In 2009, avid cyclist and triathlete Sgt. Chris Masilon of the Anaheim PD was riding his bike in a marked lane in coastal Orange County when a car hit him.
His helmet was split in three places, and Masilon suffered a broken femur.
He’s one of the lucky ones.
So is Masilon’s good friend, colleague, and fellow cyclist and triathlete Sgt. Jon Yepes, who over the years has had several near collisions with motorists.
The two veteran law enforcement officers now are working hard to make Orange County safer for cyclists, who are getting killed here at the rate of nearly one a month — often by distracted, impatient, angry, or under-the-influence drivers.
In 2018, 11 cyclists were killed in O.C. and there were 881 vehicle vs. bicycle crashes, according to statistics compiled by the California Highway Patrol for the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System.
In August 2019, Triathlete magazine, the premiere international chronicler of the sport, featured Masilon and Yepes in a multi-page feature story and photo spread, “A Hero Forever,” about the outpouring of grief following the death of Costa Mesa Fire Captain Mike Kreza during triathlon training.
Kreza was hit Nov. 3, 2018, while riding his bike not far from his home in Rancho Santa Margarita. The driver, a 25-year-old man who police say was under the influence of prescription medications, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Kreza, 44, died Nov. 5. He left behind a wife and three young daughters.
Yepes and Masilon didn’t know Kreza, but they, and the cycling community at large, were deeply affected by his death. L.A. County firefighter Jon Ladner, also featured in the Triathlete magazine story and a close friend of Masilon’s, carried Kreza’s bib to the finish at Ironman Arizona 2018.
Yepes and Masilon promote cycling safety and work to dispel misperceptions they say exist about law enforcement’s attitude toward cyclists.
“Most drivers view cyclists as nuisances, and many cyclists think law enforcement always sides with motorists, but in reality, law enforcement really cares about cyclists,” says Yepes, 45, who has been at the APD for 13 years.
Yepes and Masilon went through the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Academy together in 2000. Both transferred to the APD — Masilon in 2002 and Yepes in 2006.
In a letter to Triathlete magazine, Masilon wrote: “One thing Jon and I have seen recently is a backlash against law enforcement as it relates to cyclists’ safety.
“Not only is there a ton of misinformation out there (like police decide what charges get filed against drivers), but people generally have adopted the opinion that we just don’t care.
“While we understand there will always be jerk cops who treat people poorly, Jon and I would really like to change the conversation surrounding law enforcement and cyclists. What’s been great for us, and something that’s been an unintended consequence for us, is we are educating law enforcement, too.
“We are thrilled with what we’ve seen so far.”
Yepes and Masilon partnered with the APD’s traffic division to create a Facebook Live video with Motor Officer Shane Spielman on “Ask a Motor Cop.” In the segment, Yepes and Masilon shared the story about Kreza, answered bicycle-related questions, and spoke about cycling-related safety laws (such as “the 3 foot rule,” etc.).
Yepes and Masilon, who has known three people from his cycling community who have been killed by motorists, also filmed a Public Safety Announcement video related to sharing the road.
In the segment, Yepes rode his bicycle in a “sharrow” (a marked lane used to enhance the safe travel of bicycles and motor vehicles in the same traffic lane), and another officer in civilian clothes and in a truck got upset he had to slow down behind Yepes. The driver pulled over and confronted Spielman, the motor officer, who told him the cyclist had the right to use the lane.
In another bicycle safety operation, Yepes, Masilon, and Sgt. Mike Lee rode their bikes through different sharrow lanes in Anaheim as four motor officers watched. The operation yielded more than 15 citations and an arrest of a motorist for driving intoxicated.
“As Jon and I organize more of these operations,” Masilon wrote, “we hope to get other police agencies in our county to pick this model up and join us in monthly cycling enforcement days. Of course, why stop in our county, though? Departments all over the country should be taking this on.”
EOW CYCLING CLUB
In addition to these efforts, Yepes, in 2018, created EOW (for “End of Watch”) Cycling, a club that includes about 30 riders from the APD. Next May will mark the third consecutive year that EOW Cycling (eow_cycling on social media) will participate in a 600-mile ride from the Sacramento State Capitol Police Officer Memorial back to Anaheim. The ride is held during National Peace Officer Week.
