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June 15, 2021

Officers respond to illegal sideshow in Soledad

500-car gathering gets out of control with races and reckless behavior

SOLEDAD — An illegal sideshow event of an estimated 500 vehicles took place in and around Soledad on May 5, with crowding and risky behavior drawing in law enforcement response from multiple agencies.

The event began as an unofficial Cinco de Mayo get-together, but quickly grew out of control.

No arrests were made during the event, as law enforcement focused on clearing the crowds and halting dangerous activity on area streets and roads. The person who organized the event came forward to Soledad Police when officers showed up to the Soledad Mission Shopping Center. Police are seeking legal action be taken against him, but have not released his name.

“He’s a Greenfield resident,” said Deputy Chief Fred Lombardi. “He used his Instagram account to put together a Cinco de Mayo parade and it took Instagram by fire.”

The man indicated in his online advertising of the event that the rally point was Soledad.

Lombardi said there were 200 vehicles by about 7 p.m., and the number continued to increase as crowds and cars took up the shopping center parking lot in a gathering where the behavior was deemed good.

The problem, however, arose when businesses complained their customers couldn’t park or get into the shopping center parking lot. Things worsened when illegal driving exhibitions and races started on side streets, country roads and even on Highway 101.

“There was a lot of reckless driving on the streets and on the highway,” Lombardi said. “Some of these cars were going to Arroyo Seco, turning back around. They were stopping the traffic on the bridge and drag racing north on 101.”

By 7:30 p.m., the entire shopping center parking lot, including behind FoodsCo, was covered in cars, trucks, jeeps and other vehicles appearing to be modeled out for racing. Lombardi said the 20 to 30 specialized racing cars fled immediately as soon as law enforcement responded.

Officers from California Highway Patrol, Greenfield Police Department, Monterey County Sheriff’s Department and Homeland Security Investigations partnered with Soledad Police to control the incident.

“The gentleman came over and identified himself and was in a state of disbelief because he didn’t think it would get that big and he didn’t think it would create the police response it did,” Lombardi said.

Law enforcement’s plan was to get the racers off the highway and clear out the crowd, as many of the drivers were determined to be from other areas, including Gilroy and Morgan Hill.

“All the allied agencies started to push the cars out of town, but then they were trying to come back in at the other entrances,” Lombardi said. “It caused us to have to shut down some of the entrances for a while. Our residents were affected for at least an hour and a half or two hours. We were apologetic for that, but these characters that were coming in and wanting to race around, we couldn’t let them back in to congregate again.”

He said the increased danger of the reckless activity and the closure of roads that impacted residents stemmed from the organization of the impromptu event itself.

“He never came to the police department for a parade permit or anything like that,” Lombardi said.

According to Lombardi, the proper course of action would have been to go to the police to organize and plan such a parade for Cinco de Mayo, and the police would have likely worked with him on a parade route.

“He never did any of that,” Lombardi said. “He put this thing out on Instagram and made Soledad the rally point, even though he doesn’t even live here and created an absolute mess.”

The agencies involved are tallying up their costs for officer time as well as impact on area businesses to be submitted to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, requesting charges be filed against the organizer.

“It started with a good idea,” Lombardi said. “Had he done it the right way, we may have been able to work with him.”

Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.

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