Bay Area sideshow mayhem leaves spectator injured, police cruiser damaged

A series of sideshows wreaked havoc around the Bay Area over the weekend.

One sideshow blocked the Bay Bridge, another left a bystander injured, and a third caused damage to a police cruiser. Much of the mayhem occurred on the Peninsula in towns that rarely see sideshows.

Officers in those areas are concerned that sideshows are migrating from cities where sideshow crackdowns have been promised and implemented to towns that have not yet.

In Menlo Park on Saturday, a lone police officer watched it all unfold as tires screeched and a large crowd gathered.

"As soon as the officer got there, people started to surround the officer's vehicle, blind him with laser pointers, and started to hit and kick his patrol car, causing a window to break," said Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Norris.

Fortunately, the officer was unharmed. However, as the sideshow moved down the Peninsula to Palo Alto and then Mountain View, a bystander was not as fortunate.

A 20-year-old sustained a broken ankle after she was struck by a spinning car.

"These types of activities are incredibly dangerous, not just to responding officers, but to the entire public at large and to the participants who are involved in them," said Norris.

That is why a massive crackdown is underway. Cities like San Jose have implemented a specialized sideshow protocol involving air support, 100 officers, and an ordinance permitting citations for bystanders.


Antioch installs electric gate to curb sideshows

City leaders say they're cracking down on sideshows after multiple incidents of illegal street activity over the weekend in Antioch, Oakland and unincorporated Contra Costa County.

In San Joaquin County, a zero-tolerance approach was adopted. Authorities have opted to impound cars as evidence, holding them indefinitely.

"I wouldn't waste your time coming out here or calling about your car because it's gonna sit until a judge or DA tells us to let it go," said Patrick Withrow, the San Joaquin County Sheriff.

Authorities are monitoring the effects of these measures closely.

"I think that action will absolutely move that sideshow to a different location," said Norris, who worries that they may gravitate toward areas like Menlo Park, where such events are rare.

"Once we know that it's happening here, we're going to let surrounding agencies know. That activity tends to move from place to place as it did on Saturday night," said Norris.

The weekend sideshow activity eventually shifted to Oakland and then to the Bay Bridge, where it blocked traffic.

The California Highway Patrol detained four people.

Nevertheless, Menlo Park authorities said that the police department's investigation is ongoing.

"I don't think they believe they're off the hook. I think most of the people who are engaging in this type of activity, they know how dangerous it is. They try to take measures to make themselves anonymous. And we take measures to try to identify as many of these folks as we can," said Norris.

He noted that license plate readers and video footage are valuable tools for identifying those responsible, potentially leading to further arrests.