Teen on car wasn’t ‘thrill-seeking,’ Rifle police chief says

Ryan Hoffman
Kyle Scholla was a member of the Rifle Bears football team during his four years at the high school.
Courtesy of Tina Leyba |

Law enforcement on Wednesday clarified the events that led to the death of 18-year-old Kyle Scholla.

While authorities originally described Scholla as having been “car surfing” — an activity commonly thought of as one in which someone stands on top of a moving vehicle — Rifle Police Chief John Dyer said the young man was not standing on the hood.

Scholla, who was a senior at Rifle High School, was sitting on the hood of a vehicle when it began leaving a parking spot. In what Dyer called a spontaneous series of events that unfolded over a matter of seconds, Scholla fell from the hood.

Any idea that this was a planned, “thrill-seeking” occurrence involving spectators and numerous laps around a parking lot is not supported by evidence, Dyer said.

“It did not look premeditated in any shape or form,” he added, “It was just spontaneous goofing around.”

John Dyer
Rifle Police Chief

“This incident does not appear like it was a big thrill-seeking type of thing,” Dyer said.

“It did not look premeditated in any shape or form,” he added, “It was just spontaneous goofing around.”

After falling from the vehicle — which law enforcement said was driven by one of Scholla’s friends — on April 1, Scholla was transported to St. Mary’s Hospital. He died last Saturday.

A news release sent out by the Rifle Police Department Tuesday morning stated “the investigation showed the injuries were the result of a car surfing incident, in which the injured party had been on the hood of a moving vehicle.”

While the term “car surfing” is used broadly, Dyer conceded that most people likely associate the saying with standing on a vehicle.

“I probably used it a little loosely,” Dyer said. “He was not standing on that vehicle — he was sitting on the vehicle.”

On Monday, Ninth Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia sent out a statement warning of the dangers of car surfing. It referenced a young man — now known to be Scholla — who recently died while engaging in the activity in Garfield County.

Caloia on Wednesday said that the incident was originally described to her as car surfing by a Rifle investigator, and that she has not yet seen a formal report.

“Whether he was standing or sitting I can’t tell you,” Caloia said.

Caloia said the activity was still dangerous.

“I never think it’s too early to issue a warning about a dangerous activity …” she said. “Car surfing is definitely a dangerous activity, and I don’t know if he was standing on top of the car or in a different position, but I do think it is akin to something like that.”

Dyer concurred on the dangers of being on the outside of a moving vehicle.

“That’s our message: Riding outside the vehicle in any shape or form can go wrong in a fraction of a second.”

Repeating previous remarks, Caloia said she would wait before determining whether charges will be filed against the driver, who has not been identified.

“I am going to wait to read the report and I also want to have an opportunity to talk to Kyle’s family and see what their feelings and desires are with respect to filing any charges,” she said.

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