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Police Concerned Motorcycle Gang War Has Begun

May 01, 2002
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Police Concerned Motorcycle Gang War Has Begun

Associated Press

PHOENIX (AP) - State and federal law enforcement officers in Arizona say they fear a war has broken out between rival motorcycle gangs in the aftermath of last weekend's casino melee in Nevada.

Hells Angels leader Sonny Barger, of Cave Creek, had taken stock of his gang's deteriorating relations with other biker gangs and had set up a "peace powwow" in the Arizona desert west of Kingman for after the huge biker gathering in Laughlin, Nev.

But before the meeting could take place, a fight ensued in Harrah's Casino early Saturday between the Hells Angels and Mongols, in which three were killed and 12 were wounded, and a Hells Angel member was fatally shot on Interstate 40 near Ludlow, Calif., while riding away from Laughlin.

Now, a turf war has broken out among the competing groups in Arizona and throughout North America and Europe, said Phoenix police Detective J.P. Wilson, who specializes in biker gangs.

Arizona could be a big player in the war because more than 200 Hells Angels live in the state and have chapters in Phoenix, Tucson and around Prescott and have a presence in the Globe and Yuma areas, agents said.

The Mongols, based in Los Angeles, have long sought a toehold in the Phoenix area and have had encounters with Hells Angels here, federal agents said.

Lt. Rick Gehlbach of the Phoenix police said the local dispute is all about turf.

"It's face-saving, it's posturing, it's territory. Hells Angels claim Arizona, period, and the Mongols don't respect any boundaries at all," Gehlbach said.

Last year, leaders of the Hells Angels and Mongols were involved in a shooting and stabbing in San Diego County, and the two gangs clashed at a Costa Mesa, Calif., swap meet.

Earlier this year, members of the Mongols formed an alliance with the Vagos, Banditos, Pagans and Outlaws gangs against the Hells Angels, Wilson said.

"It's virtually everybody against the Hells Angels, and they're feeling the pressure," Wilson said. "The Hells Angels have said they are not going to stand for this, and this is an official war."

The only person arrested so far on suspicion of murder in the Laughlin melee is Calvin Schaefer, 32, of Chandler.

Schaefer recently became a full member of the Hells Angels and has worked as a sheet-metal installer at various local construction sites, said David Woods, a former co-worker.

"He was a bit standoffish at work, but I wouldn't have expected anything like this to happen," Woods said.

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