Watts Bike Clubs Mark 7th Anniversary of Hit-and-Run that Killed Benjamín Torres

Family members of Benjamín Torres and their supporters gather at the spot where Torres was killed in a hit-and-run in Gardena in 2012. His widow, María, stands at far right. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Family members of Benjamín Torres and their supporters gather at the spot where Torres was killed in a hit-and-run in Gardena in 2012. His widow, María, stands at far right. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

This weekend, the family of Benjamín Torres – who was killed in a hit-and-run on October 10, 2012 – and their supporters gathered in Gardena in a bid to keep his memory alive.

Torres had been biking along 135th St. on his way to Brek Manufacturing in Gardena, where he had worked for six years, when he was killed. He began work early, and was usually on the road by 4:15 a.m. His family had always worried about him being out on the road in the dark, but he did not like the idea of having to pay for gas money just to go to work.

Members and supporters of Los Ryderz and the East Side Riders Bike Clubs make a pit stop in front of Torres' workplace - the destination he never reached that fateful morning. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
Family members and riders from Los Ryderz, the East Side Riders, Los Bandoleros, and Major Motion bike clubs make a pit stop in front of Torres’ workplace – the destination he never reached that fateful morning. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The driver of a maroon SUV struck Torres from behind some time between 4:30 and 5 a.m., leaving him with severe head trauma (despite his helmet) and strewing debris up and down the street. When Torres was later found lying in the road by a worker at a nearby business, he had already passed.

Seven years on, no more is known about what happened that morning than was known then. All his wife of 17 years, María, knows is that the collision must have left the vehicle with a severely damaged front end and that the driver preferred to cover that up rather than turn themselves in.

The next generation of riders learns they have the right to the streets. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The next generation of riders learns their safety is not guaranteed. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The incident happened at a moment in time when hit-and-runs in the L.A.-area received very little media coverage, leaving the family unsure of how to get any momentum behind the investigation.

They probably wouldn’t have gotten their story out if another rider, Biz, hadn’t come upon the ghost bike placed for Torres and met Torres’ family, who were coming to the site to re-light memorial candles. Biz – who had just participated in the Black & Brown Unity Ride with the East Side Riders Bike Club (ESRBC), Ovarian Psycos, and Black Kids on Bikes – immediately reached out to ESRBC president John Jones III for help getting the word out and setting up a memorial ride.

Carlos Molina of (far right) helps lead the riders through
Carlos Molina of Los Bandoleros BC (far right) helps lead the riders through Gardena. Behind him is Javier “JayPee” Partida, who was recently featured in a story about the custom bike frames he designs. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

The first event, held a month after Torres’ death, was the beginning of a movement for safety and justice.

Both Jones and Javier “JayPee” Partida (president and founder of Los Ryderz) vowed to hold regular rides in Torres’ honor until justice was served.

Though they no longer can conduct monthly events, anniversary rides offer an opportunity to support Torres’ family, raise the visibility of cyclists in the area, and remind Gardena police – who profiled and ticketed the bike clubs during one memorable incident in 2013 – that cyclists have a right to safe passage in the streets.

The ride participants gather in front of the Gardena police station after a helicopter that had been circling overhead finally moved on. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.
The ride participants gather in front of the Gardena police station after a helicopter that had been circling overhead as they rested on the lawn finally moved on. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog L.A.

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