FALL RIVER — Tensions between two rival motorcycle clubs heightened in the months before the fatal shooting of an Oak Bluffs biker during a brawl that put law enforcement on alert for retaliatory violence, according to court documents.
On the evening of Friday, Sept. 13, Eric Voshell, whose hometown newspaper reported was a member of the Sidewinders Motorcycle Club, was fatally shot during a parking lot brawl outside JC’s Cafe. Police identified the accused gunman, Joseph Noe, 25, as a member of the rival Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
State and local police searched the Fall River clubhouses of the Sidewinders and the Outlaws three days after Noe surrendered to police armed with a warrant for his arrest on several charges connected to the shooting, including murder.
According to a search warrant affidavit, the Outlaws have been actively recruiting and expanding their ranks across Massachusetts in recent years, opening three new chapters in Massachusetts, one in Rhode Island and one in Vermont.
Law enforcement intelligence cited in the affidavit said the Outlaws have 12 chapters in New England, the same number as a rival club, the Hells Angels, which traditionally had a stronghold in the region. In recent years the Outlaws opened up chapters in Fall River, Plainville and on Cape Cod, new outposts that gave them “the opportunity to dominate Southeastern Massachusetts,” according to the affidavit.
Among the 27 items seized from Noe’s apartment were roughly 53 rounds of .38 caliber ammunition and a letter documenting the sale or transfer of the .38 caliber revolver allegedly used by Noe in the shooting. Police also confiscated a safe and three jackets with the sleeves cut off, called “cuts,” adorned with “1% club” patches.
The “1%” symbol is a reference to a comment from the American Motorcycle Association that 99% of bikers abide by the law while 1% are outlaws, according to the affidavit, which notes the Sidewinders also promote themselves as an outlaw club.
From the Sidewinders clubhouse at 394 Kilburn St., police seized photos of more than two-dozen people who authorities identified in court documents as members of the Outlaws or their supporters, according to a search warrant return. Membership ledgers, contact lists, a digital recorder, a rubber hammer and a shiv were also recovered.
An affidavit for a no-knock warrant shows authorities were looking for surveillance devices and footage at the Outlaws clubhouse, 1806 Pleasant St. State police in tactical gear broke the glass front door Sept. 19 and seized a surveillance system.
Police also received a warrant to search the clubhouse next door to the Outlaws’ on Bogle Street, which is home to the local chapter of Outlaws support group the Knights of Sin. Another surveillance system was seized from that location, court records show.
The Sept. 13 shooting was not the first time in recent months that members of the Outlaws and Sidewinders clashed in the region. In February, Fall River police responded to a “disturbance” at Scottie’s Pub, where dozens of Sidewinders and Outlaws were present, but nothing got physical.
Roughly two months later, up to 15 Outlaws and 35 Sidewinders “charge[d] toward” each other but were stopped by police outside a mixed martial arts fight in Plymouth, where a member of the Outlaws reportedly told an officer it was “their territory,” an affidavit said. The following month, officers identified several Sidewinders during a police response to Cafe Rio in Fall River.
Tensions appeared to come to a head outside JC’s Cafe the evening of Friday, Sept. 13, when a brawl broke out in the Xtra Mart parking lot beside JC’s. Prosecutors say much of the altercation was captured on surveillance footage, portions of which were described in court documents.
A witness told police that Noe met up with a few others at the Outlaws clubhouse that Friday evening, then drove to JC’s Cafe, the affidavit said. Surveillance footage showed they parked in the gas station parking lot at the 1050 Bedford St. bar about 9:25 p.m.
A bartender at JC’s Cafe said her regular customers support the Sidewinders and were at the bar the night of the shooting, the affidavit said. A man affiliated with the Outlaws told police Fall River is a bad place to be because of the people with whom he associates.
Noe and his associates were asked to leave the bar about 30 minutes after they arrived, another witness told police, according to the affidavit. Noe is seen on the footage leaving the bar and walking toward his vehicle, and less than one minute later several motorcycles pulled into the parking lot where they “appear to confront” Noe.
Noe was seen “retreating” between two parked vehicles, then allegedly retrieving a black gun from the rear of one of them, according to the affidavit. The bikers appeared to notice the firearm and backed away from Noe. Police allege Noe was then seen running toward the bikers from behind and raised his right arm, just before a flash was observed on the footage and two bodies dropped to the ground.
The affidavit said investigators who reviewed the surveillance footage saw Sidewinders at the scene carrying brass knuckles, knives, hammers and expandable batons. Brass knuckles and a knife were found in a sewer drain outside the bar after the fight.
A bullet grazed the neck of a man associated with the Outlaws. A man the bartender identified as one of the regulars at JC’s Cafe was shot in the shoulder. Both survived.
Investigators believe that after the shooting Noe and several others got into the back of a Ford Fusion, returned to the Outlaws clubhouse, then parted ways, the affidavit said.
Police later spoke with Noe’s father, the former leader of the Outlaws’ Taunton chapter who was sentenced to prison following an FBI sting, in an attempt to locate the younger Noe, and pinged his cell phone unsuccessfully.
Noe turned himself in at the Fall River Police Department three days after the fatal shooting. His defense attorney, Robert Galibois, said Wednesday he was not in a position to comment on the events because he had not received video prosecutors said captured the incident.
“I am anxiously awaiting the product of those videos so I can wait and see what actually happened that night,” he said. Noe is due back in court for a pretrial hearing Oct. 10.
On Sept. 16, Fall River police received “credible” information that the Sidewinders, Hells Angels and the Black Hand Motorcycle Club planned to retaliate against the Outlaws for the shooting. However, Detective John Robinson, a Fall River police spokesman, said this week the department was not aware of any retaliatory incidents occurring in the city since then.
Police consider the Black Hand Motorcycle Club to be a Sidewinders “support” club and said in the affidavit its members were identified at the scene of the fatal shooting.