(Pictures below by TigerLily)
Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) interrogated four San Diego motorcycle tourists at the Las Vegas BikeFest near the Cashman Center exit on Saturday afternoon, October 2. The Tourists’ new club, High Riders Motorcycle Club of San Diego, drew special attention by the khaki-clad LVMPD officers. What I witnessed there on Saturday afternoon, likely left an enduring impression on those tourists and most certainly on me.
I saw four patched bikers against a wall exiting Cashman. In front of each biker was a Metro police officer asking questions and jotting down notes. A fifth officer - the sergeant in charge –reviewed the notes, talked to the officers, and inspected each biker front to back and head to toe. The bikers were subdued and cooperative. I assumed the four bikers were getting citations, but I was wrong.
Two other Metro officers were observing from a nearby bench. A number of men and women and a few children seemed curious to look at the goings on as they passed by. I approached one of the officers sitting on the bench and asked why the bikers were getting citations. He said, “They’re not getting citations. We just don’t recognize their patch.” Next, I watched one of the bikers strip down to his waist. The sergeant in charge inspected a biker’s tattoos and took pictures. Then I heard an authoritative command from the officer on the bench, to “Show some respect!” I was surprised to learn he was commanding me, because I was quietly taking pictures from what I thought was a safe distance. So I turned on my recorder, identified myself, and talked to that officer. He clammed up and referred me to the sergeant. The sergeant told me the bikers were NOT getting citations and, said, “I can’t discuss their business and frankly, if they want to, they can.”
But when the first released biker approached me, the sergeant grabbed him by the shoulder and herded him and the other three men off the premises. I chased the four bikers who were pretty upset. Troy Lawson, 42 year-old club president, said, “I thought this was f’ing America!” I couldn’t get them to stop and talk to me because they said they were told to leave Nevada or be arrested. I could see the officers eyeballing us so we kept moving. Consistent with the sergeant’s report, the four men denied having been charged with any crime. So, why would Metro threaten and order these bikers to leave?
I went back into Cashman and reported what the bikers told me to Libertarian Art Lampitt, candidate for Governor of Nevada. He was there campaigning and saw the tail-end of the incident. He said, “Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Most recently we have the fatal shootings of Trevon Cole, Eric Scott, and the medical marijuana raids on legitimate businesses that were helping the sick. The real problem is who do you call when it is the local government or local police that are violating our civil rights? I see the need for a state police force dedicated to protecting our civil rights from both local and federal law enforcement agencies. This is our government and it is supposed to be protecting our life, liberty, and property. The time for simply complaining is over. I am doing my part to make a difference, and if elected, I will continue to do my part in protecting our civil rights. This November 2nd, it will be up to the rest of us to do our part and vote for leaders that will protect our rights."
The bikers did not leave Nevada. They went downtown to their hotel, where I caught up to them that evening. Here is what the club president had to say:
My “brothers” and I formed a club less than two months ago. We collected a total of $1000 to come to BikeFest and we rode over nine hours to get here. We paid $50 to get into BikeFest, and that included the poker run. One of us had a high hand so we were hoping we won. The last poker stop was at Cashman but before checking our hand, three of us went to the bathroom. Only two stalls were available so I waited my turn. While I waited, I yelled out to my brothers, “Hey hurry up bitches! Let’s go get a beer.” A cop behind me said, “Are you calling me a Metro bitch?” I said, “No sir. I was talking to my brothers.” The metro cop said, “I don’t think so. Get your f’ing ass outside now!” I said, “Hey, I’m sorry. Really, I wasn’t talking to you.” But he ordered me out and I went. I was ordered to stand against the wall and before I knew it, all four of us were standing there answering questions and showing them our IDs. They wanted to know where we lived, where we worked, the make and model of our motorcycle; if we were a one percent club – questions like that. We gave them our social security numbers. My brothers have clean records. But then they saw that I had a felony. The next thing I know, a cop is in my face, saying things like, “You think you’re such a bad ass, don’t you?” It was like he was trying to make me lose my cool. But I didn’t. They ordered me to take my clothes off. I told them I wasn’t comfortable doing that because some of my tattoos are obscene. I don’t go around in public showing my tattoos. And I’m here in the open with kids and families all looking. But I didn’t have a choice. So I took off my clothes and that’s when they got really in my space to inspect my tattoos.
The VP of the club is 29 year-old Trent Cochran. He is a three-year Army Vet who served in South Korea as a Multiple Launch Rocket Systems Crew member. He said, “The only time we have ever been harassed is right here in Las Vegas, for nothing more than being at a biker’s convention.” A club member who wishes to remain anonymous for fear that an association with this incident might affect his employment status said, “We know bikers coming from California to Las Vegas who are stopped in Nevada, detained at the side of the road, searched, and harassed for like six hours.” The four motorcycle BikeFest tourists returned to San Diego at the crack of dawn on Sunday, vowing never to return.
