SAN ANGELO, TX – Motorcycle Clubs are breaking the “outlaw” stereotype that has been pinned to them.
The club manager at San Angelo’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Janet Sheppard, says, “I’ve been asked many times why I let the motorcycle clubs hang out at the VFW. Most of the times the people in these motorcycle clubs are either active duty or veterans, and the VFW is there home.”
Non-members of the American Motorcyclist Association, and incidents, such as the shootout involving motorcycle club affiliates in Waco, Texas, are some of the things that created the outlaw stereotype of motorcycle clubs.
The president of Iron Horse MC-McCulloch County, “Iron Horse Preacher”, says, “to overcome something like Waco, we just have to work and show the community what happened. There was an isolated incident. Those Confederation of Clubs and independent meetings like that — we’ve been doing this for over twenty years, we’ve never had an incident at any of them, until that one.”
To prove these incidents are individual issues rather than club-associated issues, they involve themselves in different fundraisers and give back to the community.
A member of the Silent Heroes MC, “Squirrel,” explained “in July, we did a BBQ benefit at the VFW. Every year we go to Shannon and we go deliver toys to the kids.”
Besides fundraising for events, they are also politically involved.
President and Founder of Ponderosas MC, Gypc Serna, says, “we are trying to get motorcycle profiling an amendment on the Texas state constitution.”
Members say police pull them over due to their outfits. Profiling also comes from establishments around town.
“There are several in San Angelo, that you can’t wear any of your colors in,” says Preacher.
So people might ask, why the club? Why not just ride?
“It’s the unity of the club, it’s the structure of the club,” says Preacher. “A lot of the guys that are in clubs are ex-military because they miss that structure that they had in the military.”
The clubs call themselves a brotherhood and sisterhood. They enjoy the comradery the organization has to offer.
“If there was ever any trouble in here,” says Sheppard. “I feel certain that I would be protected, first of anyone.”
It was a Scorpions Motorcycle Club shirt — a garment available only to members — that led to a suspect being identified in the break-in at the club’s building in Lyon Township.
The break-in happened Sept. 22, 2017, the same time a fire heavily damaged the Scorpions clubhouse on Milford Road, just north of 10 Mile. Kinley Rae-John Kelm, 39, is charged with multiple felonies over the break-in and thefts from the clubhouse and a camper on the property.
During a preliminary examination in 52-1 District Court, Scorpions member Jacob David testified that about a week after the fire and break-in, he was attending an event in South Lyon when he saw a man in a Scorpions shirt across the street.
“I yelled, ‘Hey, Scorpion,’ but he ignored me. It was a strange reaction,” David said, adding he would have expected a greeting in response from a fellow club member. “I told my family I’d be right back. I went over to him. I asked who he was — I never saw him before.”
The man, later identified as Kelm, claimed to be a member of the South Dallas Scorpions chapter, the man testified. But the man didn’t know the name of that chapter president — David said the name Kelm gave was wrong and sounded like a character from the “Sons of Anarchy” television show.
While talking to him, David said he took the Kelm’s photo and also his cellphone number. David said he eventually used the photo to confirm Kelm wasn’t a Scorpions member.
Chris Page, then-president of the local Scorpions chapter, testified that several members-only shirts were inside his locker at the clubhouse prior to the fire. He said those shirts had incorrect lettering and he was planning to return them. There were also shirts that were available to the general public.
A Mossberg shotgun and a number of bottles of alcohol were reported stolen from the clubhouse. A large safe located behind the bar in the clubhouse had been moved and was pried open.
Misty Goans, a friend of Kelm’s, testified that he had asked her to wash Scorpions T-shirts for him and left a couple of long guns and camping gear stored at her home in Commerce Township. She said Kelm collected the shirts and guns, while police retrieved the camping gear, which had been reported stolen from a camper on the Scorpions’ property. Police later found shirts and guns, including the Mossberg, in Kelm’s truck.
Other testimony was that just before the break-in, Kelm had rented a hammer drill using the credit card of a woman he was doing some construction for, but nothing that needed that kind of equipment.
A skid steer, also called a Bobcat, which belonged to a fence company working on a project at the nearby War Dog Memorial, had been stolen, driven to the motorcycle club and used to crash through the clubhouse wall.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Detective Thomas Bizsio, an arson investigator, testified about seizing items reported stolen from the Scorpions clubhouse from Kelm. Noting there was no arson charge, Judge Travis Reeds asked if the investigation had been unable to identify a point of origin and cause for the fire.
“I was able to determine the cause and origin of the fire. The origin was on the east wall of the clubhouse,” Bizsio said. “There was a leak in a propane gas line. The refrigerator compressor set (the fire) off.”
The gas line may have been damaged when the skid steer was used to moved the large safe. Bizsio said there were no chains found at the clubhouse, so it was likely straps had been used to move the safe and were destroyed in the fire.
Kelm is charged with breaking and entering with intent; two counts of larceny of firearms; one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm; and felony firearm. Held in lieu of $100,000 cash bond, Kelm was bound over for trial as charged.
Defense attorney Michael McCarthy argued that the prosecution had only demonstrated probable cause for charges of receiving and concealing stolen property.
A strong circumstantial case had been presented that Kelm was responsible for the break-in as well as the thefts, Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Robert VanWert said.
Reeds agreed and ordered Kelm bound over for trial on all the charges. Kelm is scheduled for Oakland County Circuit Court arraignment Wednesday, Sept. 26.