Watch kept on biker gangs (2024)

The Justice Department makes note of two clubs with a presence in southwest Ohio: the Outlaws, with a chapter in Dayton, and the Iron Horsem*n, a national club founded in Cincinnati in the mid-1960s.

Local law enforcement officials monitor a number of motorcycle clubs active in the area but say the clubs do not pose a threat to the public.

“They’re on the radar, but they’re not a top priority because they’re not causing a lot of violence in the community,” Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said.

Rifts often run deep between rival motorcycle groups, exploding into confrontations that can turn deadly. In recent years, the Iron Horsem*n and a local chapter of the Detroit-based Highwaymen exchanged punches and bullets — with each other and with police — and firebombed each other’s property in incidents that led to the Highwaymen leaving Cincinnati last year and, for a short time, establishing a clubhouse in Miamisburg.

The group has since abandoned the house — a low-slung bungalow at 340 S. Gebhart Church Road — and claims to have left Ohio. Numerous police and FBI investigations have focused on the Highwaymen since its founding in the 1950s.

Clubs with an organized hierarchy and known to engage in criminal activities such as violent crime, weapons trafficking and drug trafficking are what authorities call outlaw motorcycle gangs or OMGs. There are more than 300 active OMGs within the country, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation 2013 Gang Report.

The clubs range in size from single chapters with five or six members to those like the Bandidos, Outlaws and Hells Angels with hundreds of chapters and thousands of members worldwide.

“Everybody carries guns. Everybody carries knives. Everybody carries chains. Their jewelry a lot of times will be some kind of weapon,” said Mike Nolan, former chief deputy at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. “When they ride they usually ride prepared for an altercation.”

Authorities in Waco arrested 177 bikers, most of them members of the Bandidos and the rival Cossacks. Investigators collected at least 160 knives and 120 guns from the scene, including an AK-47. Some of the weapons were hidden in sacks of flour and bags of chips inside the Twin Peaks restaurant where the shooting took place.

Nolan has experience with biker gangs. As a homicide investigator in Florida, he had nearly unfettered access inside a motorcycle club during a nine-month investigation into the killing of a group’s vice president.

“The Outcast motorcycle guys kind of brought me in and taught me a lot about their traditions,” he said.

When rival groups gather, trouble often follows, Nolan said.

“They never seem to mix well when you get more than one gang together at a location,” he said. “They’re territorial.”

Turf wars

While the Waco melee is attributed to a parking disagreement, bloody skirmishes between gangs usually erupt over territorial disputes, those in law enforcement say.

“These rivalries are leading to turf battles in cities, ending in violence,” said Columbus Division of Police Det. Mark Lovett in an Ohio Attorney General’s Office July law enforcement bulletin. Lovett, a board member of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association, said the activity started in Ohio in 1960s after the groups migrated from the coasts.

A dispute over territory ignited the fuse between the Iron Horsem*n and the Highwaymen.

As members of the Highwaymen became more assertive in Cincinnati, the Iron Horsem*n began pushing back in various ways, including locking down bars where Highwaymen were known to gather.

In 2010, the Iron Horsem*n’s national enforcer opened fire on law officers outside a bar in Cincinnati. Harry Seavey, the enforcer, was killed by police who had responded to JD’s Honky Tonk thinking members of the motorcycle gang were there to take over the bar, according to an Ohio Supreme Court document. Two undercover officers and another Iron Horsem*n member were injured.

Cincinnati police never released the names of the two wounded officers or other information about the case for fear that gang members would take revenge on the officers or their families.

Violence between the two Cincinnati gangs escalated last year, resulting in another shootout at the Highwaymen’s clubhouse. The city served the owners with a nuisance complaint, and the group’s leaders shut down the clubhouse in April of 2014 and rode north.

Their next stop was a house at 340 S. Gebhart Church Road in Miamisburg.

House painted black

Over the summer, the nondescript house was turned into a gathering spot for members of the Highwaymen.

The exterior was painted the club’s trademark black. Inside, the main room was converted into a full bar complete with a large sign of the club’s symbol: a winged skeleton wearing a motorcycle cap, scarf and leather jacket. A large sign in the bar bore signatures of club members: “Tree Trunk,” “Bullet,” “Road Dog,” “Skid” and “Short Fuse,” to name a few.

