Law enforcement nets results when rivals rallyAs law enforcement officers throughout northern Wisconsin lined streets and parking lots near bars in Superior last weekend, some cried foul – police harassment – over what appeared a game of cat and mouse.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
As law enforcement officers throughout northern Wisconsin lined streets and parking lots near bars in Superior last weekend, some cried foul – police harassment – over what appeared a game of cat and mouse.
The single arrest of an Outlaw motorcycle club member over the weekend suggests the stakes could have been very real without the coordinated effort to keep rivals apart.
As officers patrolled the city’s bars Friday night, one member of the notorious Outlaws Motorcycle Club shifted around uncomfortably avoiding officers, said Superior’s Assistant Police Chief Charles LaGesse. When observed by a trooper with the Wisconsin State Patrol, it netted the only arrest last weekend, a misdemeanor offense of carrying a concealed weapon, he said. During a pat down, LaGesse said, the trooper discovered a 9mm Glock on the member of Outlaws.
Fortunately, the assistant chief said, it was the only major incident in Superior as the Hell’s Angels visited the Minnesota side of the Twin Ports region and Outlaws came to northern Wisconsin.
The effort to keep rival club members and public safe has been in the planning stages since March, said Douglas County Chief Deputy Charlie Law, who coordinated the effort to blanket northern Wisconsin with officers.
After all, violence between the Outlaws and Hell’s Angels is well-documented.
According to information gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there have been 37 incidents of violence between the two groups since 2000.
“That’s what we were working off of,” Law said of the information.
After attending a meeting with in Carlton County in Minnesota in February concerning the Hell’s Angel’s planned rally there, he said it was clear he was going to have to come up with the plan and reached out to other chief deputies in Wisconsin.
“I’ve been to Sturgis (S.D.) … bike week,” Law said.
About three years ago, five members of the Outlaws were injured when they were allegedly gunned down by members of the Hell’s Angels. Two men involved with the Hell’s Angels were acquitted of attempted murder charges. But earlier this year, one of those members pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge and the other admitted guilt to a drug charge.
“These are these frickin’ Boy Scouts everyone is talking about,” Law said.
“I understood that these guys aren’t going to just sit idly by and drink,” the chief deputy said. “They like to ride motorcycles just like I do ... They like bars that will cater to them, small county bars, casinos, and they like strip joints. And if you think of the northern 15 counties, what do we have a lot of?”
Law said at least 50 federal, state, county and local agencies were involved in planning for Outlaws camping trip in Douglas County, and about 42 provided manpower to cover 15 counties in the northern region of Wisconsin from St. Croix and Eau Claire counties north to Iron County during the event.
On an average day during the rally last weekend, he said about 110 officers were on hand between patrols and command centers to coordinate efforts. At any one time, 36 to 48 officers were on the street providing surveillance of the Outlaws activities. Officers included federal, state, county and local agencies from as far away as Marathon and La Crosse counties as well as the Wisconsin National Guard.
“If they’re just a group of guys out for a ride, why do the Outlaws send 100-and-some of their club members camping in western Douglas County, on the border of Carlton County if it’s no big deal?” Law questioned.
Efforts in northern Wisconsin were coordinated with law enforcement working in Minnesota to avoid problems between the Outlaw’s and Hell’s Angels through a virtual command center online and by telephone, LaGesse said.
“We couldn’t have stopped the Outlaws from driving from northern Wisconsin into Minnesota or vise versa,” Law said. “The Hell’s Angels drove through Wisconsin to get to their event. There’s nothing we can do about that. We have to work on probable cause and can’t violate people’s constitutional rights, and we didn’t. But based on the intelligence that we gathered and the training we received from ATF … basically told us that they didn’t like each other, and No. 2, they didn’t like police.”
Law said he wasn’t taking a chance with officers or public safety based on what he knew about the rival clubs.
The visible presence of law enforcement and less-than-desirable weather conditions for riding contributed to an event in which there was no shooting, stabbing or some sort of violent act, as noted earlier this week by the St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman, Law said.
“That goes to the hard work the guys working for me did,” Law said. But, he said, the rainy weather helped.
“No one ever really threw the first punch, if you know what I mean,” Law said.