John Harris Rios

A Carpinteria man was arrested on a felony charge after allegedly threatening a witness who told authorities he was riding a small motorcycle at the Skater’s Point skate park in Santa Barbara.

John Harris Rios, 18, allegedly was riding a 60-cc off-road motorcycle inside the park – which is designated for skateboards and roller blades, but is often used by bicyclists as well – on July 21.

At least part of the ride was caught on video, police said.

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Rios allegedly rode on city sidewalks, the street and parking lots as well, before going to load the bike into a truck near 100 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

A witness wrote down the vehicle’s license plate to give to the Santa Barbara Police Department, then told Rios what he was doing, at which point Rios allegedly threatened the witness, Sgt. Riley Harwood said.

Other witnesses notified the Parks and Recreation Department, which notified police.

While the other offenses likely would have been citations, as violations of the vehicle and municipal codes, the alleged threat is a felony, Harwood said.

Traffic officers investigated the incident and served Rios with a search and arrest warrant Saturday at his home, Harwood said.

Rios was arrested on suspicion of attempting to prevent or dissuade a witness from reporting a crime, reckless driving, lacking a motorcycle endorsement on his license, unlawful use of a skateboard facility, and use of unauthorized equipment in a skateboard facility.

“When interviewed, Rios admitted to illegally riding his motorcycle in and around Skater’s Point, and said he did so for fun and the attention of his friends,” Harwood said. “He denied threatening the witness.”

Rios was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on a $50,000 arrest warrant.

The Santa Barbara City Attorney has discretion in Municipal Code violations and can suggest they be charged as infractions or misdemeanors, Harwood said.

The area is especially busy on Sundays, since vendors and passersby come out for the weekly Arts and Crafts Show, and city officials are still smarting from the events of the July 4 week.

After some skate park users threw water balloons at vendors and pedestrians June 30, the city attempted to close down the park for three days to make a statement. The “unruly behavior” and drug use also involved skate park users hurling insults at the responding Parks and Recreation Department staff.

The skateboarders were undaunted, and at least twice cut the chains lining the park, and ripped down flyers that the city Parks and Recreation Department kept stapling to the wooden barriers blocking both entrances.

Parks Director Nancy Rapp caved on her three-day closure and reopened the park in time for the Fourth of July.

Afterward, police released pictures to the public asking for information about the young men seen cutting the chains and kicking in the wooden barriers. Photographs of the suspected vandals were broadcast and published in local media.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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