CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids man is questioning safety on area trails after someone assaulted him the morning of August 31st. C.J. Ong, Jr., said it happened around 10 a.m., shortly after leaving a the Cedar River Trail near the intersection of Center Point Road and 29th Street NE. He found himself suddenly and unexpectedly under attack.
“He came down off the hill, and hit me in the face, and told me he wanted to steal my bike,” said Ong, Jr., who said the punch knocked a few teeth loose.
Ong, Jr. turned and pedalled after his attacker for several blocks, eventually losing him after he got into a car. Ong, Jr. thinks the man knew this as a well-traveled area for cyclists, and was lying in wait.
“I think this guy was just coming along and saw an opportune moment to get a free bicycle,” he told us. Ong, Jr. said if something like this can happen in broad daylight near the trail, it makes him wonder about safety on the trail, too.
“It’s curious, as I’ve shared my story on Facebook, there’s been a lot of friends who are runners — females — that are really worried about what they can do to stay safe doing something they should be able to do enjoyably.”
Officer Shannon Stokesberry said police patrol these areas often, on two, sometimes three wheels.
“Sometimes we have police volunteers that go out on the T3’s on the trails as well, just to see what’s going on out there and make sure everyone’s being safe,” Stokesberry explained. The “T3” Stokesberry referred to is a three-wheeled vehicle similar to a Segway scooter.
Stokesberry’s advice: park in well-lit areas at trailheads, and run or bike with a buddy, if possible. If you’re by yourself, resist the urge to wear headphones.
“We want them to be able to hear what’s going on, hear who’s coming up behind them,” Stokesberry said.
Overall, she said the trails in and around Cedar Rapids are safe, but for those extra-cautious users, she advises against carrying weapons or mace for protection.
“If you have it, it could also be taken away from you and used against you,” Stokesberry warned. “Really the best thing to do is always be aware of your surroundings.”
Ong, Jr. and Cedar Rapids police described the suspect as a black male, weighing approximately 225 pounds and wearing a long-sleeved yellow T-shirt and camouflage shorts.
The case is under investigation.