The most compelling story in July continues to be the murder of Zachariah Tipton, a member of the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club, which is frequently categorized as an “outlaw motorcycle club” by a (presumed) prospect with the Iron Order Motorcycle Club which is generally categorized as a “law abiding motorcycle club.”
Today, the frequently asked questions section of the Iron Order website explains that you can join the Iron Order if: “You are male, 18 years of age, law abiding, have a cruiser style motorcycle more than 650cc not necessarily a Harley or American made, and a strong desire to do something good for your community while at the same time helping build a true international brotherhood of like minded individuals…then you MIGHT be IOMC material…. If you believe in what the morons who post on sites like Aging Rebel, Facebook or Topix write about us then don’t come around us.”
There are many empty words written about the law-abiding Iron Order, both on their site and elsewhere. In one of the darker regions of the great cyber swamp one can read, “to become a member of an IO chapter you must provide them with a background check and have had no felony convictions, and even some arrests will prohibit you from becoming a member convicted or not.” That isn’t true of course, but it is something that policemen seem to believe about the club which may explain why the prospect who gunned down Zach Tipton has been protected by them.
The Kingman, Arizona Daily Miner pointed out the error in that last preconception this morning in a story by Scott Schulte headlined “Groups unite to transform Kingman home.” It is a human interest story about the local Iron Order chapter pitching in to help an elderly couple make some much needed repairs to their home. It is the sort of thing motorcycle clubs do all the time. Of course if, say, the Black Pistons were to do it some biker authority, maybe Steve Cook, would argue that club was merely doing public relations and cynically trying to camouflage its criminality.
One of the prominently featured good guys in the story is an Iron Order member named Robert Fernandes. Fernandes told Schulte, “When I got out of jail I got involved with the Iron Order Motorcycle Club. I needed that camaraderie.” You can read the complete Daily Miner story here.
Fernandes, who is the good citizen pictured at the top of this story, has paid his debt to society. He was convicted of armed robbery and did five years. He had previous convictions for theft and trafficking in stolen property. When he got out of prison he joined a motorcycle club and apparently turned his life around. But the issue of whether Fernandes is a good man or not isn’t the compelling story this month.
The compelling story this month is the story the police tell. And that story assumes that there is a discernible, black and white line between the Iron Order Motorcycle Club which has a reputation for provoking fights and then calling the police and the Black Pistons Motorcycle Club which has a reputation for fighting when provoked and then not talking to police.
The line the police see is actually fuzzier and grayer than they realize.