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Driver Who Attacked Cyclist In Orange County To Face Murder Charges

A viewpoint from Pacific Coast Highway shows a bridge with the words Dana Point on it crossing over the road.
A 58-year-old bicyclist who was riding along PCH was hit by a car and attacked by the driver Wednesday afternoon and died from his injuries. The attack took place near Crown Valley Parkway and Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point.
Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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A man who allegedly killed a bicyclist after hitting him with his car before jumping out and stabbing him is now facing murder charges.

On Friday, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer charged Vanroy Evan Smith, 39, of Long Beach, with one felony count of murder and one felony enhancement for the personal use of a knife. If Smith is convicted on all charges, he could face up to 26 years to life in prison.

Smith was detained by bystanders and arrested on Wednesday shortly after the incident occurred in Dana Point. He has pleaded not guilty and continues to be held at the Orange County Jail in Santa Ana, where his bail is set at $1 million.

He’s scheduled to be back in court on Feb. 14 for a pretrial hearing.

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“The murder of a complete stranger in broad daylight for what appears to be absolutely no reason is the stuff of nightmares,” Spitzer said in the press release.

Details Of The Assault

Michael John Mammone, 58, was riding his bicycle north along Pacific Coast Highway at about 3 p.m. Wednesday when he was struck from behind by the car at the intersection of Crown Valley Parkway, according to details released by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

"The suspect in the vehicle got out of his car and continued to assault the cyclist," said Sgt. Mike Woodruff.

A man with light-tone skin with a square jaw and dimples has short brown hiar and wears a suit with a pin-striped shirt and diagonal striped tie.
Michael John Mammone, 58, was struck by a car and then stabbed while cycling in Dana Point this week. He was an emergency room doctor.
(Courtesy Providence Mission Hospital)

When deputies arrived at the scene, they found Mammone "lying in the intersection suffering from severe injuries.''

Mammone, who was an emergency room doctor, was taken to a hospital where he died.

A statement issued by Providence Mission Hospital, where he was affiliated, said:

“We are stunned by this devastating tragedy. The entire Mission Hospital family is grieving over the loss of an incredible physician and friend. We will honor Dr. Mammone’s dedication to our community and passion for medicine by continuing to provide exceptional care.”

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Authorities Are Asking For The Public's Help

The knife believed to be used in the assault was recovered at the scene. Police said there is no known connection between Mammone and Smith. Investigators are still looking into what led to the incident.

Orange County authorities are asking anyone with information about the case to contact the sheriff's department at 714-288-6740, or Orange County Crime Stoppers, which allows you to report anonymously, at 855-TIP-OCCS.

A Distressed SoCal Cycling Community

The SoCal cycling community has been badly shaken by the surveillance video that captured the moment the white Lexus plowed through the bike lane in Dana Point and sent Mammone flying through the air across the intersection.

"It hits us hard when it happens to one of us because we can put ourselves in that situation," said Barrett Brauer, who heads the R5Ciclismo cycling club. He said most avid cyclists have either been hit by a car or know someone who has.

It hits us hard when it happens to one of us because we can put ourselves in that situation.
— Barrett Brauer, cyclist

Brauer said he had ridden through the intersection where Mammone was killed hundreds, even thousands of times.

"You take it on blind faith that, 'I won't be in the lane in that exact moment that a driver is going to plow into me,'" he said.

Abbie Johnson, a cyclist from Huntington Beach, said she used to train three times a week on the PCH but gave it up after a conflict with a driver in 2020 that shook her. She said she had made a legal turn onto the PCH when a driver pulled up next to her at a stoplight and began yelling, "Do you wanna get f-ing killed?"

"As a female riding by myself, that scares me," she said. Johnson now only trains indoors or on bike paths.

Troy Weese said his cruiser bike group is planning a ride on the PCH this weekend on the same stretch where Mammone was killed. Weese, who lives in Riverside, said it is not normally a dangerous intersection.

Still, he said he normally rides in groups.

"If not, people will buzz by you going 50 miles per hour. It's almost like they do it on purpose," he said.

Weese had his own road rage incident last year in Riverside, he said. He and a group were riding at dusk when a car tried twice to run them down. He called the police, but before authorities caught the driver, the car hit a vehicle, killing one of the passengers.

Despite the scare — and his outrage at Mammone's brutal killing — Weese said he won't stop biking.

"I have hope in humanity," he said.

What Can Be Done About Violent Car-Bike Interactions?

Brauer said there is "perpetual conflict between motorists and cyclists" given the realities of traffic rules and roadway design, which demand that cars weighing several thousand pounds share the road with cyclists on delicate frames wearing only plastic helmets for protection.

He said recent California laws, including one passed in 2022 that requires drivers to change lanes, if feasible, when passing a cyclist, are only helpful if people know about them. A previous law requires drivers to give cyclists at least a 3-foot margin when passing.

"Unless there's a pretty broad effort to teach or train people on what that law is, people aren't aware of it," he said. Authorities also have to enforce those laws.

Johnson said many of her cycling friends had begun to mount front and rear cameras on their bikes to have evidence in case of a collision.

Brauer also noted some riders are using new technology that warns cyclists of an approaching vehicle and will alert an emergency contact if they crash.

As for road rage, Johnson and Brauer said it might be less common if everyone recognized streets as shared community space and had empathy for others using that space. Johnson admitted that before becoming a cyclist, she used to sometimes get frustrated if she got stuck behind a bike on the road.

Now I look at that cyclist as someone's dad, someone's mom, someone's daughter, son, someone's friend.
— Abbie Johnson, Huntington Beach cyclist

"Now I look at that cyclist as someone's dad, someone's mom, someone's daughter, son, someone's friend," she said.

Brauer said: "We just want to ride and be safe and we understand that when we go out there, we're extremely vulnerable."

Road Rage Incidents

Although the motive for this assault remains under investigation, road rage incidents between drivers and bicyclists have been an issue in Southern California.

In 2010, Christopher Thompson, who was an emergency room doctor, was sentenced to five years in prison for intentionally causing the crash of two cyclists on Mandeville Canyon Road. Both cyclists were seriously injured. Thompson had a history of clashes with cyclists.

At the time, safety advocates called the incident a wake-up call for Los Angeles to improve conditions for cyclists trying to share the road with vehicles.

But road safety continues to be a major issue, with pedestrian and bicyclist deaths reaching highs in both 2021 and 2022 in L.A.

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Updated February 3, 2023 at 4:41 PM PST
This story was updated with comments from cyclists.
Updated February 3, 2023 at 1:14 PM PST
Additional details about charges have been added to this report.
Updated February 3, 2023 at 8:13 AM PST
Additional details about traffic collision deaths and road rage incidents have been added to this report.
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