The mother of the 17-year-old involved in the viral incident, where physician’s assistant Sarah Jane Comrie is accused of weaponizing her whiteness and tears to take the Citi Bike from the teen, is speaking out.
In an exclusive interview with NewsOne, the teen’s mom said she’s hurt by the racists and trolls who unjustly label her 17-year-old son as a “thug” and a “thief” while falsely portraying him as a grown man. She expresses her frustration, stating that the narrative surrounding the situation has been unfairly one-sided.
“No one bothered to contact us to find out Michael’s story,” she said in an interview with the outlet. “They write all of these things about him, but no one bothered to ask him what happened or look at his receipts.” The pseudonym Michael is used as the teen’s name in the article to protect his identity.
The mother also noted that she’s fearful someone will try to harm her son or their family.
“No one is helping us,” she told NewsOne over the phone. “We are poor people. We are immigrants. We can’t afford a lawyer.”
The teenager and his siblings are residents of the Bronx, living with their West African immigrant parents. Among the siblings, two of them actively work to contribute to the family’s income.
The teen explained he relies on the bike-sharing service for daily transportation, including commuting to school and traveling within the city. He considers Citi Bike his preferred mode of transport and compares it to having his own car.
Michael explained that on the day of the incident, he and his friends searched for the new e-bikes in the Bronx before finally finding them after a 20-minute walk. They initially rode the bikes to Harlem, where they decided to stop riding after 45 minutes. The teen mentioned that his family receives public assistance, which grants him a discounted rate on Citi Bike rides. However, after 45 minutes, the price increases.
To avoid the higher charges, the teen says he frequently stops his rides before reaching the 45-minute mark, allowing him to rest and re-dock the bike. This action resets the timer, enabling him to ride for another 45 minutes before repeating the process. The teen’s sister, also being interviewed, noted that this practice is common among regular Citi Bike riders to avoid the increased charges after 45 minutes.
After taking a break in Harlem, Michael said he and his friends continued their Citi Bike ride, heading towards the Lower East Side of Manhattan. They stopped to enjoy frozen yogurt and then proceeded to the Citi Bike docking station near Bellevue Hospital in the Kip’s Bay neighborhood. They arrived at the docking station and docked their bikes at 7:19 p.m. to rest.
According to Michael, that’s when the woman in the viral clip approached their group and initially asked one of his friends if she could take the bike he was using. He politely declined, explaining that they would be leaving soon and would continue using the bikes.
He said Comrie then approached another boy in the group and made the same request, but he also politely declined. Meanwhile, Michael remained near his bike, still holding onto the handlebars. Michael said the woman then approached him directly and asked if she could have his bike. He told her he intended to take the bike out again, saying, “No, I’m about to take it back out.”
Michael stated Comrie noted that she was pregnant, asking him to “help a pregnant woman out.” However, Michael stood his ground and told her, “I’m sorry ma’am. I’ve ridden this bike all the way from the Bronx, and I need this bike to go back home.”
The teen said Comrie then approached him and his bike more closely, leaning over him, and proceeded to scan the bike’s QR code with her phone, even though he had his hands on the handlebars. According to his account, she then forcefully tried to take the bike by pushing her way onto it and attempting to remove it from the docking station.
And that’s when they started to record the exchange, where Comrie, wearing scrubs displaying the NYC Health + Hospitals logo, is seen screaming for help.
Michael stated that Comrie appeared frustrated and annoyed because they did not willingly give up their bikes to her. He believed she specifically targeted his bike, one of the newer e-bikes, instead of the other bikes still docked in the rack.
Throughout the interaction shown in the viral clip, the boys can be heard repeatedly asserting that the bike did not belong to her. In the filmed portion, Michael successfully managed to push the bike back into the dock. He mentioned that he proceeded to enter the bike’s number into his phone to reinstate the reservation under his account.
Following the incident, the woman retained an attorney who told the New York Post Comrie approached the rack of Citi Bikes and got on “an available bike, which no individuals were on or touching.” He continued to say that the woman was removing the bike from the rack when “a group of about five individuals approached her, saying that the bike was theirs.”