DC Man Steals His Own Bike

Danny Lesh freely admits to stealing a bicycle--back from the thief who stole it from him.

Danny Lesh freely admits to stealing a bicycle–back from the thief who stole it from him.

NBC Washington (“Vigilante Bicyclist Gets His Stolen Bike Back“):

Danny Lesh is an avid cyclist — and now he’s also somewhat of a vigilante, after he found his stolen bike online and managed to get it back.

Lesh’s Cannondale hybrid was stolen after he loaned it to a friend who’d secured it with a cable lock, which are easy to cut if you’re a theft with a pair of boltcutters handy.

But Lesh located the bike on Craiglist shortly after last weekend’s theft — his bike had a prominent sticker on it, so he was certain it was his.

The ad asked for $100, and Lesh called the police, who told him they wouldn’t be able to respond right away. But Lesh, who’d paid $600 for it back in 1998, wasn’t about to let someone else end up with his bike.

“I knew I had to do it that day, or else I’d never see the bike again,” he said.

He arranged to buy his bike back. A man came out of an alley at 5th and Longfellow streets NW with the bike, and Lesh took it for a “test ride.”

Lesh simply rode off without paying.

“This guy finally started calling me, and left a message saying he was going to call the police,” Lesh said, laughing.

When Lesh got home, he put up his own post on Craigslist, warning other site users about the thief, saying high-end bikes listed for low prices could be stolen.

Apparently, WUSA9 reports (“Victim Found Stolen Bike On Craigslist Ad“), Lesh had an accomplice.

The two agreed to meet at 5th and Longfellow streets on Monday afternoon. Lesh hopped a cab to meet the seller. At first, they negotiated a price, then Lesh took it for a test ride.

The taxi driver, who had been a victim of theft himself, wanted to help out, so he was waiting for Lesh just down the street while Lesh was taking the bike for a spin.

“I got about four blocks away,” Lesh said. “The taxi pulled up behind me. I put my bike in the trunk of the taxi. We were on the other side of town when the thief called my cell phone asking me where it was. I didn’t answer so he left a message threatening that he was going to call the police on me.”

I really hope this was in fact his bike.

Amusingly, Lesh is an organizer recruiter for SEIU, which will be very confusing for conservatives cheering on his little bit of vigilantism.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Policing, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Julian Sanchez says:

    I could see not being able to tell if it was brand spanking new, but a 14-year-old bike? Mine’s a lot newer than that, but I’d still know it in a heartbeat.

  2. @Julian Sanchez:

    For sure. Just like we’d know our cars by every scratch and stain.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    I applaud Mr. Lesh.

  4. Franklin says:

    Shouldn’t Lesh have shot the guy? I mean, the dang thief was probably wearing a hoodie or something and would’ve deserved it.

  5. al-Ameda says:


    Shouldn’t Lesh have shot the guy? I mean, the dang thief was probably wearing a hoodie or something and would’ve deserved it.

    This does bring up an interesting quandry with respect to “Stand Your Ground” laws, doesn’t it?

  6. If it was in fact his bike to begin with, not sure how he could “steal” it.

  7. PJ says:

    @Timothy Watson:

    If it was in fact his bike to begin with, not sure how he could “steal” it.

    Since his ownership hasn’t been ascertained, he has stolen it.
    Even if he stole it back.
    Now, I doubt that the real thief is going to contact the police.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Don’t care what org he belongs too.

  9. racehorse says:

    @PJ: Friend of mine had his toolbox and battery stolen out of his truck. Police found them in a thief’s car and took him to court. The guy had his initials scribed on some of the tools and the ser# of the battery. The thief said that he “found ” them on the side of the road, along with tvs, vcrs, stereos that were also in his trunk: typical stolen items. The judge didn’t buy the story of course, and put the guy in the cooler for a while. Lesson: proof of ownership can come in handy in theft cases. A bike? You probably could identify it by scratches, colors, etc. Most judges still use their common sense and experience in these kind of cases, and, of course, they have probably seen the same suspects many times over and won’t buy their tales.

  10. Julian Sanchez says:

    “Since his ownership hasn’t been ascertained, he has stolen it.”

    Well… no. If, in fact, the bike is his, then it’s legally impossible for him to have stolen it. That’s not how we use the terms in ordinary speech either: otherwise “X stole (or didn’t steal) the bike” would mean the same as “It was proven that X stole (or didn’t steal) the bike”—but, of course, these sentences have quite different meanings. The most you might be able to say here is that a third party would need more information to be confident about whether he had stolen the bike or merely recovered it.

    Actually, even if he had a mistaken good faith belief the bike was his (as when, e.g., you take the wrong coat at a party), pretty sure that wouldn’t meet the legal criteria for theft, which requires intent.

  11. Franklin says:

    @Franklin: I’ll assume the down-voters don’t get sarcasm.

  12. JKB says:


    Several problems with your premise. First off, there is no information given to know if the recovering owner was sufficiently white hispanic. Secondly, this is DC where law abiding citizens are not allowed to defend themselves or carry weapons to defend themselves (National Capitol Criminal Protection Act). Thirdly, there was no situation in which there was an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury. At no time, was force used by either party so there is no grounds for self defense.

    Now, if the recovering owner had been prone to violence, which his affiliation with SEIU might indicate, he could have used a bat to break one or both of the thief’s knees thereby inhibiting his future thefts of bicycles. Apparently, he was sufficiently moved by the oppressed nature of the thief, he chose simply to leave him intact and able to commit future thefts.