After numerous contacts with Metro’s public affairs officers, one finally told me that tourists won’t be bothered if they are not in a gang and if they don’t have gang tattoos. When I reported this to David Stilwell, Nevada civil rights activist, he instructed me to, “Look up the Nevada law definition of ‘gang’ and you tell me – who the real gangsters are.”
According to Nevada law, the characteristics of a gang: “(a) Has a common name or identifying symbol; (b) Has particular conduct, status and customs indicative of it; and (c) Has as one of its common activities engaging in criminal activity punishable as a felony…”
If the bikers were forced to comply under the threat of guns and authority, the Metro officers committed “coercion,” a possible felony. Nevada law defines coercion when persons: “(a) Use violence or inflict injury … or threaten such violence or injury; (b) Deprive the person of any tool, implement or clothing, or hinder the person in the use thereof; or (c) Attempt to intimidate the person by threats or force.”
Michael L. Becker is a defense attorney for the Las Vegas Defense Group, with associates in California. One of his associates is a motorcycle rider and club member. Therefore, his firm is versed on the special legal issues that motorcyclists face. When he learned about the incident and that it involved a club member that had a prior felony, Mr. Becker said, “A felon who is not on parole or probation has the same right to be free from unreasonable search or seizure as anyone else.” As for Metro’s orders to leave Nevada, Becker said, “No police officer has the lawful right or authority to order anyone to leave the State of Nevada, or any other state, nor to threaten individuals with arrest upon reentry of the state.” In short, Mr. Becker advises to be courteous without waving rights; do not consent to any search; remain silent; take names; and lawyer-up.
But what did Metro do with the data they collected from the bikers? Stuart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, informed me that our Clark County Sheriff Gillispie is a member of a Department of Homeland Security council to counter violent extremism. Stuart says, “Our Sheriff is taking part in branding freedom lovers and labeling them as “extremists.” Are motorcycle clubs being “branded?”
No answers from Sheriff Gillespie. But his opponent Laurie Bisch, running for Sheriff on November 2nd said, “The form Metro was using to collect data is an ‘Interview’ form. And I don’t believe it goes any further than Metro.” Unlike Gillespie - who was inaccessible for comment - Bisch advises that if a citizen has an unprofessional encounter with a law enforcer, it is helpful to get the names and badge numbers to file a complaint.
Is Gillespie the only anti-motorcyclist Sheriff in Nevada? In June, Vic “Doc” Moss, Master Sergeant, USAF, Retired, described his observations of law enforcement during a Wounded Warrior motorcycle rally in Hawthorne, Nevada. He called it “tyranny” and said, “Next year, someone needs to tell Sheriff Ed that we’re the good guys.” I have spoken to many local motorcyclists and the allegations of police officer abuses are suspiciously consistent with what I witnessed.
I reported this incident to anyone that would listen. Governor Gibbons’ public relations officer left this message on my voicemail, "I think you need to be in touch with the Attorney General's Office – not the Governor's." But when I asked our current Attorney General, Catherine Cortez Masto – who is running for re-election on November 2, her public relations officer said, “The Office of the Attorney General has no jurisdiction in this case – you will need to get your answers from Sheriff Gillespie.” Her opponent, Travis Barrick, for Attorney General disagreed. He said, “To say she has no jurisdiction over Metro is disingenuous in light of the fact that she has exerted her authority over numerous other agencies and subject matters.”
Mr. Barrick also commented about the incident at Cashman: “The actions of the Metro cops described by you are an outrage! What you related was a clear violation of the Bikers' civil rights. But unfortunately, the bikers did not appear to know their rights, so they caved to the unlawful pressure exerted by the Metro cops. We all know how aggressive Metro cops can be when they think that they can act with impunity. This attitude is a disgrace to the force and our City. It is also sad that no other citizens came to their rescue. But that is the result of a culture of fear and intimidation that Metro cultivates and preys upon. We can expect incidents like this to continue until the citizens become informed of their rights and are prepared to stand up for themselves and others. When incidents like this occur, we all need to be armed with video cameras to record the Metro cops’ behavior so that they can be identified and prosecuted for civil rights violations.”
The outrage expressed by Mr. Barrick’s statement is a reflection of his understanding of the motorcycling community because he is one of us. He is a Harley rider and comes from a long family line of motorcyclists dating back to his tiny Irish grandmother that rode an Indian. It will certainly take a strong person like Mr. Barrick as Attorney General, to hold law enforcement agencies – like Metro - accountable to We the People.
Was Doc correct to use the word “tyranny?” And could this khaki-clad incident be a precursor to a darker shade of brown?
PICTURES BY TIGERLILY...
|Sgt. Rios, LVMPD, taking pics of the president's head tattoos.|
|The LVMPD sitting on the bench|
told me to "show some respect."
|What is the woman walking by thinking?|
|What lesson are the children learning?|
|This Army Vet didn't realize he didn't have to give up his I.D.|
|Despite the prez' objections, Sgt-in-Charge Rios took pics.|