So, based on the accumulated evidence, we can safely say that the man who allegedly blocked the Ninth Avenue bike lane with his 7,000 lb. Ford Excursion, exploded in a fit of rage when cyclist Ray Bengen tried to ride by without getting crushed, and sped off after knocking Ray to the ground (severely bruising his leg and damaging his bike), is this guy:
Here’s how Streetsblog commenters crowd-sourced his identity:
- A commenter identifying himself as a lawyer obtained registration information — name, address, and date of birth — for the license plate pictured in photos of the confrontation. The car is registered to "Dispirito-Gonzalez, L."
- The DMV records matched information available through a reverse address look-up for a Laura DiSpirito, who resides in Flushing.
- Streetsblog commenters quickly found Laura DiSpirito’s Facebook page (a "fan" of celebrity chef and Queens native Rocco DiSpirito!) where they came across photos of a man who resembles the SUV driver who allegedly doored Ray Bengen. Photo captions identify him as Laura’s husband "Gus," leading to speculation that the alleged perpetrator is named "Gus Gonzalez." (As of this afternoon, the Facebook page is no longer online.)
- Streetsblog called Laura DiSpirito’s home a few times to confirm this information, but to no avail. A CBS2 news crew visited the house in Flushing and also was not able to ascertain the driver’s identity.
- Finally, we called the Manhattan DA’s office yesterday afternoon and the communications staff confirmed that a defendant named Gus Gonzalez has a court date scheduled for July 13, when he will face a charge of third degree assault arising from an incident on May 21. That matches information about Ray Bengen’s assailant which was already public.
It’s worth mentioning here that third degree assault is a Class A misdemeanor, same as the criminal mischief charge filed against Ray Bengen. The message from Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau’s office is clear: slapping an SUV with your palm in self-defense is tantamount to violently knocking someone to the pavement, injuring him, and driving away before the authorities arrive at the scene.
Which brings us to the reason we’re posting Gus Gonzalez’s name and photo. If you drive away from the scene of a confrontation after inflicting bodily harm on someone, and you get to preserve your anonymity, it’s a license to act like a sociopath. Unless you are somehow identified and apprehended, you can go about your business and present yourself as someone who doesn’t intentionally harm other people.
Even as this investigation unfolded, police did not tell Ray Bengen the name of his scene-fleeing assailant. That information usually doesn’t come out until the case goes to court. Luckily, this time, there were witnesses and photographs.