published Friday, January 17th, 2014

Cook: The bike ride that won't end

Anders Swanson read the Chattanooga police incident report on Thursday afternoon.

"They admitted it," he said.

Swanson, 30, is a leader in the Chattanooga cycling community. Saturday, he was riding the 6-3/4 mile reservoir loop on TVA's Raccoon Mountain when he was approached by teenagers from the nearby Lookout Valley community.

First, they came in an older model black Chevy, blowing an air horn at Swanson.

"They thought it would be funny," the report states.

The teens and Swanson exchanged words at a stop sign; Swanson, who recorded the encounter on his cell- phone, had just called security.

The teenagers drove off, swapped out the black Chevy for a white 4Runner, and returned to the reservoir, finding Swanson at the parking lot as he was unloading his bike.

They pepper-sprayed him in the face.

"Aggravated assault," the police report reads.

Yet the most crucial part of the report comes on the last page, when Chattanooga police officer Amanda Morgan describes what happened on Sunday afternoon -- five days ago -- when she visited the home of the first teenage suspect.

With his parents in the room, he confessed.

"They saw Mr. Swanson again and approached him. They exchanged words. [Name redacted] then sprayed Mr. Swanson in the face with Mace," the report states.

Morgan then went a few doors down to the home of the second suspect. Both parents were there. He confessed, too.

"[Name redacted] pulled out a can of Mace and sprayed Mr. Swanson in the face," the report reads.

So why haven't the two teenagers been charged and arrested?

That is the question that thousands and thousands of cyclists are wondering, as Swanson's story continues to spread across the bike community in America. Cyclists are angry not only at the pepper-spray violence, but over the fact that the two teenagers have yet -- as of Thursday evening -- to be charged with any crime.

The report's second-to-last line may explain why.

"Further investigation revealed that all actions related to this incident occurred within Marion County," Morgan wrote.

It was an issue of jurisdiction: the assault occurred in Marion County, not Chattanooga. Officer Morgan couldn't arrest anyone.

"There's two sides and it's still under investigation," Marion County Detective Gene Hargis said earlier this week.

Hargis met with the teens on Monday at the Marion County Sheriff's Office, where they told him a very different story from what they'd told the officer from Chattanooga on Sunday. This time, Swanson was the aggressor.

"They said they were scared," Hargis said.

That Swanson had intimidated them. That Swanson had leaned in the window. That Swanson had scared them so badly, they pepper-sprayed him.

So hours later, when Swanson arrives to press charges, he learns something that hits him worse than the Mace: that the teens' parents may want to take out a warrant for his arrest.

"I've got to remain impartial and figure out what happened," Hargis said.

That was Tuesday. Hargis, who did not return calls Thursday, believed his investigation should be done by today. He said he'd not seen the Chattanooga police report.

When he does, he'll see that there is not one single sentence in the police report about the teens feeling threatened, intimidated or vulnerable.

They admit to blowing an air horn at Swanson. They admit to leaving, picking up friends, swapping cars and returning to Raccoon Mountain, one of the teens telling the officer that "they went back up to the same area to talk with Mr. Swanson."

About what? Spandex?

Even the parents seem contrite and apologetic, not defensive. And now they may press charges? There's no hint of that anywhere in this report.

"... parents advised he is normally a good child and does not get into trouble," it reads. "They are not certain what caused this behavior."

That's a good question.

But it was not Anders Swanson.

Contact David Cook at or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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Hunter_Bluff said...

Pepper spray isn't a prank. It's assault. Who has jurisdiction is determined by location of crime so Marion County cops or sheriff's department need to quickly sort this out and bring charges. I know Raccoon Mtn; while 15 minutes from downtown it's remote in terms of population or attendance making it a place for mischief or worse if cretins think they can get away with assault or worse.

January 17, 2014 at 8:34 a.m.
moon4kat said...

One doesn't have to be a cyclist to be angry over the behavior of the teens, AND their irresponsible parents.

January 17, 2014 at 9:22 a.m.
moon4kat said...

And, why hadn't Det. Hargis even managed to read the Chattanooga police report before meeting with the teens? Incompetence?

January 17, 2014 at 9:31 a.m.
grandmastaj said...

No moon4kat, they just do pretty shoddy policework unless it involves clearing one of their precious football teams.

January 17, 2014 at 9:48 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

Doesn't this pattern of conduct fit in well with the Marion County coaches who trashed their own field house? These precious little redneck thugs are merely imitating their role models and their parents are enablers.

January 17, 2014 at 10:19 a.m.
Walden said...

Can we carve Marion Co. out of TN and send it to Alabama?

January 17, 2014 at 10:51 a.m.
AgentX said...

Being a transplant into Marion Co. from Chattanooga, this does not surprise me. I've had issues with officials in the county circumventing issues I inquire about because of the small town, everybody knows everybody, you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, mentality. The county attorney shut me out, after he said he knew the individual I was inquiring about. So to hear that this is happening with the higher ranking officials in law enforcement does not shock me at all. They would probably prefer to sweep it under the rug, but hopefully public pressure will help drive this in the right direction.

January 17, 2014 at 2:31 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

The biker in the incident says he posted his cell phone video of the event on Facebook and is now being told by the Marion County cops that he has committed a felony by doing so but if he removes the video, there won't be be charges against him. Somebody important is protecting these kids and there must be reason. Otherwise, they should be busting large rocks with heavy hammers in the sun until they learn their lesson. Don't let sleazy behavior out of Marion County smear Chattanooga. Act!

January 18, 2014 at 9:56 p.m.
jackiemayak said...

Coach Swanson is my daughter's rowing coach. He is the GREATEST coach and person. Unfortunately, I live in Marion County and have first hand experience of the lethargic Sherrriff's department and DA's office. Nobody wants to do anything regarding work. I filled out a police report and the detective never even called me back. After I persisted With the DA's office...still nothing was done. It's PATHETIC! GO COACH SWANSON!!

January 19, 2014 at 10:08 p.m.
Mike_from_Oz said...

I live in Australia and unfortunately we get the same type of harassment from redneck idiots who think its fun to harass cyclists. I had an incident where a guy tried to run me over and I had 4 witnesses, it eventually went to court with 4 fairly decent charges against him but the guy had a good lawyer who muddied the waters, eventually he got done for driving without due care and attention, it was a joke. Now I ride with a small helmet cam that records everything (the camera doesn't lie) and carry pepper spray which is probably illegal but I figure I will take my chances with our inept justice system rather than risk losing a few teeth and spending time in hospital should I get attacked again. Until the police everywhere take this sort of harassment seriously we are going to have to run the gauntlet of these idiots who think its fun to side swipe, throw things or harass us.

January 30, 2014 at 7:24 p.m.
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