Each EOW rider is committed to raising at least $1,000. To date, EOW Cycling has raised more than $60,000 for families of officers killed or injured in the line of duty – money used for living expenses and scholarships.
Two of Yepes’ and Masilon’s LASD academy classmates have ben killed in the line of duty: Deputy Maria Cecilia Rosa, of the LASD, who on March 28, 2006, was shot and killed by robbery suspects; and Deputy Daniel Lee Archuleta, of the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, who on Sept. 12, 2004 was killed in an automobile accident while responding to assist a deputy at a fight call.
This year, on March 9, Masilon and Yepes organized a community bike ride for Kreza. Riders left Angel Stadium and biked to the main lifeguard tower in Huntington Beach. There, fire engines were set up with a large U.S. flag draped between them.
After some coffee and snacks, the riders took the same route back to Angel Stadium. The entire ride was done with a police escort. The community bike ride, which was open to the public, raised money for Kreza’s family.
Masilon, 47, who grew up in San Diego, had been riding bikes most his life.
He grew up racing BMX bikes, then in his 20s and 30s raced mountain bikes, followed by triathlons.
Yepes rode bicycles as a kid but didn’t really get into cycling races until he came to the APD and met several other riders, including Homicide Sgt. Jeff Mundy.
“This career beats the heck out of you – wearing a gun belt, chasing (bad guys), getting in and out of a police car,” Yepes says. “Riding allows me to get my physical fitness in, and I can ride with a buddy and shoot the breeze or I can ride by myself and be alone with my thoughts and just relax.”
Yepes has been competing in cycling event races for last two years. He has completed about five triathlons and has participated in the Police Olympics.
In 2012, Masilon finished third in the national championships and qualified for Team USA to race in Spain in a half-Ironman distance competition. Mundy also qualified. Masilon finished third, and Mundy fifth.
Masilon, who runs the APD’s Family Protection Detail, also once raced a 12-hour mountain bike race so he could get a prize: a patch.
“The patch was really cool,’’ Masilon says of the event around the Vail Lake reservoir in Riverside County.
Yepes, a sergeant in the APD’s Burglary and Auto Theft Detail, sticks to road cycling.
“For me, it takes me back to when I was a kid, just riding and going, ‘Weeewweeeee!’” he says with a laugh.
Here are some current and former members of EOW Cycling:
Jonny Yepes – Anaheim PD –Sergeant
Chris Masilon – Anaheim PD – Sergeant
Rob Lopez – Anaheim PD – Detective
Amador Nunez – Anaheim PD – Police Officer
Dan Heffner – Anaheim PD – Detective
Bryan Santy – Anaheim PD – Sergeant/Pilot
John Yoo – Anaheim PD – Police Officer
Andre Pedroza – Anaheim PD – Police Officer
Kelly Phillips – Anaheim PD – Sergeant
Doug Hemerson – Anaheim PD – Parole Supervisor
Armando Pardo – Anaheim PD – Sergeant
Gus Maya – Anaheim PD – Sergeant
Eric Grisotti – Anaheim PD – Pilot
John Kirstenpfad – Anaheim PD – Sergeant
John Bailey – Anaheim PD – Motor Sergeant
Michael Fleet – Anaheim PD – Police Officer
Chris Moody – Anaheim PD – Lieutenant
Ramon Chavez (Bakersfield PD) – Police Officer
Edgar Hampton – APA president
Jose Duran – Detective
Cesar Aguilar – Detective
Phillippe Nguyen – Detective
Gaby Noriega – APA administrative assistant
Brenda Amaro – Bailiff
Those who missed this year’s peace officer memorial ride in May
Jeff Mundy – Sergeant
Mark Gell – Detective
Mike Lee – Sergeant
Kenny Edgar – Police Officer
Ricky Reynoso – Police Officer
Ted Lopez – Sergeant
Leslie Vargas – Detective
Jeff Dodd – Sergeant
Jeff Hemerson – Lieutenant
Lorenzo Uribe – Police Officer
Vincent Dinh – Investigator