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UPDATED: Sheriff's Captain and biker supporter swap e-mails

Posted: March 11, 2009 7:12 p.m.
Updated: March 13, 2009 12:04 p.m.

Here's a copy of the flyer promoting the March 8 fundraiser at the VFW hall in Canyon Country.

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Editor's note: The following is an exchange of SCV Sheriff's Station news releases and e-mails between members of a motorcycle group and the station Captain Anthony La Berge.

The station's PIO posted this on its Web site March 10 at 3:21 p.m.:


Several dozen deputies from Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station were called in Sunday to address a growing concern in the community regarding suspected outlaw motorcycle gangs congregating at local establishments.

The deputies were needed, as an estimated 300 suspected gang members, believed to be associated with the Vagos outlaw motorcycle gang, roared into the area Sunday morning generating calls for service and criminal complaints to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

Officials report that the thunderous roar of the unlawful exhaust systems on many of the motorcycles could be heard for miles around as the bikers entered and left the area.

The riders stretched out for miles over Sand Canyon Road, crossing Soledad Canyon Road, ultimately congregating in the 16000 block of Sierra Highway, near Vasquez Canyon Road.

Patrol resources were stretched thin during the same time period as deputies were responding to two other emergency calls and a significant traffic collision in the Santa Clarita area, necessitating station leaders to call in the additional personnel to avoid a serious impact on service levels.

Proactive residents expressed their complaints and concerns, reporting that the motorcyclists were at times blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic, disturbing the public peace, and committing other unlawful acts.

Deputies from the City of Santa Clarita/Sheriff's COBRA Unit and the Community Interaction Team (CIT), and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), joined patrol and traffic control deputies in the operation, which was necessitated based on the size and scope of the gathering and the unlawful actions of some of the motorcyclists.

When the operation concluded and the gathering disbanded, deputies had identified more than 30 individuals, some of which are believed to have extensive criminal history, indicative of outlaw motorcycle gang involvement. Deputies issued 24 citations for various infractions and other violations of the law.

"What concerns me is this is the second time in as many months we have seen these large disruptive groups pour into the Santa Clarita area," said Captain Anthony La Berge. "Although the gathering itself is not unlawful, some of the actions of these individuals and the motorcycles they are riding are illegal. Not to mention the fact that they can be disruptive to the peace and serenity of the community. Our primary goal is to ensure public safety and peace in response to community complaints and concerns about these bikers. We will do whatever it takes to accomplish just that," he added.

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station officials referenced a 2008 Orange County Case in Newport Beach, where a bar fight involving several suspected rival motorcycle gang members escalated to a stabbing. A total of eight defendants face felony charges, including possession of firearms and controlled substances, in five criminal cases stemming from that incident, according to an Orange County District Attorney Press Release.

"We do not want that to happen here in Santa Clarita," concluded Captain La Berge.

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Editor's note: Robert J. Wiggins sent the following e-mail to Santa Clarita Sheriff's Station Captain Anthony La Berge and serveral other station officials at 4:54 p.m. Thursday:

Dear Captain LaBerg,

I was both shocked and appalled at the over-reaction by the local sheriffs office to the motorcycle rally on Sunday. Not only were motorcyclists unduly harassed but also motorists. Overly aggressive officers were abusive and threatening with guns drawn and ready to shoot. All the while it was them who were racing up and down Sierra Hwy at break neck speeds.

The event was a charity fund raiser held at the VFW. It had been advertised for months prior. It was open to the public and attended by over 500 people and yes you too could have attended. Live entertainment was provided. The food was catered by a local restaurant. The event was peaceful and respectful. Over and over again announcements were made over the sound system to be respectful of the local traffic laws. Over 25 motorcycle rider clubs were present including religious groups and clean and sober clubs.

The other event of recent you cite was a fund raiser as well. That too had no incidents. The problem you make statement of between the two other clubs fighting was some 200 miles away and several months ago. Neither of those groups was present at this event. I am certain the LACS "intel" was aware of that. You should be more alarmed about a gathering of Catholic Priests considering their reputation.

Very clearly Captain LaBerg, you are attempting to instill public fear, justify your piece of the homeland security budget and self promote your career advancement. In a depressed economy it is a shame our tax dollars are being wasted on silliness as this.

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Editor's note: Captain La Berge responded to the e-mail at 6:22 p.m. Thursday and copied local media including The Signal:

Dear Mr. Wiggins,

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and perspective. I'm sure it is no surprise to you that I share a much different perspective regarding the Vagos (OMG) Organized Motorcycle Gang and their activities, than yours.

As I mentioned in our press release, "What concerns me is this is the second time in as many months we have seen these large disruptive groups pour into the Santa Clarita area," said Captain Anthony La Berge. "Although the gathering itself is not unlawful, some of the actions of these individuals and the motorcycles they are riding are illegal. Not to mention the fact that they can be disruptive to the peace and serenity of the community. Our primary goal is to ensure public safety and peace in response to community complaints and concerns about these bikers. We will do whatever it takes to accomplish just that," he added. My responsibility to the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley is to be responsive to the community and their concerns.

I too was personally present and able to observe the activities of those who were in attendance. I continually travelled Sierra Hwy between Soledad Canyon Road and Vasquez Canyon Road. I also travelled back and forth on Sand Canyon Road between Sierra Hwy and Soledad. I was able to observe the manner in which the Vagos posted persons in the middle of Sierra Hwy (beer in hand) to halt traffic while their attendees departed in groups ranging from 5 to 25 bikers (with follow vehicles). Groups that departed at various intervals, over more than a one hour period, and in different directions.

At one point, while parked in the vicinity of Sand Cyn @ Soledad Cyn, I was personally contacted by what I would term, "frightened" citizens, who expressed their concern and advised that some of the bikers were posting signs on Sand Cyn warning of the presence and location of law enforcement (we recovered a few of those illegally posted signs). You termed this event as a "Charity Fundraiser, however, I am also aware of what the true purpose of the Vagos "Defense for Terry the Tramp" legal fund raising effort was truly about (See attached flier).

The purpose of my press release was to provided feedback to the community on what was actually occurring Sunday afternoon in Canyon Country, which caused so much concern in the community, and how "their" Sheriff's Department responded to monitor and address any observed violations. This was done, "not to instill fear in the community," as you claim, but quite the opposite. My goal was to provide a sense of confidence to the community in that their law enforcement professionals listened to their concerns, are capable of providing the necessary personnel and responded appropriately.

The news account of violence involving the Organized Motorcycle Gang members in Newport Beach last Summer of 2008, was just one example of what I want to keep from happening in the Santa Clarita Valley. I hope you will trust and agree that our goal was a worthy and noble one.

Sincerely,

Anthony La Berge, Captain
Santa Clarita Valley Station
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department

Reference links provided for verification:
http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/gangunit/about/usgangs.html

General OMG Info:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorcycle_club

Future Ride Fliers:
http://www.liveride.org/Rides.shtml

Newport Beach Assault:
http://www.dailypilot.com/articles/2008/08/07/topstory/dpt-swatraid080708.txt

O.C. Register 2006:
http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/news/atoz/article_1042171.php

San Francisco 2006:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/03/09/state/n135110S99.DTL

L.A. Times 2001 Vagos Assault:
http://articles.latimes.com/2001/oct/28/local/me-62597

http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/29754599.html

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Editor's note: Check back for further developments.

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