South Florida law enforcement ready for reckless ‘Wheels Up, Guns Down’ riders

Law enforcement in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are on high-alert ahead of the annual “Wheels Up, Guns Down” ride.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Law enforcement in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are on high-alert ahead of the annual “Wheels Up, Guns Down” ride.

Every year, ATV and dirt bike riders illegally hit the streets and highways of South Florida for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend. The “Wheels Up, Guns Down” ride Monday event is intended to be for bicyclists only.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said his agency will be prepared and “will be conducting a zero-tolerance operation as this event is non sanctioned, it’s illegal, and its a threat to public safety.”

Tony, however, said he wasn’t convinced by what organizers claimed was the ride’s purpose.

“When we execute our traffic infractions, we always find a gun out here, and so, there is some hypocrisy around these activities, not only in how they’re supposed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, but in the name in which they’ve titled their own event,” he said.

In past years, videos of riders taunting outnumbered police officers have gone viral on social media.

“It’s useless to run from us because with the number of aircraft and resources we have in the sky, you’re not going to get away,” FHP Maj. Robert Chandler said Thursday during a news conference in Broward.

Chandler also advised other drivers to not engage with the riders. “We know where these groups are, we’re gonna handle it — please do not take matters into your own hand,” Chandler said.

Miami-Dade police also held a news conference Thursday with the Florida Highway Patrol and said officers tow dozens of ATVs and dirt bikes each year.

“Getting a ticket or arrested and having your vehicle impounded is costly and no way to enjoy a holiday weekend,” one trooper said.

In 2008, a new law required motorcyclists to “maintain both wheels on the ground at all times.”

Florida law also requires ATV riders to wear over-the-ankle boots, eye protection and a safety helmet.

“We will be doing a high visibility patrol and we will be doing enforcement,” Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said.

About the Authors:

Parker Branton joined Local 10 News in January 2019 as a reporter. He was born and raised in Rome, Georgia, but now loves living on the sunny beaches of South Florida.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local