Crime

10.08.13

Are Motorcycle Clubs a Public Menace?

The motorcycle group linked to the viral New York City attack says its goal is to ‘promote fellowship.’ But are cowardly cops among its members? Michael Daly reports.

Until some of its members appeared in the viral video of bikers terrorizing a young Manhattan family out for a Sunday drive, the Frontline Soldiers Motorcycle Club seemed the very opposite of the Hells Angels.

Video screenshot

“In no shape or form, under any circumstances will this MC take part in any sort of criminal activity,” the club’s website announced even before the incident. “Furthermore, FLS is never to function as, be known as, or act as an outlaw club, gang or organized crime group from now until the end of time.”

The website adds: “This MC will promote fellowship among motorcycle riders/clubs and improve the relationships between the general public and motorcycle riders.”

In keeping with that stated goal, the Frontline Soldiers hosted a picnic in August for patients at a Veterans Administration health care facility in Lyons, New Jersey. The recreation therapy department afterward sent the club a thank-you note.

“The picnic was a big success and the patients enjoyed all the delicious food that was served,” the September 18 letter reads. “The live DJ made the picnic extra special for the patients who later expressed to us how much they enjoyed being able to spend time with your members.”

The club could even boast at least one and perhaps as many as four NYPD officers in its ranks. That includes the off-duty undercover detective who was among members of the club who were apparently part of a larger group that swarmed the Manhattan family on September 29, just 11 days after the date of the VA thank you note.

The NYPD is investigating whether a second off-duty cop was also present. A senior department official says he does not believe that any officers were involved in the actual assault that occurred at the end of the chase.

However many cops were present, there remains the question of how any officer could have failed to intervene as Alexian Lien was dragged from behind the wheel of his Range Rover, beaten, and left bleeding in the street. A 51-year-old passerby named Sergio Consuegra later told reporters that the assailants even tried to pull out the wife, Rosalyn Ng.

“She had the baby in her arms, I guess she was protecting the baby from all the glass that was flying inside and outside,” Consuegra says. “At that moment, nobody’s stepping in.”

Consuegra decided that it was up to him.

“I said, ‘Oh, I gotta do something, there's a family in danger here,’" Consuegra added.

He had been on his way to a prayer meeting. He recalls that he felt God was with him as he stepped up and extended his arms. He was the very opposite of a cowardly mob.

“That’s it, guys, let it go, “ he cried out. “Let it go.”

He recalls meeting the gaze of the assailants—him peering into their eyes, them peering into his for a tense and eternal moment. They backed down and it was over.

“Somehow, they stopped,” he later told reporters.

Consuegra had been armed only with his courage, and that added to the shock when the news broke later in the week that at least one off-duty cop had been present. The cop had waited three days to inform his superiors, and reportedly told them that he had been afraid of blowing his cover as an undercover operative with the intelligence division, which seeks to safeguard against terrorists. He had further insisted that he had only arrived on the scene of the assault after somebody called the police and the family was out of danger.

Even if all that were so, investigators believe that the cop was among the bikers who swarmed around the family and so terrorized them that the wife called 911 four times. Little did she know that as she desperately called for help there was at least one cop in the group that had her so terrified.

If nothing else, the cop himself should have called 911 when the group decided to block the Henry Hudson Parkway. He does, after all, work for a city that preaches, “If you see something, say something.”

On-duty NYPD officers in upper Manhattan have been working to quell the motorbike menace for the past two years. The initiative was undertaken by Inspector Rodney Harrison, the commander of the 32nd precinct, which includes a stretch of Frederick Douglass Boulevard that had become a kind of motorbike drag strip.

“If it’s nice out, it’s a day they’re out,” Harrison says. “It’s been a struggle.”

“If it’s nice out, it’s a day they’re out,” Harrison says. “It’s been a struggle.”

Harrison knows that bikers who find themselves chased by the cops are likely to rocket up onto sidewalks and speed against traffic.

“One thing we do not do is pursue them,” Harrison says. “They’re going to hurt themselves or they’re going to end up hurting somebody else.”

Instead, Harrison set out to locate where these often unregistered and uninsured bikes were stashed between runs. He distributed flyers headed “Keep Our Streets Safe Campaign” seeking the public’s help, including his cell phone number.

“The unsafe, improper and reckless use of these machines puts the community in danger,” the flyer said. “Do something about this problem… Report these unregistered bikes.”

The general alarm about the bikes translated into tips that led the police to backyards and basements and—most popular among street bikers—storage facilities

“People were very receptive,” Harrison says.

By a recent count, his cops had seized 59 motorbikes. Bikers complained that they had no choice but to race through the streets because it is the only place they can ride in the absence of a dirt track. A number of them decided to stage a march to the Harlem State Office Building asking for the creation of a track. Harrison managed to convince the protesters that they would have the most impact and be the least antagonizing if they walked, pushing a few symbolic motorbikes beside them.

“Very safe, non-problematic,” Harrison says.

Harrison figures that if a track is built, those who want to use it will. Those who still hit the streets will no longer have an excuse.

“No defense,” Harrison says.

In the meantime, the NYPD is investigating the undercover cop who seems to have dishonored a long tradition of officers who have shown uncommon bravery off-duty as well as on. Recent heroic examples include Detective Ivan Marcano, who was off-duty and with his girlfriend in the Bronx last year when he saw two men pistol whipping and robbing a third. Marcano stepped from his car, identified himself as a cop and ordered them to stop.

The robber with the pistol responded by shooting Marcano in the chest before fleeing in a getaway car. Marcano returned to his own car and was heading for the hospital when he came upon the robbers at a traffic light. He could have just continued on to the emergency room, but he again stepped out, one hand holding his gun, the other pressed to his wound to stem the bleeding.  He shouted for the surrounding pedestrians to get down. More gunfire erupted.

The gunman was killed. An ambulance that happened to be nearby rushed Marcano to a nearby hospital. He survived, and in August he took his girlfriend to a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. He had arranged to surprise her by bringing her up on stage at the end of the play and asking her to marry him.

“Through the tears, I heard a ‘yes,’” he told a New York Daily News reporter afterward.

The bravery of Marcano along with the bravery of Consuegra are in ironic keeping with what the Frontline Soldiers Motorcycle Club declares to be its longstanding creed:

“One may take my life, but only God can take my soul,” it says in part.

Frontline Soldiers did not respond to messages seeking a comment. The club that hosted such a fine picnic for the VA outpatients should have been telling anybody who would listen that it condemns the September 29 attack all the more if any of its members abetted it, most particularly if they are cops.

Hey, even some Hells Angels are expressing their disgust.