anger towards these people is just asking for future adults who are unaccepting of others. Just take a moment to think about the world today…I think we can all use a LOT more acceptance.


Nicole July 22, 2009 at 8:12 am

There is definitely something wrong when people think threatening people with a knife is okay and the human body is not. It parallels what we see on t.v. – sex is censored, violence is not.
For me, I’d much prefer to run into a rational naked person than someone making threats with a weapon.


Suza to Violet Rose July 22, 2009 at 8:25 am

Brandishing a knife and threatening someone with bodily harm is a serious crime, a felony.
It is unlawful for any person to point, hold or brandish a knife in such manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another of being injured.


DK July 22, 2009 at 10:17 am

“For me, I’d much prefer to run into a rational naked person than someone making threats with a weapon.” Comment #4 Posted by: Nicole
II fear some of the naked riders are NOT rational from what I’ve read prior but Thomas sure seems to be. Thank you for sharing that account! and from your perspective, motive, etc.
It ‘feels’ like the white-haired-knife-wielder felt threatened himself. I would love to hear such a rational account of his motives, feelings, etc. What he did was not right. We all agree. The fact that he a) had a weapon and b)made a statement about using such weapon to do something cut off the very part of a man that denotes manhood said to me he felt VERY strongly about this too. I wonder if he was thinking what his memories and celebrations were being recklessly abused by a bunch of naked/semi naked riders (led by someone not very rational) taking over a parade he holds dear. I wonder if he had grand children there that he wanted to shield. I do not think there is anything wrong with the naked body but I do feel others should have a choice about when and what to expose their children too. I still think the idea of a naked bike ride is awesome or a naked run, I think it should be its own event.
It sounds like in this case violence was censored as much as nudity.
It is so much nicer hearing from someone’s point of view who speaks rationally and tells his background and point-of-view. I believe the irrational person leading this merry band of nudists has escalated reactions. When I listen to her diatribes that twist and turn I want to turn against the whole idea and yet I am not against it.
Thanks for tellings us your heart, mind and experience Thomas.


judy k July 22, 2009 at 10:22 am

Suza, is this your story or did you post this for the man who was threatened with a knife and the threat of violence? I’m wondering why the man said “I’ll cut your nuts off” to a woman.


mt July 22, 2009 at 10:34 am

kia ora, Suza,
let us build a dialog, arnd rebuild our Sacred Valley consciousness,
to end this need for ill-people walking the streets, permitted to
solicit, permitted to threaten with knives, permitted to drink
and drug and sell and frighten and abuse.
now is the time to come together, ‘of’ coming together.
arohanui, enfolding love,


Kit Stolz July 22, 2009 at 10:42 am

I can’t comment on what happened on July 4th because I wasn’t there, but I can comment on Sgt. Joe Evans, because I’ve seen him in action before during community conflicts.
You will not find a calmer, more rational, more understanding city official, police or otherwise, anywhere.
Ojai is fortunate to have him on the beat.


judy k July 22, 2009 at 10:42 am

err…sorry, I failed to thoroughly read the headline.


judy k July 22, 2009 at 11:00 am

I really hope the man brandishing the knife while making violent threats is arrested, tried, and convicted. It’s a FELONY OFFENSE! Please if anyone witnessed the incident, please contact the police and file your witness.
Thank you, Thomas, for your rational account of the incident. I fully support a “naked bike ride”–especially in this heat! However, it should take place at night (cooler), not crashing anyone else’s planned event, and cover-ups handy. ‘Nuff said.


