Will I Get Sued For Taking My Bike Back?

Holy cow!

After the Seattle PI picked up the story of my stolen bike, Seattle man steals back stolen bike as well as the Seattle Bike Blog and the Seattle Times, the story got picked up by KIRO radio, not once but twice! Then it got picked up by King 5, Seattle man steals his stolen bike back. Even Good Morning America called! (Without video footage of the retrieval they weren’t interested.)

With the attention came a flood of supportive tweets and Facebook comments. Also with the attention came the offer of a Kitsap deputy sheriff to dig into the case for me. After some digging he got in touch with the guy I took the bike from, David. He learned that David bought the bike from Justin who bought it from a pawn shop. He explained to David that I was within the law to retrieve my bike. However, he indicated that David, distraught about the theft of what he thought was his bike, had called 911 and filed a case against me. That case will likely go nowhere, which explains why I’m hearing that David is trying to put together a civil suit against me.

The next twist in the story is that David’s boss, Garry, posted to the Seattle Bike Blog:

Weird the individual works for me and after this incident, I have seen reciepts for his purchase and the purchase of the upgrades. It is nice to have a blog that does zero fact checks on anything posted.

My response is that I’d love to see the receipts.

In the mid-2000s the Ellsworth Moment was sold as a frame only bike. Meaning that you had to buy both the frame and all the components and then either assemble it yourself, or have it assembled. I bought the 2005 medium sized frame from Gords in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where I grew up. A Gord’s decal is still on the bike. As is the Gord’s embossed stem cap. I then ordered a ton of parts from Jenson USA and Price Point. Once I had everything together I had the bike assembled by Velo Bike Shop. After assembling the bike I blogged about how much I liked it.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what I put on the bike and where it came from:

  • Frame: 2005 Ellsworth Moment (medium) [Gord’s]
  • Fork: Fox [Gord’s]
  • Wheels: XSD [Gord’s]
  • Tire front: Kenda Neval [PricePoint]
  • Tire rear: Racing Ralph [borrowed from Big Tree Bikes]
  • Seatpost: Easton [Gord’s]
  • Seat: SDG [taken off my Rocky Blizzard]
  • Pedals: Shimano SPD [taken off my Rocky Blizzard]
  • Cranks: Raceface Evolve XC [PricePoint]
  • Drivetrain: XT [PricePoint]
  • Grips: Lizard lock-on [JensonUSA]
  • Stem: RaceFace Deus XC [JensonUSA]
  • Bar: Easton EC70 MonkeyLite [JensonUSA]

Here’s some of the receipts:

And if that doesn’t convince you here’s a photo of me on the bike at Whistler:

This wasn’t some generic Trek mountain bike sold by the tens of thousands. This was a custom built mountain bike that truly was one of a kind. The chance that David happened to put together the same bike is zero.

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16 Responses to Will I Get Sued For Taking My Bike Back?

  1. Noelle says:

    Wow. That is rough. But a civil suit, based on the fact that it was a stolen bike for him? I understand that he bought the bike from others, but dude, you have all the proof.

    Good luck!

  2. Kris R says:

    Hopefully the address in the screenshot isn’t still the same address you live at… :)

  3. Mike says:

    In criminal cases, law enforcement decides whether to send a case to the prosecutor’s office, and the prosecutor then decides whether to file criminal charges. An individual victim wouldn’t file the case, though input from a victim might have some affect on what happens, depending on the situation. At first glance, it seems to me that a civil suit would more likely focus on a shop that sold a stolen bike than on an original owner who took back the bike. It’s perfectly understandable that you’d be anxious to get back your bike, and that you’d be frustrated when the cops weren’t very helpful. Still, resorting to “self help” to get back stolen property is risky – the original owner could get hurt, or could unwittingly break the law themselves (for example, by going into someone’s garage unlawfully and taking a bike that had been purchased legally, or getting in a physical altercation with someone who didn’t know the bike had originally been stolen) and end up with legal problems that cost much more than the bike. In the end, anytime someone is faced with having to explain themselves to the cops or a prosecutor, IMO it’s wise to talk to their own attorney first.

  4. Glen B says:

    A better option would have been to just ride it to the closest police station. They can’t be too busy to deal with you if you are sitting in their lobby.

  5. American says:

    Good investigative work…I would have done the same…and the SPD is worthless, BUT they sure like to shoot and kill innocent people. By what you’ve posted on your blog, you sound like you’ve had many adventures. Be safe.

  6. Alex says:

    So this David guy wants to go to court and have it on record that he was trafficing in stolen goods, which is a crime punishable by jail time. Smart move on his part. Would be interesting if the fencing pawn shop could be indentified. If you reported the theft with serial # to the police the shop could get in some hot water. My sister had a break-in several years ago where she learned there’s a master database of stolen items and serial numbers in Washington. Pawn shops are required to check incoming items against the database of stolen goods. If they didn’t do that, they could be in for some trouble.

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  8. Jeff says:

    Funny thing is that he didn’t remember the serial number to report it (as noted from his previous blog) and if you check the stolen bike registry using “brand” there is none listed for Seattle or King County.

  9. Matt Goyer says:

    @Jeff, I deleted the stolen bike registry entry after I recovered the bike. My missing Commencal is still posted. Feel free to email them to confirm.

  10. Brian says:

    I’m not sure where a civil suit would go. Stolen property can’t be “cleansed” by purchase, so the true owner can always legally repossess it. Good luck. I wish I hadn’t let my girlfriend talk me out of setting up a buy to recover her stolen bike when it showed up on Craigslist the next day…

  11. Eric Arrr says:

    Rest easy, man. No lawyer would waste his time suing you when David’s only legal claim is against whoever sold him the bike.

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  13. Drew says:

    Consider the possibility that, although you were entirely within your legal right to take your bike back, doing so was an act of violence, and you’ve only perpetuated the cycle of violence that has society in its grips. And now, the dude that you legally stole the bike from, is perpetuating the cycle of legal violence. On you!

    The only way to stop violence, is to STOP VIOLENCE. Even when it sucks.

  14. Mondoman says:

    I’m pretty sure there are references called “dictionaries” that define words like “violence”. They’re really handy for reducing the chances that you end up totally misusing a word in your blog post.

  15. Bob says:

    If the bike was such a rare/custom build, shouldn’t you be able to contact the manufacturer and get the serial number from the frame they originally shipped to you? Match that up, and you have yourself ammo for the person who sold your stolen bike.

  16. Miss.R says:

    Thanks for share

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