The club set Sept. 20 for a grand opening party and prepared to host bikers from across the country.

Miamisburg police prepared too.

“We don’t want to shun anybody from being in Miamisburg just because they are in a certain group, but that certain group is listed on the Internet as the number nine-rated most notorious outlaw bike gang,” said Capt. Tom Thompson of the Miamisburg Police Department. “Because of that, our responsibility is the safety and security of the citizens of Miamisburg.”

The local department met with law enforcement officials from Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Montgomery County who had experience surveilling motorcycle gangs and more intelligence about their operations. Thompson and the police chief also met with club leaders, who he said were cordial and respectful.

Thompson said the department told the group up front that local authorities knew about the club’s checkered past — from racketeering and police corruption charges in Detroit to arson by Molotov co*cktail in Cincinnati.

“We’re not going to prevent you from living here or go out of the way to make your life miserable or anything,” Thompson said club leaders were told. “But you have to understand we’re going to be watching you all the time.”

Dozens of officers watched over the approximately 100 bikers who attended the grand opening. The event was quiet, Thompson said.

“I don’t think I saw anybody on a bike driving near the speed limit let alone over the speed limit,” he said. “There were no complaints from neighbors as far as a loud party or anything like that. They actually didn’t create an issue and I think a lot of that is because they couldn’t drive down the road without seeing multiple police officers.”

Thompson said the only brush that night with the club was finding some marijuana and pills when police exercised a search warrant at a hotel where club members had a block of rooms. No one was arrested.

Earlier in August, a man who was associated with the Highwaymen but not a member was assaulted behind a downtown Miamisburg bar, Thompson said. Two men have been arrested in that case and are set to stand trial next month.

The Highwaymen moved out of the house Nov. 19, the day Miamisburg police searched the premises on complaints of stolen property and a physical assault. Thompson said the leaders of the group may have decided to leave because they knew they could no longer run afoul of state liquor control laws by running an illegal bar, and they were being cited for housing code violations.

There were other issues too. An arson fire that damaged the clubhouse in July may have been the work of a rival group, Thompson suggested.

“It could have been another gang anticipating their move there and giving them a warning,” he said.

Club leaders told Thompson they were leaving Ohio entirely.

“Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know,” he said.

‘The public is safe’

Just 2.5 percent of organized criminal gang members belong to outlaw motorcycle gangs, while street gangs account for 88 percent and prison gangs 9.5 percent, according to the FBI report.

Fewer motorcycle gang members reduce the perceived threat to U.S. communities the FBI report said. Local officials say there’s little for the public to fear from the groups active in the Miami Valley.

“With the clubs that we have here in Dayton, the public is safe. They’re here. They exist. They’re not engaged in any kind of violent behavior that we’re concerned about,” said Lt. James Mullins of the Dayton Police Department. “We are monitoring them, so when something comes up we do anything we can to interact with them and head it off.”

Some local clubs active in Dayton and monitored by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office include the Dayton Outlaws, Dayton Satans, Renegades, Sin City Disciples, Forgotten Breed and the Lost Soulz.

“They really don’t seem to pose a threat to the general citizen,” Plummer said. “You have more of a chance getting shot by these local wannabe gangs in our community than by these organized motorcycle gangs.”

The most violent biker gang incident in Dayton goes back to a February 2001 shooting death at Spanky’s Dollhouse in Harrison Twp., said local law enforcement. Eric Colter Jr., 19, was killed by members of the Dayton Outlaws and Avengers during a fight with Colter in the strip club, according to this newspaper’s files.

Timothy Hannah, an Avenger from Columbus, was sentenced to serve at least 40 years for the killing and is incarcerated at the Southeastern Correctional Institution. Two area Outlaws — Glen D. “Hot Rod” Carlisle and Allen C. “Psycho” Lawson — also served time in state prison on charges related to the killing.

Had Colter been a member of a rival outlaw motorcycle gang, retribution would likely have been taken against the Outlaws and Avengers for his death. That’s what the police — and the bikers who fought it out in Texas — need to prepare for next, Nolan said.

“I think you’ll find repercussions of what’s happened in Waco. They’ll find somebody and follow them and get them alone and then they’ll take their revenge,” said Nolan. “That’s what the law enforcement out there will need to worry about. It will be a revenge killing to make up for what happened in that shootout.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Watch kept on biker gangs (2024)
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