If there’s anything that outlaw motorcycle gangs hate more than rival gangs, it’s cops. So it’s almost no surprise that a biker gang made up of cops got into a bloody fight with another gang last weekend.
A melee erupted between two biker gangs at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday: the Iron Order (made up of soldiers and cops) and the notorious Mongols Motorcycle Club, who were founded in 1969 by many military vets and adopted their moniker from Genghis Khan.
Fists, knives, and bullets went flying before medics pulled out the shot, stabbed, and stomped from the wounded pile; one Mongol, 47-year-old Victor “Nubz” Mendoza, was zipped up in a body bag headed for the morgue. The medical examiner ruled the cause of death as a homicide.
It was around 1 p.m. Saturday when Denver cops started fielding calls of gunshots fired at the Colorado Motorcycle Expo. What’s known in law enforcement parlance as an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG) had set up tables to hawk their wares. In fact, a source close to the investigation confirmed that the event was a “mandatory run” by another biker club, the Banditos, who had a bloody shoot ’em up in Waco, Texas, last May.
According to Denver Police Department Major Crimes Commander Ron Saunier, both clubs got into it inside a stadium stairway. Cops have “recovered guns” and are hoping more witnesses come forward from the biker gangs—a tall order given that most adhere to their own version of omerta.
A source told The Daily Beast the bloody clash was triggered after a Mongols member brazenly spit a racial epithet at an African-American member of the Iron Order.
“He told him, ‘You need to get your black motherfucking ass out of here,’” the source said. Then the Mongol knocked the beer out of the hand of the Iron Order member, who the source described as a measly “5-foot-8 and 120 pounds soaking wet.”
Multiple accounts have been bandied about over what set the clubs off.
Either the bloody rumble was sparked by the Mongol biker’s slur or the Iron Order were heavily inebriated and kept “eye-fucking” the infamous Mongols before they squared off.
Mongols attorney Stephen Stubbs called the Iron Order “cowards” for instigating the deadly standoff by the stairwell.
“The Iron Order members were staring down the Mongols, who were were ignoring them,” he told us, disputing the racial slur claim and that the Iron Order were sloshed before they threw the first punch. “An Iron Order member, the African-Amercian guy, shoves a Mongol and as a reaction the Mongol pushes a beer bottle out of his hand and it crashes on the floor.”
Stubbs said that both biker gangs (with eight members each) started fighting and that “the Mongols just beat these guys up very quickly.”
He claimed a corrections officer raised his semi-automatic weapon and “started waving the gun threatening to shoot, and that's when [Victor] Mendoza ran up the stairs to disarm him and he shot and killed him; one shot in the chest.”
John Whitfield, a 58-year-old Kentucky-based attorney for the Iron Order and a member (road name “Shark”), said the incident was less about the catalyst and more about his outnumbered brothers who were forced to duke it out against almost 100 Mongols members and “it was on.”
“Six of our guys hadn’t reached the stairs yet,” Whitfield, who joined the Iron Order in 2008 but didn’t attend the event, told The Daily Beast. “They were on their way out and they had to go up a flight of stairs to get out and these Mongols jumped us,” he said.
And at some point a Mongol member raised his firearm and Whitfield said he “fired a shot that grazed one of my brothers” before adding that another got shot and another is still ticking despite getting “repeatedly stabbed.”
The unnamed black member who received the alleged slur was then “thrown down the stairs,” where “four or five Mongols “started kicking him… it was a total beatdown,” Whitfield said.
That was until an Iron Order member was able to unload a few rounds to get out alive.
“They were legitimately scared to death and they did what they had to do,” Whitfield said.
Denver detectives are also trying to determine if Mendoza’s death was the result of self-defense.
“We have to look at the physical evidence and it all comes down to what a person is going to choose,” Cmdr. Saunier said during a press conference on Monday. “Whether they choose to walk away and get security or the shooting death was a result of self-defense.”
He confirmed at least one of the Iron Order members involved in the skirmish worked as a Colorado corrections officer (a source told us he was from Fort Collins, Colorado), but refused to categorize the club as a way for law enforcement to moonlight as 1-percenters, or act against the 99-percent of the country’s law-abiding citizenry.
Whitfield said the fact that the Iron Order were the ones that didn’t suffer a casualty and the fact that the club’s ranks include deep ties to military and law enforcement agencies doesn’t mean they will act with impunity.
“The reality is these guys feared for their life without a doubt. If you fear for your life it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re a cop or whether you wash dishes at Denny’s,” he said. “That’s absolute fantasy.”
Rather, Whitfield directs us to a 26-page set of bylaws he authored that spells out precise tenets to which every member must pledge allegiance. One of them is to be “law-abiding” and taking pride in the club to “never operate as a 1% club” or wear any of the patches.
“The Iron Order decided it was going adopt some of these old school traditions like wearing a three-piece patch but be law-abiding,” Whitfield said. “And we don’t ask permission to do it, which in motorcycle clubs is a big thing.”
So then is the Iron Order essentially an in-law club to the rest of the outlaw clubs?
“Yeah, we are,” Whitfeld said. “If you’re going to have military with certain security clearances and you’re going to have law enforcement involved—or a lawyer like me—I really like my license and I am not going to be involved in something that can jeopardize my license.”
The truth is the Iron Order, which was founded in 2004 in Louisville, Kentucky, by eight forefathers (one of them an ATF agent) clings to its principles that make it out to be an alternative to other clubs that turn out notoriety with their outlaw ethos and rake in money by running drugs, trafficking humans, and more.
“We don’t want to be associated with a lot of the stuff that 1-percenters are,” Whitfield said of the sort of straight-edged style that composes an Iron Order member. “We hear it all the time: ‘Now I can go I like to ride my Harley and I’d like to go and ride with you guys and drink a little beer every now and then and be part of a brotherhood. But I don’t want to be any part of that other crap.’
“We also permit law enforcement in our club, which is a huge no-no in the 1 percenter world.”
But this sort of have your rebel cake and eat it too doesn’t square for one longtime law enforcement source, who calls the Iron Order straight up “assholes” and may even be breaking the law.
“These types of cops that join these motorcycle clubs are assholes and acting like outlaw bikers and deserve everything they get,” the law enforcement source said, coming down on them for flying colors and lower and upper rockers like other OMGs but then trying to say they are above committing crime. “If it’s a legitimate club then they wouldn’t be anywhere near the Mongols.”