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?