There is only so much a newspaper can do, and when it comes to the odd story of the Lexington, S.C., cyclist who claims he was assaulted on the Stevens Creek Trail in Modoc, S.C., the Metro Spirit has already done a lot.
The allegations were so bizarre and the different versions of the story so contradictory that the Spirit devoted last week’s cover to it, along with a publisher’s letter.
That’s a lot of attention, but the claims of camouflaged attackers preying on innocent cyclists were potentially devastating to the bike community and, by extension, the robust section of the local economy that supports it.
The first story of the attack came in the form of a post on the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA-CSRA) website, allegedly by the man’s wife. She reported that her husband was riding back to his car at approximately 9 p.m. when three men in full camouflage stretched a rope across the trail. The rope knocked her husband off his bike and when he regained consciousness, one of the men was slamming his head against the dirt. The man on top of him “then attempted a sexual assault,” she reported, saying her husband managed to fight them off and run away, but not before they fired a shot at him.
“The deputies are investigating it now, and have added an extra ranger to patrol the trails but please please please be careful if you must go out there…” she wrote.
In the incident report filed with the McCormick County Sheriff’s Office, the man reported that when he was finally able to open his eyes after being clotheslined, one man was attempting to take his shorts off to sexually assault him while the other two were “waiting their turn.” The alleged victim elbowed the man on top of him and fled. According to the report, the alleged victim was fired upon and fired back with his .40 Glock.
The next day, law enforcement officials were only able to find one shell casing.
Initially, the brutality of the alleged attack drew a multitude of outraged comments on the SORBA site and throughout social media, but soon that outrage turned into skepticism. After the Metro Spirit’s coverage highlighted serious inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s stories, the man chose to defend himself in the metrospirit.com comment section, giving a far more detailed version of the story than the ones he gave his wife and law enforcement, one that raises still more questions.
We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the poster is the alleged victim because he accurately described the Metro Spirit reporter that came to his door on Tuesday, July 29.
In two posts — one to the cover story and one to the publisher’s letter — the alleged victim, the man who ran through the woods and was apparently so traumatized by the events that he requested that his wife pick him up, brags about his size (6’3″, 200 pounds) and states unequivocally that if we think that he, an ex-military police officer, can’t handle a group of drunk, out of shape rednecks, we’ve got our heads deeply planted in a very dark place.
The thing is, according to his incident report, not only did he not handle them, he ran away from them and at some point urinated on himself, which is understandable behavior for an Everyman, but not for the self-sufficient, ex-military man he describes himself as.
“I am not what anyone should consider an easy target,” he wrote. “I smelled alcohol on the attacker on my back so obviously they had impaired judgment and did not know who they were $&@;$&@ with! In my panic, I forgot my glock was in my backpack.”
A trained military policeman forgetting he’s armed in the middle of an ambush? Even if that seems reasonable, how do you explain his different stories regarding firing his weapon once he retrieved it? In the incident report, he simply stated that when one of the men shot at him, he “shot back,” yet in the post in the comment section he said he unloaded a total of nine rounds. After removing the Camelback where he kept his gun, he said he returned “I think five shots,” then squeezed off two more after tripping over a log and ripping off his ear buds, then two more at the trail head in an attempt to attract passing motorists.
Granted, all this could be his ego talking, nothing but reactionary bravado inspired by the white hot spotlight of attention and speculation and outright doubt, but, regardless, how many more inconsistencies will it take for McCormick County officials to give this thing a more detailed look?
Why does it matter? Because as long as his allegations remain unproven, there is some degree of doubt about the safety of those trails, and if that doubt needlessly jeopardizes their reputation, then inaction has won out and we’ve all lost.
The Spirit has done what it can. Now it’s up to law enforcement to decide how many inaccuracies it takes to merit a fresh look.