Reginald Denny, a 39-year old white truck driver who was brutally beaten by an angry mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, haunts the minds of today’s truck drivers as violent protests have erupted over the death of George Floyd.
Following the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police Department officers involved in the beating of Rodney King, a black motorist, a local news chopper captured video of four men pulling Denny from his dump truck and beating him. At one point, Denny was hit on the head with a cinder block.
The attack left Denny nearly dead until four black residents protected him and drove him to the hospital after seeing the footage of the assault on television. However, the former truck driver still has permanent physical damage from the 1992 beating, and today’s truckers fear another similar attack in today’s environment is just around the corner.
Staite continued, “We will defend ourselves every time, up to and including, using our 80,000lb trucks and it’s 1,800 foot-pounds of torque to run you over. We don’t want to, but will if we have to, to save our own life.”
“Cities where looting, rioting, and stopping trucks is happening…. You are hereby put on notice,” he added.
Staite’s post received overwhelming agreement from drivers and retired drivers in the forum.
Mike Kucharski, owner of JKC Trucking, confirmed to the Washington Examiner that Denny is on the mind of his drivers.
“Yes. Everyone remembers Reginald Denny,” said Kucharski.
“If you’ve been in the trucking business long enough, somebody’s gonna break into your truck, break into your trailer,” Kucharski said. “They’re gonna want to steal something from you.”
“They’re gonna want to hijack something from you,” he said. “It’s inevitable, because wherever they go, they’ll run into these people. So, truck drivers will try to defend themselves.”
Truck drivers over the past several weeks have already been targets of angry protesters since Floyd, a 46-year old black man, died while being held down by a Minneapolis police officer, since fired, during an arrest in late May.
As riots broke out in different cities, truckers were targeted, causing drivers to reach out to one another on social media to post about dangerous circumstances, such as reports of rocks and bricks being thrown from overpasses onto vehicles below, or crowds of protesters stopping and swarming vehicles.
“They are stopping semis by blocking roads and then raiding what’s in them. This is not about George’s death. This is about chaos being caused,” he said at a press conference.
Denny’s story from 28 years ago has caused drivers to be more vigilant and establish ways to stay safe when protests turn violent. But some efforts have also led to unavoidable confrontations with protesters.
A FedEx truck dragged a man to his death in St. Louis early last month after it was forced off Interstate 70 by protesters and looted.
According to KMOV, as the truck slowed down to stop, demonstrators positioned themselves in front of the vehicle and began pounding on it while crawling onto the passenger side.
Police say two people on the passenger side of the truck aimed guns at the driver as others ran off with packages from the vehicle. The driver, reportedly in fear for his life, sounded his horn and drove away. Attorneys for the family of the deceased dispute the presence of any guns.
One owner-operator, Bogdan Vechirko, plowed a fuel tanker through a crowd of thousands of protesters on I-35 West in Minneapolis on May 31. Although he did not hit anyone and there were no injuries, the protesters pulled him out of his truck and beat him until other demonstrators stopped the assault.
Colin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, told Overdrive Online that drivers are better off to plan ahead and avoid areas of protests when possible.
Mooney says he understands truck drivers do “not want to be the next Reginald Denny.” “You never want to be in a confrontational situation. The best course of action is always avoidance and not being caught up in the middle,” he said.