Hells Angels leave town peacefullyHells Angels members left Carlton County on Sunday after what’s being called one of their most uneventful summer rallies.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Hells Angels members left Carlton County on Sunday after what’s being called one of their most uneventful summer rallies.
The motorcycle group’s stay, from Wednesday to Sunday, resulted in no major problems, no violence and little illegal activity, law enforcement officials said, and they credited their large show of force with helping to keep the peace.
“I’m not aware of any Hells Angels rally before where there was not one significant event,” St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said, noting past rallies have seen stabbings, shootings, fights and other crimes. “We haven’t had any of that.”
Local reaction mixed
Many local residents are criticizing the law enforcement saturation effort, which Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said Monday was disheartening.
“I have heard people saying, ‘Nothing happened, we didn’t need you,’” Lake said. But we say nothing happened because we were there.”
At least one man who considers himself an expert on the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club said Friday that the Hells Angels’ friendliness and generally peaceful demeanor at annual USA Runs are part of a “dog-and-pony show” designed to distract from the organization’s record of violence and crime.
Behind the scenes, Julian Sher, an investigative journalist who has studied the Hells Angels since 2000 and wrote “Angels of Death: Inside the Biker Gang’s Crime Empire,” said it’s a different story.
Many members of the Hells Angels advance a violent agenda and have a history of hundreds of convictions for felonies ranging from making and selling drugs to rape to murder, he said. In 2002, a shootout at a rally in Laughlin, Nev., led to three deaths. In the early 1990s, Sher said, more than 160 people were killed in Canada as part of a turf war involving the Hells Angels.
Local law enforcement officials defended their saturation presence with dozens of officers in the area for the past few days saying they firmly believe it kept the Hells Angels on their best behavior.
Lake wouldn’t say how many officers were in the area or how many different agencies were involved. She said a detailed list of agencies and the cost of the operation, at least her department’s, would be released in coming days.
Litman said the threat of violence and “potential danger” when up to 500 Hells Angels members gathered in the area was very real. He said planning, preparation and “intelligence” gathered from studying past events in other regions allowed officers to know what to expect and how to respond.
Traffic stops number in the hundreds, few arrests
Throughout the group’s visit, officers from all agencies made hundreds of traffic stops in Carlton and southern St. Louis County. Those stops resulted in more than 100 citations, with fewer than 40 given to Hells Angels members, Lake said. A dozen people not affiliated with Hells Angels were arrested for outstanding warrants, theft, drugs, a probation violation and driving while intoxicated.
One 42-year-old Hells Angel from New York with a criminal history, including eight felony convictions, was arrested for driving under the influence and refusing to give a breathalyzer test. Further investigation revealed the motorcycle that Jeffrey Paul Amato was driving at the time of his arrest had been reported stolen in New Jersey.
Amato appeared in Carlton County District Court Friday afternoon on felony charges of receiving stolen property and a controlled substance crime in the fifth degree. Additionally, he was charged with refusing to submit to a chemical test, a gross misdemeanor, and misdemeanor driving while under the influence. He was released on $2,000 cash bail and has another court appearance in about a month, according to Carlton County Attorney Thom Pertler.
Two additional Hells Angels members were cited for DUI before the weekend ended and one member of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club, a rival gang of the Hells Angels, was arrested Friday night in Superior for carrying a concealed firearm.
Sgt. Mark Baker of the Minnesota State Patrol said that the number of traffic stops in the Duluth-Cloquet-Carlton area was far more than usual for a weekend, but it about matched the stops and citations during other State Patrol saturation events such as the We Fest music festival in Detroit Lakes or a race weekend at Brainerd International Raceway.
State, federal and local law enforcement agencies shut down their Carlton command post Sunday saying the motorcyclists were moving out, some on their way to Sturgis, S.D., for the annual motorcycle rally there.
Although authorities were concerned about the rival Outlaws group, who were gathered in Northwestern Wisconsin over the same time period, no major problems were reported.
Some businesses saw Hells Angels’ money, some only saw squads
Meanwhile, business operators released a few more details about how they benefited from the Hells Angels’ visit.
At least 200 rooms were booked at Black Bear Casino and Resort in Carlton, according to marketing manager Rocky Wilkinson. He said members doubled up in many of those rooms, and about a dozen were booked for families.
“They were picture-perfect guests,” he said.
Plenty of local businesses were used during the group’s stay, Lost Isle owner Tim Rogentine said, including Doucette’s Party Rental of Duluth; B&B Market, Cold One Liquor, Sign Pro and Aardvark Septic Pumping, all of Cloquet.
Rogentine said he earned less than $3,000 from the group.
But some argue the local economy lost possible revenue because many Hells Angels were afraid to move around the area and risk harassment.
Linda Hough of Carlton, the former owner of a Harley-Davidson dealership in Georgia, said she visited with members of the motorcycle group at the Third Base Bar in Carlton on Saturday. “I felt sorry for all of them drinking O’Doul’s [a non-alcoholic beverage] because they were scared to have a beer and ride back to Black Bear.”
Duluth News Tribune reporters John Myers, Brandon Stahl and Jana Hollingsworth contributed to this story.