Biker party lacks conflict, but eventful nonetheless
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Photo by Chad Harder
Last weekend’s biker rally brings in a lot of cops, but not a lot of crime. Police make just one felony arrest of a Hells Angel during the four-day party, according to available reports. David LaBrava of California faces a cocaine possession charge and remains under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in his hotel room.
A scene in front of the Badlander late Saturday night contained all the physical elements of a police riot: dozens of outlaw bikers from California and Nevada reveling with abandon, an almost equal number of well-armed cops from every corner of Montana and, of course, gaggles of intoxicated locals.
The only ingredient missing seemed the energy needed to make the compound react, which no party present proved willing to supply. To the credit of law enforcement, the smoldering animosity that sparked violence along Higgins Avenue in 2000 felt impalpable to many participants of Missoula’s latest rally of the Hells Angels.
“The cops have actually been really courteous,” says just Ron, an Angel from San Benito County, Calif. “You would think, I mean, why the fuck would they care? We’re just here to have a good time.”
As the night wound down, a petrol-dispensing red pickup pulled onto Ryman Street to gas up the rows of bikes for the jaunt back to their campground at Marshall Mountain. One by one, Angels roared off with scantily clad escorts, corralled from nearby taverns in the minutes before last call. The unceremonious conclusion signaled the end to a peaceful party.
Chaos’ non-arrival aside, here’s the Indy’s wrap-up of the weekend’s happenings:
Hells Angels camped at the defunct Marshall Mountain ski area make a game out of trying to ride up the southernmost downhill run. The trend begins just before dusk on Friday evening when one club member takes his hog up several hundred feet before stalling out on loose dirt. At one point the next day, a few inebriated bikers reportedly try the same feat in a small car.
The incidents raise some eyebrows with the head office of the Lolo National Forest, which forbids motorized access to un-trailed public land. As of Monday, Forest Service ranger Maggie Pittman had determined the Angels were actually tearing up land owned by the real estate trust Plum Creek.
Curses, foiled again
A Spokane homicide suspect on the lamb since March gets snagged Saturday afternoon partying amid perhaps the highest concentration of cops in the Intermountain West. Sheriff’s deputies arrest Freddie Miller, 28, for his alleged involvement in a gang-related shooting in his hometown last September.
“We received reliable information from a confidential source that Freddie Miller was at the Testicle Festival, and was wanted out of Spokane,” says Sheriff’s Dept. Capt. Susan Hintz.
County attorney Fred Van Valkenburg says Miller waived his right to extradition and will voluntarily head back to Washington this week. He likely faces second-degree murder charges.
Late Friday night, two Connecticut Hells Angels hop aboard a decidedly less-powerful version of their V-Twin Harley Davidsons: a bicycle-powered rickshaw with loud tunes and ground-effects. They pay five bucks and a hefty tip for a ride from the Pita Pit to Stockman’s Bar blasting The Charlie Daniel’s Band’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
Rickshaw driver Jonas Ehudin (also the Indy’s Comrade Calendar) reports relatively few club members take advantage of the bike-powered safe rides between bars, but more than a few put in song requests with the idling rig driver. “One of them wanted Snoop Dogg,” Ehudin says. “A few others said, ‘Turn that rap shit off.’”
Wish they all could be California girls
In spite of a parental warning from the Missoulian editorial board, which cautions readers to avoid Rock Creek Lodge’s annual Testicle Festival, event organizers report a solid turnout.
“Obviously, it worked,” quips Lodge owner Matt Powers, pointing to a large Friday crowd. Powers declares the 2008 Testicle Festival the most successful since he took over the property four years earlier.
The Hells Angels make one demographic in notably low-attendance at the booze- and ball-fueled bash. One club member who made it expresses disappointment saying, “I’ve never seen an uglier collection of white women in my life.”
Dumb, but not that dumb
Over the weekend, a handful of fistfights break out inside and outside of several downtown bars between bikers and local men. Most of the action occurs at biker hotspots—Stockman’s Bar, Charlie B’s, the Bodega and The Rhino. In one of the gnarliest incidents, witnesses describe several Angels assaulting a local Saturday night on Ryman Street who reportedly picked the fight with an older club member.
Yet, despite the numerous throwdowns across downtown, police say not one resident nor Hells Angel went to the can for fighting. “We’d show up and nobody would ever press any charges,” explains Missoula Police Sgt. Scott Hoffman. “Nobody ever wanted to do anything.”
Local Ron Running files a complaint Wednesday with law enforcement authorities alleging that several Hells Angels damaged his Suburban and intimated him and his 17-year-old daughter on I-90. Running attempted to stop bikers from passing between his car and an adjacent semi in slow-flow traffic after a few knocked back his side mirror. The move drew the ire of bikers still aiming to pass, who reportedly bashed Running’s hood while taunting the pair.
As of press time, highway and county investigators could offer nothing new on Running’s intimidation complaint. “It’s mostly a he-said-she-said kind of thing,” says Highway Patrol Capt. Tom Hamilton.