Meet the (Alleged) Road Rage Thug of Ninth Avenue: Gus Gonzalez

gus_gonzalez_1.jpgInset: No day at the beach. Photo: Belly of the beast?

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:

Gus Gonzalez.

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.

  • bc

    Here’s to Ben and streetsblog commenters, nice work.

  • internet justice, mmm tasty.

  • “..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.”

    Fair point. Good work.

  • James

    Way to go Streetsblog. This reinforces the fact that the roads are a PUBLIC space, and if you commit an egregious act against another citizen in the public arena, you are then considered fair game for exposure. I think there are an awful lot of motorists, ripping through city streets like they are playing a video game in their living room, who have yet to grasp this fact.

  • Harlan Harris

    Wait, you buried the lede! The driver is being charged with 3rd degree assault (in addition to the bicyclist being charged with criminal mischief)?! Please confirm!

  • blargh

    great work guys!!

    now hit it ya’ll!! i just did a google search for gus gonzalez – this very streetsblog psoting is at the bottom of the first page. do the same search and open the page to get the google rating up!

    whooo hoo! internet justice, indeed!

  • blargh

    oh and i must add its at the top of the news search page . . .

  • Brian

    Who’s the man? Ben’s the man. And the nice lawyer.

  • Merriam-Webster

    Main Entry: vig·i·lan·te
    Pronunciation: \?vi-j?-?lan-t?\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Spanish, watchman, guard, from vigilante vigilant, from Latin vigilant-, vigilans
    Date: 1856
    : a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate); broadly : a self-appointed doer of justice

    — vig·i·lan·tism \-?lan-?ti-z?m\ noun

  • re Vigilantism-

    Nobody’s about to administer a beating; the criminal justice system isn’t yet so dilapidated. This is a call-out, and will get Googled, and affect Mr Gonzalez’s reputation in what is increasingly a reputation economy.

    Separately I think the parenthetical in M-W’s definition is exculpatory.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Yes, Miriam,

    It seems to me that Gus Gonzalez is the one who initially appointed himself the “doer of justice” when he summarily punished a cyclist for touching his precious truck. Go ahead, make my day, cyclist. What was Gus yelling as he stood over the biker he’d just knocked to the ground with his 7,000 lb. crapmobile? “Don’t even think about it! Don’t even think about it!”

    But, one thing is clear for sure: The processes of law are clearly inadequate when we have a district attorney who won’t lift a finger when a van driver runs over and kills pre-schoolers walking on the sidewalk and yet sends the cops to arrest a cyclist who slapped the side of an SUV in self-defense.

    So, perhaps, vigilantism is entirely called for in cases like these. The NYPD and the DA’s just don’t seem to care to enforce the law when cyclists and pedestrians are hurt and killed.

  • Ditto Marty

  • J-Uptown

    I believe what is occurring here is called reinforcing social norms. Gus committed a very public action. We are pointing out that we as a society deem his behavior unacceptable and we are therefore publicizing it. If Gus doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, then he has nothing to be ashamed of. If he is ashamed, then we want his friends, family, and acquiantances to know about it, so maybe he won’t act like this again. If he wants to improve his name, he should simply apologize and drop the ridiculous charges. I’m sure Streetblog would happily print an article about a reformed road rager. God knows we could use some positive news on that front.

  • Max

    This is disgusting! However I have a court date for something similar – a driver almost ran me down driving on the wrong side of the street while I was crossing a residential street with my 2 small dogs. Long story short, I told him off for driving so recklessly (but without obscenity, epithets or abuse) in an area with young children (we were next to a kindergarten and park), mothers with strollers, joggers etc… Later that day while again walking my dogs, the police stopped and arrested me – the driver had told them that I had hit his car and apparently there were “scratches, dents and scuffs” on it. An outright false and/or misleading statement. The driver had been driving very aggressively and been agitated and angry while I was talking to him. His actions were a passive aggressive form of road rage and borne out of a complete lack of understanding of how dangerously he had been driving.

  • Eddie

    What a douchebag

  • nyc biker

    nice work. let’s keep the bike lane’s safe!!!!

