Police shut down illegal ‘sideshow’ car rally on Santa Rosa streets
An organized, illegal car rally, including “sideshow” stunts and street racing came to Santa Rosa late Saturday, involving about 100 cars and a few hundred people, resulting in three arrests, one pursuit and four dozen traffic citations but no injuries, Santa Rosa police reported Sunday.
The gathering started about 11 p.m., and for the next four hours, multiple caravans of dozens of drivers moved from intersection to parking lot, predominantly in Roseland and the southwest area of Santa Rosa, but also heading into the east side of town, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Ryan Hepp said Sunday.
“It was a very fluid event throughout with vehicles doing sideshows and doughnuts in a lot of different parking lots and intersections,” Hepp said. “Our job was trying to prevent them from getting settled into a space with a larger group.”
Social media notices about the event had given Santa Rosa police a heads-up that drivers were looking to set up Saturday in Santa Rosa. Extra officers were on duty and about 20 Santa Rosa and CHP officers worked together for four hours to flush the drivers out.
One erratic driver identified by police was spotted on Highway 12 in east Santa Rosa and pursued by a CHP officer at speeds exceeding 100 mph, said CHP Sgt. Kevin Craig. Officers and a CHP helicopter followed the driver for 34 miles until he pulled his 2006 Mazda sedan over in Marin County and surrendered. David Alvarez, 32, of San Mateo was arrested for suspicion of felony evading and violating his probation out of Alameda County.
Officers also arrested 19-year-old Sergio Vargas, of Santa Rosa on suspicion of speeding and violating his probation. Eighteen-year-old Augustus Buschman, of Santa Rosa was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and reckless driving, Hepp said.
It’s not the first sideshow to come to Santa Rosa, but it apparently was the largest, Hepp said.
Such events are more common in the Bay Area, including San Jose, where officers have faced as many as 500 vehicles and violence including in October when one police officer was hit by a fleeing car. The events typically involve reckless driving, high speed races, tire screeching and drivers “burning out,” Hepp said. Large groups of spectators often crowd around the action, increasing the risk of injury.
The Santa Rosa group attempted to move together but at times splintered to different locations. Officers were able to clear out most of the gatherings before the illegal group staked out intersections, but the group was successful in at least two areas.
Before police could stop them they blocked Stony Point Road at Northpoint Parkway, stopping all traffic and creating a barrier of cars and bystanders around the intersection that forced police to the outskirts, said Lt. Ryan Corcoran, who also worked the event. From outside the area officers could hear squealing tires and see smoke rise over the intersection. As that show ended and cars took off for another spot leaving behind circles of black tire marks on the roadway, officers swooped in and pulled over as many people as possible, handing out citations.
But much of the group had gone to Sebastopol Road where many drivers and spectators took up spots at a parking lot of the Dollar Tree and watched as racers, and drivers pulling auto stunts, headed up and down the city street.
Officers in Santa Rosa faced no violence during the Saturday night-Sunday morning rally, Hepp said. But reports of 30 to 40 cars in a row moving on Highway 101, Highway 12 and throughout the city kept officers on the move. On the highways, drivers were speeding and cutting in and out of traffic.
Officers gave out 49 traffic citations for violations including running red lights and reckless driving, and had three vehicle towed. Most of the tickets written by Santa Rosa officers were for Santa Rosa drivers, an indication that at least a part of the group was local.
For all the citations given, hundreds more could have been, Corcoran said. “We were effective with the resources we had.”
The vehicles left the city after 3 a.m.
“We had a pretty decent saturation of officers. Enforcement was really high on our end. We’re hoping that presence helped reduce the activity here,” Hepp said.
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