Sunday, August 13, 2006

Why Mom told you not to pick up hitchhikers

Mom was always over protective and exagerated the hazards of picking up hitchhikers or people stranded on the side the road. She would always say something like "those guys are probably Hells Angels who just had a shootout with a rival motorcycle gang and are running from the cops."

It is hard for me to say this, but...Mom, I guess you were right.

Officers arrest shooting suspects (The Rapid City Journal)

The two suspects in the biker-gang shooting Tuesday in Custer State Park asked the wrong person for a ride.

The suspects, Chad John Wilson, 30, of Linwood, Wash., and John James Midmore, 32, of Valparaiso, Ind., fled the scene in a white Ford pickup after the late afternoon shooting, took a back road and later got stuck, according to Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler. Wilson and Midmore then left the vehicle and traveled on foot through the woods for two or three hours, he said.

They came out on U.S. Highway 14 near Stockade Lake, saw a man with a vehicle and asked him for a ride. The man turned out to be an off-duty park ranger who immediately called for backup. Other law enforcement officers had just gone past, Wheeler said. “We had two units there real fast.”

Wilson and Midmore were arrested without incident about 11 p.m. Tuesday. They were not carrying guns, Wheeler said.

The two were charged Wednesday with five counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting five people affiliated with the Outlaws motorcycle gang at Legion Lake Resort.

Wilson is a member of the Hells Angels, and Midmore is affiliated with the Hells Angels, according to Sara Rabern, a spokeswoman for the South Dakota Attorney General’s office.

The Hells Angels and Outlaws are rival motorcycle gangs, according to state Division of Criminal Investigation director Kevin Thom.

Authorities said the shooting victims are either Outlaws members or associates of Outlaws members.

Wilson and Midmore are being held in Pennington County Jail.

They likely will make their initial court appearances this morning in Rapid City, according to Tracy Kelley, Custer County state’s attorney. Kelley said she was awaiting paperwork from investigators before filing formal charges.

Kelley said that there were six total injuries but that only five people were shot. One woman suffered injuries not related to a gunshot, she said.

Two of the shooting victims were in critical condition after undergoing surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital, Rabern said. Another victim was flown to a Sioux Falls hospital and was listed in stable condition, she said. Two other shooting victims, as well as the woman who suffered a nonshooting injury, were treated and released, she said.

Names of the victims were still unavailable Wednesday afternoon.

No one else was injured, although there were about 40 people nearby who witnessed the shooting, Wheeler said.

He said the Outlaws bikers had pulled over at the edge of the parking lot off the highway next to Legion Lake Resort. A white Ford pickup came up behind them from the east, and one or both men inside began shooting, Wheeler said.

The shots hit the Outlaws bikers but were also in the general direction of the lake, Wheeler said. He didn’t know the locations of the witnesses, but the lake is a popular gathering spot for tourists.

“We were very fortunate that we didn’t have other people hurt,” Wheeler said.

An off-duty volunteer at the campground down the road from the shooting site was in his motor home when he heard what sounded like firecrackers.

The volunteer, who would not give his name because he was told not to speak about the incident, said that when he heard another half-dozen or so shots, he knew they were bullets. He said he then saw a white pickup truck speed by.

Bikers on Wednesday morning showed up to survey the scene and look at blood stains and clumps of what appeared to be gore on the driveway leading to the park restaurant. A few feet away were rolls of crime scene tape, no longer in use.

Mark Nicoson of Des Moines, Iowa, said the Sturgis motorcycle rally has been quiet this year as it has the past two times he has attended the Black Hills event.

He said that the shooting is likely an isolated incident and that most bikers are nonviolent people.

“They’re not out to hurt anyone. This is between each other,” Nicoson said.

David Berkley of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said a trooper and an ambulance had been parked at the resort during the rally because it’s a central location in Custer State Park from which to respond to calls throughout the park. Another trooper said he had left moments before the shooting to make an arrest on a separate incident.

Members of the Outlaws have been staying at a campground near the intersection of South Playhouse Road and Iron Mountain Road, according to Wheeler. The Journal incorrectly reported Wednesday that the Outlaws members were staying at a house there.

Custer State Park returned to normal Wednesday, according to park superintendent Richard Miller. “They’ve been busy at the gate,” he said. The Legion Lake parking lot was partly full because of a downpour. “It looked like business as usual,” Miller said in a phone interview.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the park is the same safe, family-friendly environment it has always been,” he said.

Miller said the park had never had a serious incident involving rallygoers in the past. “The park annually hosts tens of thousands of bikers. They are good customers, and the staff enjoys working with them,” he said. “Rally riders come to the park for the same reasons all of our visitors do - to enjoy the wildlife and the beautiful scenery.”

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