By Mark Ferenchik
Although five people were shot outside the Toros Motorcycle Club in North Linden almost two weeks ago, Columbus police have said they don’t consider the club dangerous.
“The Toros are not considered a criminal organization at all,” said Mark Lovett, a detective with the Columbus police Criminal Intelligence Unit and an expert on motorcycle gangs and clubs.
The shooting incident in the early morning of June 23 outside the Toros club on Genessee Avenue just east of Cleveland Avenue happened after a nonmember was thrown out and apparently returned for a little “retribution,” Lovett said. No one was killed, and no arrests have been made.
Lovett did say that the Columbus area has 10 to 15 outlaw motorcycle gangs that he monitors, based on their criminal activity.
“Mostly we see assaults, shootings, weapons violations, narcotics violations, traffic violations, fleeing and eluding, things like that,” Lovett said.
The clubs are not clustered in any part of the city, he said. Some tend to rent locations, and many property owners later say that they did not realize that they were renting to a motorcycle club.
“Maybe 5 percent of the clubs we have locally are outlaw motorcycle gangs,” Lovett said.
Other recent incidents involved other clubs.
On April 27, an intruder entered the Sin City Outlaws clubhouse at 1918 Parsons Ave. and poured gasoline throughout the first floor. Police arrested former club member Maurice Cox, who said club members had vandalized his car. Investigators said that Cox, 49, of the East Side, had been kicked out of the club a year ago. Police say Cox told them he did pour the gas in the club but did not intend to light it. Cox was charged with aggravated arson.
Lovett said the local Toros chapter has been around for 29 years, having moved this year to Genessee Avenue after many years on East 5th Avenue in an area that was less residential. In August 2008, a man was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Toros’ former club at 574 E. 5th Ave. after a dispute with another man over a motorcycle.
Since March 23, police have made four runs to the Toros club at 1767 Genessee Ave., with officers responding to ShotSpotter alerts that there might have been gunfire nearby. On June 1, police responded around 3:25 a.m. to a group fighting outside the club
Some neighbors have complained to police about noise and motorcyclists speeding. Genessee Avenue resident Patricia Aiken has complained, and she also said she has heard gunshots and seen fights.
“I’d give anything to shut them the hell down,” said Aiken, 65.
She said that Friday and Saturday nights are the worst, citing loud music coming from the club.
No one was at the Toros clubhouse to comment on Wednesday afternoon.
John Lathram, who leads the North Linden Area Commission, said he has not yet spoken with neighbors of the club.
“I don’t know what the city is going to do to prevent something like this from happening again,” Lathram said of the June 23 shooting. “Given the situation that it wasn’t somebody from within the club, we can’t hold them at fault.”
Lovett said he works with other agencies to stay on top of outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Suzanne Dabkowski, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said she didn’t know of any activities her agency was monitoring.