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Elderly victim of ATV riders says he expected to die in assault

‘How many times can you be punched?’ says Richard Bell, 83

BROOKLINE — Richard Bell, 83, says the terror comes back to him instantly, and he sometimes cries, when he recalls the November night he was beaten at a traffic light in Allston after being chased for miles by a pack of dirt-bikers.

One assailant, brandishing a pipe, broke Bell’s car window and punched him repeatedly in the face and left side of his body, the victim said.

“How many times can you be punched?” said Bell, who spoke publicly about the attack for the first time this week. “When I was being beaten, I just didn’t know when the last punch was going to be.”


The elderly man said he expected to die.

No arrests have been made, but State Police said they continue to investigate the brazen Nov. 18 assault, which garnered extensive media coverage because of its viciousness.

Bell had been driving on Boylston Street in the Fenway, on his way to buy a Thanksgiving turkey, when he suddenly found himself in the midst of 30 to 40 ATVs and dirt bikes.

A group of riders smashed the rear window of his 1996 Buick Century near Park Drive; Bell’s car blew a tire when it hit a curb; and at least a half-dozen ATV riders chased Bell as he raced onto Storrow Drive, sparks flying from the wheel rim, in a desperate effort to escape.

Bell, a retired truck driver, said he drove as fast as he could in an attempt to reach the Brighton police station. As he sped beside the Charles River, the bikers surrounded his car, banging and kicking it in moving traffic, he said.

“I wasn’t even thinking about why they did it. I was just trying to get away from them,” Bell said.

Bell left Soldiers Field Road at the Cambridge Street exit, only to panic when he saw a red light and stopped cars at the top of the off-ramp.


“That was the scariest part. There was no one behind me,” he recalled Wednesday. Bell gestured frantically at a nearby motorist to roll down her window so he could tell her to call 911.

Before Bell could deliver the plea, he saw two dismounted bikers walking toward him through the stopped traffic, one on the left with a pipe, and another on the right.

The assault began, viciously and seemingly interminably, until the light changed and the attackers fled. Bell said he still had enough energy to drive to a convenience store, where he collapsed in the parking lot.

As he lay there, Bell recalled, he could hear the sirens of police cruisers and ambulances racing to the nearby scene of the attack, unaware that the victim was elsewhere.

Soon, Bell was discovered and taken to St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, where he was treated for injuries for nearly a week. Afterward, he entered a rehabilitation facility for several weeks more.

“I did nothing to provoke them, but I know there’s crazy people out there,” Bell said.

Across Boston and elsewhere last year, police fielded thousands of complaints about throngs of unregistered dirt bikes both on neighborhood streets and heavily traveled roads. The riders are a noise concern for some, and a public-safety issue for others.

Last August in Providence, where dirt bikes have been a major concern, riders dragged a woman out of her car and punched her after she honked at them at a stoplight. The victim’s 8-year-old daughter watched the assault from inside the vehicle.


Christy Bell, one of Richard’s four children, said her father easily could have died. He had undergone heart surgery only five months before the attack.

“They could have killed him with just one punch. It certainly was enough to send him to an earlier grave,” she said.

“He’s a very resilient man, though. He’s not going to go until it’s his time, and this was not his time.”

Bell still has a small tear in his left shoulder, continues to rehab, and insisted that his faith in humanity has not been diminished.

Bell (left) sat in his Subaru that was given to him by his auto mechanic, Michael Hynes (right).John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Part of the reason is an unexpected gift he received from Mike Hynes, who owns an auto-repair shop in Brookline. As he lay in St. Elizabeth’s, Bell had worried about the damage to his car, and he called Hynes from his hospital bed to begin fixing the Buick.

State Police released the car about a week later, and Hynes had it towed to another of his shops in Woburn. What he saw stunned him. Every panel of the car had been damaged, recalled Hynes, who has done business with Bell for 20 years.

“You could see the violence that Richard went through, and I was thinking of my mother,” Hynes said. “You realize the energy that goes with smashing every window? If we could have fixed it, we would have.”


When he learned that his car was totaled, Bell began worrying about navigating life without a car, and about how to afford to take taxis and ride-hailing services.

Hynes and his staff arrived at a solution. One of his employees had bought another car and left his used 2006 Subaru Outback at the shop. Hynes bought the older vehicle, installed new tires and brakes, and even detailed it.

“We said, ‘We have a car. Let’s take care of him,’ " Hynes recalled. “It was kind of like we kept it in the family.”

Bell, overwhelmed by the gesture, said he “cried because I was so grateful.”

Now, he is readjusting to life after the trauma. Bell once avoided Boylston Street in the Fenway, where he first encountered the bikers, but he now uses the route when needed.

“You can’t be afraid to be who you were,” said Bell, who spoke while wearing a winter hat adorned with a smiley face.

Despite his determination not to be cowed, Bell knows that the aftereffects of the attack will linger.

”The nighttime is the toughest,” Bell said. “But every day is another day. Thank God I’m still here.”

Bell (right) hugged Michael Hynes after he gave him the car.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at brian.macquarrie@globe.com.