An off-duty Seattle police detective who shot a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club early Saturday during the famed annual biker rally in Sturgis, S.D., feared for his life, according to the president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild.
An off-duty Seattle police detective was being assaulted and feared for his life when he shot a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle club early Saturday during the famed annual biker rally in Sturgis, S.D., according to the president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild.
The detective, who works in the department’s pawnshop unit and is an active member in the police union, told union President Rich O’Neill that he fired in self-defense, O’Neill said this morning. The detective was on vacation with other Seattle officers when the nonfatal shooting occurred.
O’Neill said the officer was involved in a fight with the biker before the shooting.
“They were there having a good time and he was jumped; it was totally unprovoked,” O’Neill said. “I heard choking was involved. I hear he’s got facial injuries. He was getting beat up.”
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The Hells Angels member was being treated at a Sturgis-area hospital Sunday. The hospital would not comment on his condition.
The Seattle police detective was among five off-duty Seattle police officers at the Loud American Roadhouse in Sturgis.
A crowd of 500-plus was jamming to the beat of rock group Judd Hoos at the bar when several Hells Angels members began to congregate, said bar co-owner Dean Kinney. His employees called police just to play it safe.
“We didn’t call the police because there was a fight; we called police because we just knew that it was different. We were being cautious,” Kinney said. “We have almost no trouble at Sturgis. The people are so happy that you just learn to recognize when things seem a little different.”
Kinney said he then heard two shots fired in quick succession.
“There were probably 30 officers outside when it happened, so the response was instantaneous,” Kinney said Sunday.
The Seattle police detective was briefly detained and has since been released, Bestgen said.
All five officers who were at the bar have been relieved of duty pending the investigation by South Dakota authorities, according to the Seattle police statement. Their names have not been released by the department.
Seattle police Chief Gil Kerlikowske dispatched a team of homicide and internal-affairs investigators to Sturgis to gather information, Whitcomb said.
O’Neill said the Seattle detective involved in the shooting has been investigated by the department a handful of times, once for allegedly taunting someone at a football game, but he has not received any “serious” discipline. He said the detective contacted him, as his union representative, since the shooting.
“It’s difficult, but people have to wait for all of the evidence to come in and the investigation is done, and it will be obvious that he was defending himself,” O’Neill said. “There is a video; it will vindicate the officer.”
Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb declined to comment on the case.
Sturgis Assistant Police Chief Brandon Bestgen said this morning that the case has been forwarded to the Meade County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The detective is a member of the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club, a group of police officers and firefighters. The Iron Pigs club has chapters in 22 states.
Kinney, of the Loud American Roadhouse, said he had seen members of the Iron Pigs throughout the week.
“I didn’t know until after the fact that their numbers are made up of police and firefighters,” he said. “They were happy-go-lucky guys. They’d been in there throughout the rally and just seemed like normal guys that ride motorcycles and were having a couple of beers and hanging out. We didn’t view them as any kind of outlaw motorcycle group. We had not had any trouble with them whatsoever.”
The Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club, Seattle chapter, cites a straightforward philosophy: to have fun.
“In our professions we are forced to deal with a lot of crap on the job; we don’t need it when we play,” says the Web site of the club, which is made up of Seattle-area police officers and firefighters.
But work and play collided early Saturday at a bar fight in Sturgis, home to South Dakota’s annual legendary, Mardi Gras-like motorcycle rally.
The club’s philosophy page describes the group as “the good guys, on the job and off. We help the public.” The Seattle Police Department’s Web site notes that the group delivered 198 wrapped gifts to foster children last Christmas.
The group also appears prepared to stand up for itself. “If we are treated in a such away [sic] that shows us disrespect, or that violates the law, we will handle the situation in a lawful manner, keeping in mind our ultimate priority: preserving the integrity of the Iron Pigs M/C.”
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org