As rival gang moves in, authorities wary of turf war with Hells Angels
Law enforcement officials in Wisconsin say several chapters of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club are congregating in the northwestern part of the state in response to the Hells Angels gathering in Northeastern Minnesota, and they're worried that tension between the two rivals could erupt into violence.
"If the Hells Angels were to ride into Wisconsin, the Outlaws may confront them," Washburn County Sheriff Terry Dryden said. "We don't want that to happen, but if it does happen we'll be ready for them."
The Outlaws share a similar trait to the Hells Angels in that its leaders have a history of drug trafficking and murder convictions, Dryden said. The groups have clashed in the past, most significantly in 2006 when Dryden said there was a shooting in Sturgis, S.D.
Dryden said Outlaws consider Wisconsin their state, while Hells Angels consider Minnesota theirs. According to some Internet reports on the Outlaws, one of their mottos is ADIOS, for "Angels die in Outlaw states."
"We want to make sure that the Hells Angels don't ride their colors into Wisconsin," Dryden said. "If they run into each other in large groups, that could be a problem."
Assistant Superior Police Chief Chuck LeGesse said he had heard reports of Hells Angels driving through Superior, but said there won't be a problem unless the two groups clash.
The Hells Angels have clashed with other motorcycle gangs. In Eureka Springs, Ark., two summers ago, the Hells Angels gathering seemed to be going smoothly until its final day, when four members of the Bandidos -- a rival gang -- were stabbed during a run-in with the Hells Angels, six of whom were arrested.
To prepare for a potential clash between the Hells Angels and Outlaws, a law enforcement operational center has been set up in Washburn County, which Dryden said is staffed with local, state and federal law enforcement "with hundreds of officers" involved to gather intelligence and respond to any situations between the two motorcycle gangs.
Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said officials in Minnesota are also monitoring the situation and working with Wisconsin law enforcement. She said no Outlaws had entered Minnesota as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We would obviously be concerned if they moved into Carlton County," she said.
Around 200 Outlaws from Wisconsin and other states are expected to be in the area, LeGesse said. He said some were staying with friends and family in the area, some in local hotels, and others were camping in Pattison State Park.
He said police had received no complaints about the Outlaws as of Wednesday evening.
"Our agency will have extra people out and we will be watching everybody," he said.
About two dozens Outlaws stopped at the High Fives on Fifth Street bar for about an hour, said bartender Sandy Boettcher. She wasn't sure why they chose to stop there, other than a "welcome bikers" sign on the front of the building welcoming all motorcyclists.
"They were very pleasant," Boettcher said. "There were no problems."
The Outlaws stayed for about an hour, with some having a couple of beers and about half ordering soda.
"They just kicked back, relaxed and rested their legs," she said. "They were very nice and polite."
Bartender Dawn Linder said she'd welcome them back.
Dryden said he expects the Outlaws to disperse by Monday, when the Hells Angels are expected to leave the Carlton area.