For The Chromeball Incident #129, Chops revisits #5 by providing an update to his Ronnie Bertino interview from 2009. It goes into quite a bit more detail on a variety of topics, including the night that resulted in Josh Swindell going to prison for nearly 20 years for second-degree murder. For decades, skate conspiracy theorists and internet trolls have speculated on Danny Way’s involvement, and suggested that Swindell took the rap for his friend. According to Bertino—who was also there that night—this is not the case.
What was your time like with Josh Swindell? An amazing skater and seems to be doing well now, but looking back on everything, you can definitely see a pattern of him getting into more and more trouble.
Swindell was just Swindell, if that makes sense. He was still an alright guy, and all of the trouble that he’d get into only seemed to be to his own detriment. It never really affected us that much. But obviously, nobody foresaw what was about to happen with him.
That being said, there’s a lot more to that story than what has come out over the years. Josh did have a hand in it, but he wasn’t the only person. A few dudes got away with stuff and I’m not talking about Danny either. People might say this or that about Danny that night but none of that stuff is true.
The tough thing about a situation like that is when there are multiple people involved in a murder, lawyers will often try to pin everything on one person with the cooperation of everybody else. And I feel like that’s what happened here. Not that I agree with any part of it.
I forgot you were there that night.
But didn’t you leave before things got out of hand?
No, I was there the whole night. And I’ll give you my side of the story that I’ve always given.
One of Swindell’s friends was a local rapper and they were having a release party at this shithole bar in Azusa. This is back when I was still Mr. Partytime, drinking a ton and doing whatever.
So I’m actually inside the club when the shit goes down out front with Danny. I’m sure you’ve heard the story. He had a run-in with the guy, Danny punched him and then Danny got knocked out by a bouncer.
Like I said, we’re all inside the club. Next thing I know, Danny gets dragged inside to our table where my friends and I are sitting at. They just plop him down with us. He’s knocked out… and we’re just hammered. The club is giving us all free beer, even though I’m definitely not of age. But there I am, drinking pitchers of beer, making sure Danny is alright. We had no idea about whatever was going on behind the bar. Because secretly, some people had pulled dude out back and whoever all was involved, they did what they did. We’re just sitting there, drinking.
Next thing I know, I’m getting thrown up against the wall by a bunch of cops inside the bar. They just came in and rushed the place. And like I said, I’m hammered. But they have everyone up against the walls and figuring out who is who. They seemed to pinpoint everyone from San Diego because that’s who got taken in for questioning.
I went to jail overnight with Scott Weber, Danny… Swindell wasn’t there. He took off, as did a few other guys. But everyone else who was there that night from San Diego got taken in and we didn’t even do shit.
I still remember calling my Mom from jail. It was terrible.
“What!?! You’re being questioned for what!?!”
(laughs) “Yeah, Mom! Somebody got murdered and I’m super drunk!”
“Ronnie, what the fuck!?! What have you gotten yourself into!?!”
“Mom, I swear to God that I had no part in this!”
Ultimately, the cops realized that, too. After an entire night of questioning from these gnarly detectives, they finally came to the understanding that not only did we have nothing to do with it, but we were fucking morons, too. Drunken idiots.
That’s all I remember. Did I have any part in it? Hell no. Do I know who did what? No, but I do know it was more than just Josh involved. Because there’s no way of knowing who delivered the blow that actually killed the guy.
Just terrible, man.
Head over to Chromeball to read the entire piece.