Suza July 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

Kit, I totally agree with your comment about Sgt. Joe Evans.
Ojai is most fortunate to have him.
I happened to be watching the 4th of July parade with a group of friends and neighbors at the corner of North Ventura and Ojai Avenue. When the parade was over, my friends and I began walking down Ojai Avenue toward Blanche Street.
From about a block away we saw a man on a bicycle, who I later found out was Thomas Sherk.
A few moments later we saw him get off his bicycle. While talking to the policeman (who I later found out was Sgt. Evans) we saw the man put on his shorts.
There were people walking ahead of me so at this point I was still observing the scene from a short distance and could not see everything that transpired.
As a longtime Ojai resident, former elected official/mayor and a writer/human being, I’m interested to see how the police interact with the various members of our diverse community.
As I stood quietly nearby I was very impressed by how courteous and respectful Sgt. Evans and Thomas were to each other. I observed the facial expressions and body language of these two human beings, for several minutes, very closely.
Some of my friends and neighbors also stayed nearby and were impressed with the way that the older man (Sgt. Evans) and young man (Thomas) were interacting with each other.
(This all took place in the middle of Ojai Avenue, in the area of the Star Market parking lot. It must have been just before they opened the street to traffic as Sgt. Joe’s police car was parked in the center of the street.
A little later I spoke with Thomas on the sidewalk by the Star Market parking lot, while a deputy was writing up the ticket for (as I understand it) “entering the parade.”
It was then that I found out that Thomas had been threatened with a knife.
He told me that he was not upset about being stopped by the police but that he was shook up that someone in the crowd brandished a knife and threatened to cut off his private parts.
I was with two male friends when Thomas told me this (still while the deputy was writing the ticket) and we could not understand why the man with the knife had not been arrested. (From what I understand the man was released because at the time no one pressed charges but this I’m not sure about.)
I had not spoken with Thomas since he was ticketed on July 4th. But those of us who met him that day have been wondering if an investigation was underway.
A few days ago I received an e-mail from Sgt. Evans
regarding the July 4th knife brandishing incident. He asked me to contact him if I knew the names of any witnesses.
I called Thomas to let him know that Sgt. Evans had contacted me. Thomas conveyed how very helpful Sgt. Evans has been. He also mentioned that a friend had helped him type up a Letter about the incident, and that Sgt. Evans said it would be OK to distribute a Letter explaining in his (Thomas’) own words, what happened.


Miss Jane July 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm

When, oh when are the Ventura County Sheriffs-excuse me-Ojai police, going to behave like a real law enforcement agency instead of the peevish, bullying, dilettantes that they constantly prove themselves to be?
It’s not an either/or situation. A man drew a knife and threatened people’s lives with it. You saw it, obviously, because he was in YOUR handcuffs.
Arrest him. Press your own charges, OPD! The law isn’t a negotiable item; it’s the law. I’d love to see the Department of Justice come through Ojai and audit the supposed “police department,’ and their flagrant dereliction of duty.
And what’s up with the author’s characterization of the perpetrator being a “patriot?” Huh? There’s nothing patriotic about wielding a knife. That’s a bizarre analogy!
Finally, stop making excuses for wanting to ride in a nearly naked contingent. So what? Have the courage of your convictions, without all the hyperbole, and just do it!


DK July 22, 2009 at 1:18 pm

what an amazing concept, law enforcement officers who diffuse escalating situations by their demeanor rather than escalating them. That alone is grand to hear!
I don’t know the law, I’ll be interested to hear how it plays out. I do like that from the sounds of it, other than the initial confrontation everyone was amiable.
Thomas, did the man later speak with you and apologize? don’t I remember something about that in one of the other reports?


Tyler July 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm

My reference to a “knife-wielding patriot” in my Facebook announcement was tongue-in-cheek, Miss Jane.


Miss Jane July 22, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Tongue-in-cheek innuendo is a bit subtle when parlayed on the Internet, Ty. :)
Look! It’s a smiley!


Tyler July 22, 2009 at 3:47 pm

I agree – sorry for any confusion!


LS July 23, 2009 at 9:27 am

Knife incident aside (and I hope you do take the time to press charges), perhaps a visit to a nudist beach/camp would have been a more fitting (and appropriate) tribute on the 4th of July?


Suza July 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm

The man brandishing the knife was cited on July 22.


Paul July 25, 2009 at 1:45 am

I don’t understand why people fear nudity so much. Kids shouldn’t be raised to fear the human body, they should be raised to respect it. The more parents try to hide the human body from their kids, the more likely that kid will have issues.
I can’t believe a guy pulled knife on you for being nude, does he wear a blindfold in the shower? Naked bike rides are awesome and come to Portland for our naked bike ride wear we are thousands strong.


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