In the spring of 2019, Central Florida law enforcement authorities were concerned with a pack of loosely organized masked bikers, many riding unlicensed off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles on public roads, popping wheelies and performing other stunts.
Most riders were from outside Orlando, lured from Tampa and Miami by social media, which promoted the biker meet-up as “Orlando Takeover 2019” and encouraged riders to post videos of their daredevil tricks on Facebook and Instagram, Orange County sheriff’s deputies said at the time.
Jasmine Oyola, then five months pregnant, and her boyfriend Ricky Booker had heard the buzzing throng of motorbikes in their south Orange County neighborhood and had scanned warning posts of the group’s antics on message boards but the couple wasn’t prepared for a run-in with them.
Oyola and Booker were headed to the outlet malls to shop the afternoon of March 24, 2019, a Sunday. She was driving.
A police report said Oyola was turning left from South Orange onto Holden Avenue ahead of one rumbling entourage of motorbikes when a trailing rider on a dirt bike popped a wheelie then tried to pass Oyola on the driver’s side. The dirt bike crashed into the car and the rider flew onto the windshield.
Oyola stopped her car to see if the rider was hurt. Booker was the front-seat passenger.
The rider rolled off the car, picked up the bike and sped off but Oyola and Booker suddenly found themselves surrounded by seething riders.
Police said the riders attacked Oyola, 32, and Booker, 33.
“It all happened so fast,” Oyola said last week. “We’re just happy to be alive and the baby’s OK.”
The couple agreed to discuss the incident after the only person charged in the assault, James McCoy, 33, of Miami, pleaded no contest to aggravated battery of a pregnant person, a second-degree felony, and was sentenced in July. A second count of battery was dismissed by prosecutors.
The case dragged out partly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed some court proceedings.
McCoy could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison and state sentencing guidelines called for a minimum prison term of 33 months, according to court records, but Circuit Judge Chad Alvaro accepted a plea-bargained agreement of two years of probation and $4,500 in restitution.
In court records, the judge noted the need for restitution outweighed the need for incarceration for McCoy, who had two prior convictions for fleeing and eluding police and three counts of resisting an officer without violence, all in Miami-Dade. Court documents show McCoy also was kicked out of “Families Against Abuse,” a batterer’s intervention program in February because program officials alleged he was “abusive to staff members.”
Restitution paid for damage to Oyola’s Honda and Booker’s ambulance ride to the emergency room at Orlando Regional Medical Center.
South Florida defense lawyer Frank Gil said McCoy didn’t deserve prison or a jail sentence.
“There were a lot of people involved,” Gil said. “I can tell you right now James didn’t know she was pregnant. He’s not that kind of guy.”
Gil said McCoy was arrested primarily because he was not wearing a face-covering like most other riders in the scrum.
After they were treated at the hospital for bruises and other injuries, Oyola and Booker picked McCoy’s picture from different photo arrays.
The incident involving the motorized gathering sparked outrage on social media from residents angry about the recklessness which led Orange County Sheriff John Mina to quickly assemble an enforcement detail, which included deputies in a helicopter to stop the group’s lawless riding.
A citizen-led petition signed on change.org by more than 1,800 people called on deputies to stop the “intimidating & lawless bikers.”
“This is a tinder box that is smoking,” the petition read. “Some residents have already stated how these lawless people need to be ‘taken out,’ etc. It’s a matter of time before an innocent person or a member of one of these groups is injured or killed.”
Neither ATVs nor dirt bikes, lightweight motorcycles intended for riding on off-road trails, are street-legal vehicles.
In his press briefing, Mina appealed to residents not to take matters into their own hands.
A Florida Highway Patrol spokesperson offered additional advice: “If you can, get out of their way.”
While many riders performed stunts for videos later posted on Instagram, some footage helped investigators identify McCoy.
Police found clips of the assault, some showing McCoy throwing haymakers and Oyola fighting back.
Booker, who had hopped out of the car to defend his pregnant girlfriend, was pummeled with punches. Some riders swung helmets at him.
“It should be noted there were several people watching, filming and cheering on the attack,” an Edgewood police report said.
Riders scattered in all directions when police began arriving with blaring sirens.
The sheriff’s helicopter shot videos of ATVs and dirt bikes zooming around highways, toll roads and the Florida’s Turnpike.
Oyola said memories of the assault trouble her when she is driving.
“I think I’m OK,” she said. “But sometimes, when I’m on the road and making a turn, I get really nervous, especially if there are bikers around.”
But she said she and Booker are happy with their family life, which include three kids, daughter Jazeliah, 8, and son Kayson, born in Sept. 2020.
The baby girl who survived the battery of her mom is named Harley ― like the motorcycle.