CLEVELAND, Ohio — A shootout in a Nevada casino. A brawl at a San Diego Chuck-E-Cheese. A deadly stabbing in San Francisco.
The Hells Angels and Mongols motorcycle gangs’ decades-long feud sparked dozens of incidents of violence over the years in cities across the country.
Add to that list Valley View, a quiet suburb about 11 miles south of Cleveland with an estimated population of 1,997 that last experienced deadly violence in 1990.
Members of the gangs fought Saturday evening in the parking lot of a Shell gas station. The fight ended with one member of the Mongols stabbed and a Hells Angels member dead from a gunshot wound.
Motorcycle gang experts who spoke to cleveland.com said the hatred between the two runs so deep they often need no reason to attack each other in public.
“There’s such a long-established hatred between the two that if they see an opportunity, they’re going to take,” said Steve Cook, the president of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association. “It’s pretty consistent wherever you go. If they’re around each other, you’re going to have a fight, but more likely a shooting or a stabbing.”
The groups, two of the largest motorcycle gangs in the country, fought from the outset, experts said.
The origin of the bad blood between the groups dates back to the early 1970s in Southern California when the Hells Angels rejected prospective Latino members. Those told they couldn’t join the Hells Angels formed the Mongols. That sparked decades of violence that continues today, Schoville said.
The hatred between the two gangs makes retaliation for the Valley View fight a near certainty, according to Cook and Chuck Schoville, the president of the International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association. But both said retaliation doesn’t necessarily happen in the same city where the initial incident occurred.
“Even though the act happened in Valley View, the next one could happen in California or Arizona or anywhere,” Schoville said. “Every Mongol and every Hells Angel knows what happened [in Valley View]. Will it happen in the same town? Maybe, maybe not. It’s whenever the opportunity presents itself. It could be next week, six months from now or a year. Someone will retaliate, it’s just a matter of when and where.”
Mongols expansion fuels violence
The Hells Angels have been in Cleveland for decades. It’s one of the gang’s oldest charters, established in 1967, according to its website. The clubhouse sits on East 67th Street and Edna Avenue in the Saint Clair-Superior neighborhood.
The group expanded its footprint in Northeast Ohio in recent years with new charters opening in Lake County in 2002, in Akron in 2014 and Portage County this year.
The Mongols’ website they have chapters in 19 states and several countries, but none in Ohio. Federal agents conducted search warrants in Ohio in 2008 as part of an investigation into the Mongols gang that ended with 79 arrests in California and Colorado.
Violence between the two groups has become more regular in recent years because the Mongols expansion across the United States means the groups cross paths more often, Schoville said.
Cook said the group expanded into Missouri in recent years and established a chapter in Michigan that evaporated. The group has looked to expand into Illinois and Ohio in recent years, he said.
There are numerous news and law-enforcement accounts of violent encounters between both groups within the past two decades.
In 2002, a shootout between the two gangs at Harrah’s casino in Laughlin, Nevada left two Hells Angels and one Mongols dead and gamblers diving for cover.
Mongols gang members attacked a Hells Angels member in 2005 at a Toys-for-Tots charity ride at a Chuck-E-Cheese in San Diego, stealing his Hells Angels attire.
A Mongols member in 2008 fatally stabbed the leader of the Hells Angels’ San Francisco chapter. In 2011, two Hells Angels members stabbed two Mongols at a bar in Sturgis, South Dakota.
More recently, a fight devolved into a shootout on July 12 outside an Avada, Colorado barbecue restaurant. A Hells Angels member died, and two others suffered injuries in the shooting a restaurant patron was beaten unconscious.
“They’ve now lost two patches to the Mongols in a short time,” Cook said, referencing the patches on the biker’s vests. “They’re not going to let that go.”
Valley View shooting sparks panic
Investigators have not yet said what they believe led up to the fight in Valley View. Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the incident.
At least 10 gang members about 7 p.m. argued near the gas pumps and started fighting, according to Ohio BCI spokesman Steve Irwin and police reports.
Hells Angels member Steve Fuller, 53, stabbed a 29-year-old member of the Mongols, who lives in Garfield Heights, according to Irwin and police reports.
A 31-year-old Mongols member, who also lives in Garfield Heights, shot Fuller, killing him. Police arrested the shooter, but later released from police custody, Irwin said.
The fight set off a panic for people at the gas station and police. A woman who called 911 said she stopped in to buy a soda and witnessed the shooting.
“Oh my god, I’ve got to get out here before I get shot,” the woman told the dispatcher. “He’s down. He’s killed.”
She told a dispatcher she saw another customer run over Fuller’s leg while speeding away. Another woman called 911 to report the shooting and said she was too scared to walk up to the window in fear of getting shot.
Valley View police notified nearby Cleveland, Bedford Heights, Garfield Heights and Sagamore Hills as members of both gangs rode up to the scene. Hells Angels members sat at the nearby Burger King, while Mongols stood outside the crime scene at the gas station, police records say.
Cleveland police sent several officers to MetroHealth, where both Fuller and the Mongols member were hospitalized.
When they learned Fuller, whose daughter is a Cleveland police officer, died, Hells Angels members became “irate” and tried to force their way into the crime scene, according to police reports.
About 20 bikers sped off towards MetroHealth with the threat of “locking the whole place down,” according to police records.
“They don’t care where they’re at,” Cook said. “Just like this, if they see an opportunity to take a shot, they’ll take it. It’s lucky a regular citizen wasn’t shot.”