Vigilante justice?

Family of comatose teen calls for an investigation

Family members and friends of a teenager hit by a truck after allegedly stabbing a man in a confrontation over a reported attempted bicycle theft gathered outside the Chico City Council meeting Tuesday evening (Sept. 20) demanding justice.

“What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” shouted members of the crowd of about 50 gathered there, as seven Chico police officers looked on.

The teen, 16-year-old Richard Massey, of Chico, is at Enloe Medical Center reportedly in grave condition with a brain injury. His family says he was the victim of vigilante justice and wants the police to investigate the incident leading to his injuries.

According to a Chico Police Department press release, the incident stems from an alleged attempted bicycle theft Sunday morning (Sept. 16). Massey and two accomplices reportedly tried to steal two bicycles from a south Chico home, but they failed in their effort when they were confronted by the 34-year-old owner of the bikes. When the would-be thieves threatened to stab him, he sought shelter at a friend’s home.

A short time later, officers responded to a disturbance near the intersection of 15th and Elm streets, where two men were reportedly being chased by someone with a knife. But before officers arrived, it was reported the person with the knife had been struck by a vehicle.

According to police, the owner of the bikes and a 33-year-old friend, whose name also has not been released, had decided to track down the suspects. The pair found the three teens—Massey, 19-year-old Anthony Sermano and 18-year-old Francisco Ramirez—nearby and confronted them.

The owner of the bikes, who remained in the truck, said Massey came at him and tried unsuccessfully to stab him through the driver’s-side window. Massey then allegedly chased after the friend, who had exited the vehicle, and stabbed him as he ran down the street, resulting in a single non-life-threatening wound.

In the meantime, the driver allegedly intervened and struck Massey with his truck, causing the brain injury.

Sgt. Rob Merrifield says at this point there are no plans to file charges against the driver, but that could change as the investigation continues or if Massey dies. The case will be passed on to the Butte County district attorney, who will make that call.

Massey’s family members say they want an investigation.

Frank Ramirez, Massey’s uncle, who says he is a former sheriff’s deputy in Nevada, decried the men’s actions against his nephew.

“They had an opportunity to go several blocks following the boys,” Ramirez said. “At that point they should have called the police like you’re supposed to do as a good citizen. After that their intent turned to getting justice and inflicting pain. They became the aggressors.”

John Rucker, Chico’s assistant city manager and a former Chico police captain, talked with Massey’s supporters and promised the case would be reviewed. He also told them to fill out speaker cards and address the council at the end of the meeting. Because the matter was not on the agenda, the council could take no action.

Massey remains in Enloe, reportedly in an induced coma.