Cop says he feared for his life in biker-bar attack
The Seattle police officer who wounded a member of the Hells Angels during a barroom shooting in South Dakota early Saturday says he was forced to open fire after being attacked and pinned to the floor by up to three members of the notorious motorcycle gang.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The Seattle police officer who wounded a Hells Angel during a barroom shooting in South Dakota early Saturday says he was forced to open fire after being attacked and pinned to the floor by up to three members of the notorious motorcycle gang.
"I was cold-cocked on the left side of my face by at least one, if not three, Hells Angels," said the officer, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety. Seattle police and union officials echoed that concern.
"I woke up on the ground pinned against a bar stool by a Hells Angel in a red bandanna," the officer said. "I was receiving fists and feet from the top during this."
The 43-year-old detective said he tried to wriggle free, but "didn't have any leverage." The Hells Angel in the bandanna tried to grab for the detective's gun just as another man was choking him, the detective said. He said he then pulled the handgun from his hip and opened fire.
The shooting during the popular Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is now the subject of a grand-jury investigation by authorities in South Dakota's Meade County. Seattle police also are in Sturgis conducting an internal investigation.
The detective, who is assigned to the Seattle department's pawnshop unit, and four other vacationing Seattle officers who were in the bar at the time of the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. All five are members of the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club, which is made up of police officers and firefighters.
The five officers were in a bar called the Loud American Roadhouse when they were circled by a group of men wearing Hells Angels patches on their clothes. The detective said one Hells Angel member "got in my face" and began an argument.
The detective said he was knocked to the floor within 30 seconds. It's unclear what the other four Seattle officers were doing when the fight broke out.
On Monday, Sturgis police identified the wounded man as Joseph McGuire, 33, of Imperial Beach, Calif. Police confirmed to the Rapid City Journal that McGuire is a member of the Hells Angels. He was listed in stable condition Monday.
The Seattle detective suffered bruising and facial injuries, he said.
Dean Kinney, co-owner of the Loud American Roadhouse, said there were nearly 400 people inside the bar when the shooting occurred. He said security staff told him that the Hells Angel and members of the Iron Pigs were "jawing back and forth" before the shooting happened.
The detective said he was briefly detained by Sturgis police and asked to testify before a Meade County grand jury on Sunday.
Meade County State's Attorney Jesse Sondreal told the Rapid City Journal that the hearing was a chance for out-of-state witnesses to explain what they saw to prosecutors before a decision is made on whether to file criminal charges.
According to the newspaper, 25 people testified during the seven-hour court hearing.
The detective said he explained what happened at the Loud American Roadhouse and the grand jury excused him. He is now back in Washington state.
Sondreal said no arrests have been made and that the investigation could continue until the grand jury reconvenes on Aug. 27.
Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb declined to comment Monday on the incident.
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation is reviewing state and federal laws pertaining to concealed-weapons permits to determine whether the detective did anything illegal by carrying a firearm into a bar, said Sara Rabern, spokeswoman for the South Dakota Attorney General's Office.
Kinney, the bar owner, said he doesn't know how the Seattle detective got past security with a firearm.
According to South Dakota law, people with concealed-weapons permits cannot carry firearms into bars. Police officers are exempt from this rule if they have written permission from the county sheriff, according to the law.
However, a federal law enacted in 2004 supersedes the state law, allowing off-duty law-enforcement officers to carry weapons anywhere they choose, but it requires that the weapons handler is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"I was not intoxicated," the detective said.
Kinney said he doesn't recall any of the Iron Pigs group being drunk.
The detective added that he believes the 2004 federal law gives him the right to carry a gun wherever he wants while off-duty. The detective said he always carries a gun at motorcycle rallies because he knows that a motorcycle club composed of cops and firefighters attracts negative attention from "outlaw" bikers.
Thousands of motorcyclists descend on the small South Dakota city each year for the annual biker rally. Along with the everyday riders, attendees include Hells Angels, Banditos and other gangs. The weeklong rally wrapped up on Sunday.
Kinney said the town's population swells from about 6,500 to nearly 500,000 during the rally. He said this year he saw Iron Pigs members inside his bar almost daily.
"The Iron Pigs had been in there during the week and we never regarded them as trouble," Kinney said. "They were well behaved the whole time they had been there. They just seemed like normal guys who were riding Harleys and having a few drinks."
The detective involved in the shooting said he has twice been investigated by the department of Office of Professional Accountability, a civilian police-oversight group, during his 15 years on the force. Both complaints were sustained by the group.
One investigation stemmed from a verbal argument he got into with a Seahawk fan while working an off-duty assignment at Qwest Field in 2004. The detective said he also got into an argument inside a Pierce County restaurant in 2005 with a restaurant employee who was taunting and threatening him and his then-fiancee.
The detective said he received a two-day suspension for the incident with the Seahawk fan and a written reprimand for the other incident.
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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