wreackage from when rolling coal teen hit cyclists (Photo Chase Ferrell)
(Photo/Chase Ferrell)

‘Rolling Coal’ Teen Charged With 6 Felony Counts

Six weeks after harassing and then crashing into a group of cyclists, a Houston teen faces felony charges.

A Texas teen faces six felony counts of aggravated assault for driving into a half-dozen cyclists during a group ride on Sept. 25. The 16-year-old male was “rolling coal” on the riders when he veered into the group with his parents’ F-250 Super Duty pickup truck.

The accident sent six cyclists to the hospital, two of whom were airlifted. Bike Law, the cyclists’ legal firm, reported on Oct. 2 that the victims sustained traumatic brain injuries and spinal injuries, as well as broken collarbones, hands, wrists, and vertebrae.

On Monday, Waller County District Attorney Elton Mathis officially filed charges on the cyclists’ behalf.

“Today, we have filed six felony charges of Aggravated Assault with a deadly weapon against the juvenile in question, one charge for each cyclist that was injured,” Mathis said in a statement. “Earlier today, the juvenile voluntarily surrendered himself and was detained by representatives from the juvenile justice department where he will be held in custody until further orders of the juvenile court.”

More Details Emerge in ‘Rolling Coal’ Assault Case

Damage resulting from the force of impact when Jason and Jennifer Arnold's teenage son was "rolling coal" and hit six cyclists Sept. 25, 2021 (photo/Chase Ferrell)
Damage resulting from the force of impact when Jason and Jennifer Arnold’s teenage son hit six cyclists on Sept. 25, 2021; (photo/Chase Ferrell)

In a Nov. 8 press release, prosecuting attorney Rachael Maney of Bike Law identified the teen as the “son of Waller, TX’s Jason and Jennifer Arnold” and noted the 16-year-old was driving their vehicle.

It’s the first time since the incident that authorities have taken pronounced legal action. The Waller County police department drew nationwide criticism for neither arresting nor citing the teen at the scene, regardless of eyewitness reports condemning his actions. And in the weeks following the incident, it seemed like the justice system might keep him off the hook.

That the police had let the teen leave the scene without so much as a verbal warning raised speculation that the Arnold family had advantageous ties with local officials. The case quickly garnered national attention, driving some Waller County leaders to defend their offices and articulate a course for corrective action.

“He will receive no favorable or unfavorable treatment based upon who his family may or may not be,” Mathis stated.

Maney and her team of prosecutors stepped up to support the D.A. and Special Prosecutor, saying that they “believe that elected Waller County D.A. Elton Mathis and Special Prosecutor Warren Diepraam have done their jobs to deliver what is a real step towards justice given what’s possible and what’s not within the Texas criminal justice system — a system that does not favor people on bikes and generally provides far too much room for police and other prosecutors to endorse the marginalization of cyclists and other vulnerable road users through their historic inaction.”

Legal Hurdles Ahead

The filing of the six felony charges against the Arnold teen is a big step, but sentencing by the juvenile court and an entrenched legal system lies ahead.

“In Texas, criminally charging someone under the age of 17 as an adult requires a process culminating in certification by a County Court at Law judge,” Maney said.

Still, should the case achieve landmark status, it could pave the way for legal improvements within and beyond the state of Texas. Maney maintains that it’s a fight worth waging.

“[A]ccountability is rarely ever instantaneous or swift; it’s more like a pipeline in which arriving at the best possible outcome requires the opening of one valve at a time to allow the passage from one step to the next,” Maney said, adding that the filing can “open this valve in the long process ahead to hold this driver accountable for the crimes with which he’s been charged when he struck 6 humans who simply wanted to ride their bicycles without being terrorized by the driver of an almost 8,000 lb diesel truck.”

For more information about the criminal investigation case and charges filed, see Maney’s detailed report on Bike Law’s website.

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Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing — and life would never be the same. She now works as a contributor, gear tester, and editor for GearJunkie and other outlets within the AllGear family. She is based out of Atlanta, Georgia where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.