Homeless Man Used Bike to Attack Others

By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 3, 2006

A homeless man said yesterday in federal court that he wielded his heavy mountain bike like a weapon to attack as many as 15 other bicyclists last summer on the Mount Vernon Trail, prosecutors said.

David Michael Johnson, 39, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in the bizarre series of assaults July 10 along the popular bike path. Johnson said he was under the influence of drugs when he picked up his bike by the handlebars and seat and swung it horizontally at other riders, knocking at least one man off his bike and into the grass, prosecutors said. Johnson's bike had a heavy metal chain loosely wrapped under the seat.

The attacks unfolded in less than five minutes and continued until panicked witnesses summoned police, who quickly arrived and tried to arrest Johnson. Court documents said he resisted so strongly that officers had to place him in leg shackles and carry him to a police cruiser. None of the cyclists sought medical attention.

Johnson, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to felony assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of illegal narcotics. Bags of marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms were found on Johnson when he was searched after his arrest, court documents said. He faces up to 11 years in prison when he is sentenced Dec. 15.

A lawyer for Johnson did not return phone calls late yesterday afternoon.

As many as 1 million people annually use the Mount Vernon Trail, which runs along an 18.5-mile route through Fairfax County, Arlington County and Alexandria. Concerns about the growing number of bike commuters and excessive speeding have grown so acute that federal parks officials who maintain the trail have been considering installing rumble strips and cautionary signs.

Court documents said that Johnson had been riding his blue mountain bike until he dismounted and began walking. Near Hoffermair Drive in the vicinity of Reagan National Airport, he began swinging the bike at other riders and punching them as they rode past, according to a U.S. Park Police affidavit filed in court. Three victims stayed behind to speak to police and told officers that a total of about 15 riders had been attacked, prosecutors said.

After Johnson was subdued and arrested, he was put in a holding cell, where he began to yell, kick, punch the door and scream obscenities, the Park Police affidavit said.

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