California police probe stunts that shut down freeways

LOS ANGELES Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:05pm EST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The California Highway Patrol is investigating two apparently unrelated stunts that jammed freeways over the weekend, including one involving hundreds of motorcyclists celebrating a marriage proposal that inconvenienced motorists east of Los Angeles.

Both events created a flurry of viral Internet videos, fueling concerns about a repeat performance by copycats.

On Interstate 10 east of Los Angeles on Sunday, up to 300 bikers stopped traffic so that one of them could propose to his girlfriend, said Officer Vince Ramirez, a Los Angeles-area spokesman for the California Highway Patrol.

Video that surfaced online of the stunt showed some bikers creating a wall of smoke by spinning their tires against the concrete. In the middle of the gathering, pink smoke could be seen wafting into the air.

As they exited the freeway, several bikers were later ticketed for reckless riding unrelated to their possible role in the freeway shutdown, Ramirez said.

He said officers were working with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office to prepare additional charges against some of the bikers.

The stunt did not cause any injuries or collisions, he said.

In Oakland on Saturday, traffic ground to a halt on Interstate 880 near the city's sports coliseum, as several sports cars did doughnuts, spinning around and filling the air with tire smoke, officials said. Stunned motorists exited their cars and watched.

Several motorists caught in the sudden traffic jam were frightened or angry, according to recordings of calls to authorities released on Tuesday.

"I can't believe this - I have three kids in the car," one caller told an Oakland-area dispatcher. "It scares the hell out of me."

Authorities have not found or identified any of the drivers, said California Highway Patrol Sergeant Diana McDermott.

California Highway Patrol officers said they feared the weekend events' popularity on social media websites could start a dangerous trend. So far, such stunts have been rare, they said.

"That's why the investigation is expanding," Ramirez said.

"If there are any criminal charges that can be filed as a result of this incident, they will be filed," he said.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)