  • Vigilantes punish people without due process of law.
    We are just calling for the due process of law to occur.

    PS: It is Merriam, not Miriam.

  • thegreasybear

    Gus Gonzalez is one of the douchebags who intentionally makes cycling more dangerous, whether he’s arbitrarily shutting down the bike lane out of pure selfishness and laziness, or using his planet-wrecker as a deadly weapon to assault anyone who challenges his illegitimacy.

  • Wow, I think this sends a message out…get caught doing something bad, and with all this modern technology (+massive readership, kudos) and you’re screwed. Safer society though.

  • Ken

    I want all the candidates for Manhattan D.A. to go on the record with their view of the priorities that Marty so trenchantly cites: let a killer of kids walk but send the cops after a cyclist who touches a 7,000-pound “car.”

  • Fritz

    This is what it is going to take

    This War is ongoing

    Must be Vigilant and Steadfast in Your Resolve

    SUVs Do not have Divine Rights

  • anybody remember those ESSUVEE commercials where SUV’s were giant hairy beasts? Its sad that the truth is that these metallic beasts have more rights than organics.

  • gowanut

    Apropos of nothing, the subheadline of the wcbstv.com post is somewhat misleading:

    http://wcbstv.com/local/ray.bengen.bike.2.1058298.html

    NYC Biker In Legal Spat With SUV Driver

    Ray Bengen Was Summoned To Police Station After Unknown SUV Driver Allegedly Threw Him To Ground, Stole His Bike

  • You couldn’t have found a picture of him with a shirt on?

  • jon

    Until the cops start enforcing traffic laws in heavily travelled areas this type of thing will continue to occur.
    I remember an incident a number of years back on Hudson Street just south of Abingdon Square Park. A similar situation with a red dodge Durango ( jersey plates ) was blocking the lane while owner was in his bodega/deli, I called him on it ( no obscnities), he said “get a cop” so I biked around the corner, found two cops in a van, told them about, the cops came over to where he had the lane blocked, he tried to get out but I was parked on my bike in front and a buddy was parked on his bike behind ( not touching the car) him so he couldn’t leave. The cops were talking to him, me and my buddy started biking up Hudson street, next thing I know this person is driving up Hudson Street chasing us shakig his fist out the window. We turn left (the wrong way)onto to 12th Street to get away from this person. Guess who the same cops pulled over ? Me and my buddy for turning the wrong way down 12th Street, but they are “good” cops and only giving us a warning. They then proceeded to tell us that they know about this guy and that he had been given 5 or 6 warnings to date for exactly the same thing. I did not have the presence of mind to get their names and badge numbers and go to the Civilian Review Board to ask the obvious questions as to why 5 or 6 warnings and no tickets and why we were pulled over for a minor infraction ( from my law school days, escaping from aniticipated bodily harm is a defense for minor trafic infractions) and he was not pulled over/ticketed whatver for threatening us.
    Don’t even get me started about the tour buses idling in the bike lanes on 6th Avenue in plain view of cops sitting in their cars on the other side of 6th Avenue, and the cops are totally surprised when you approach them politely and ask them to enforce the law.

  • kss

    Is that knuckle-dragger Gus Gonzalez a cop? If so, that would certainly explain a few things.

  • citizenx

    Laura D Dispirito

    home

    4018 169th St

    Flushing, NY 11358-2706

    (718) 460-6588

  • Mike

    The internet is awesome sometimes. Act like a douche these days and everyone — including your friends, family and co-workers — can find out about it.

  • Jeff Gurney

    I guess that buying an SUV allows you to be a complete idiot. Some people act as though they are the only ones on the planet, and that all things revolve around them and there rights to drive a car. I feel that most if not all of the people that act this way do not deserve to have a drivers licence or the right to operate a 7000 lb vehicle on public roads. Our legal system obviously does not work the way it was intended when the offender is patted on the back and the cyclist that has the right to be in the BICYCLE lane is penialized. This is just wrong.

  • frank rothman

    happy to inform you that all charges against Ray Bengen were dismissed today, as the prosecution stated in open court that they “could not prove the charges” against Mr. Bengen. The good guys win one.

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