The Ontario Provincial Police biker unit is keeping a watchful eye on London’s shifting motorcycle gang landscape after a murder-plot charge against the Outlaws’ local chapter president was recently withdrawn, says the OPP squad’s leader.
The Crown last month withdrew a charge of counselling to commit murder against Ryan Daigneault, 42, just one week before he was scheduled to go to trial.
Two members of the Hells Angels – the dominant biker gang in London and the longtime rival of the Outlaws – were the intended targets of the alleged hit, according to sources and court documents obtained by The Free Press.
“We’re very aware of the issues between the rival gangs. We will continue to monitor whether this release has an impact,” said Det.-Staff Sgt. Anthony Renton, the head of the OPP biker enforcement unit.
“And if it does increase tensions, it’s part of our function to try to establish that information.”
The biker enforcement unit worked with London police to lay the charge against Daigneault, identified by sources as the local chapter president, last October. A gun charge laid against a second man was also withdrawn.
The Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed the charge against Daigneault was withdrawn on July 26.
“If the Crown determines that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction, or that it is not in the public interest to proceed, the Crown is duty-bound to withdraw the charges,” ministry spokesperson Brian Gray wrote in an emailed statement.
Renton in recent months has sounded the alarm on brewing bad blood between the rival biker gangs with a history of violent battles.
Most recently, Hells Angels members clashed with their Outlaws counterparts at last month’s massive Friday the 13th gathering in Port Dover. The OPP are investigating two incidents of threats of violence and intimidation between members of the two clubs in the Lake Erie community, where an estimated 140,000 motorcycle lovers flocked to on July 13.
Friday the 13th celebrations have long been considered a no-go zone for patch-wearing Outlaws members – the gang hadn’t showed up in many years, Renton said – because the Hells Angels and their support clubs always have a strong presence in Dover, where they rent booths to sell their merchandise.
“If you look at the two incidents that occurred in Dover, it is a prime example of what we are talking about,” Renton said of the escalating tensions.
“A strong police presence was able . . . to prevent anything more serious from happening and ensure public safety that day.”
STURGIS | This year’s pre-rally crowd of motorcyclists included an estimated 700 members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, participating in their USA Run in the Black Hills.
Speaking at Friday’s news conference, the first daily meeting with reporters through the run of the 78th Sturgis motorcycle rally, Meade County Sheriff Ron Merwin said the gathering was a “mandatory run” for the Angels.
“What that means I guess they could tell you,” Merwin said. “So we did have a larger presence of Angels than we normally would have.”
“The run officially ends today (Friday),” he said. “Some will leave and some will stay.”
Merwin said the week preceding the official start of the Sturgis rally has been quiet in spite of the added influx.
“It’s been good,” he said. “We haven’t had any big issues.”
Merwin said many motorcycle gangs and clubs, including the Sons of Silence and Bandidos, have an annual presence at the Sturgis rally. Some gangs own property in the Sturgis and Black Hills area to host their members.
“We get all of them every year,” Merwin said.
Hepatitis C testing at the rally
The American Legion is teaming up with AbbVie, a pharmaceutical company, to provide free testing for the hepatitis C (Hep C) bloodborne pathogen during this week’s Sturgis motorcycle rally.
American Legion spokesman Dave Baughman said the Sturgis rally is the first location for the Take On Hep C testing program in the U.S.
Testing with same-day results available will start today and continue through Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day at the First National Bank, 955 Main St., in downtown Sturgis.
Baughman said 3.4 million people in the U.S. may be living with Hep C and not know it. The disease is spread through blood-to-blood exposure, through transfusions, receiving tattoos or body piercings in unregulated settings, or sharing razors and even toothbrushes.
Untreated, the disease could manifest as liver disease or even liver cancer.
Baughman said the free testing is available for anyone, although 1 in 20 veterans enrolled with the Veteran’s Administration have Hep C, more than three times the infection rate of the general population, according to a news release.
“If you are positive, we can also get you going down the path to getting the cure that you need,” Baughman said.