In the aftermath of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, members of a loose confederation of cattle rustlers and other entrepreneurs called The Cowboys killed Morgan Earp and maimed his brother Virgil. It wasn’t entirely idle malice. The Earps had killed three Cowboys – Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton.
The dispute wasn’t as black and white as it is usually portrayed. The Earps were guns for hire. They came to Tombstone to run card games and get rich. They wound up as muscle for the Eastern and European millionaire’s who ran the boomtown’s mines. The Cowboys represented the way things had been in Southern Arizona, down on la linea, before the big money moved in.
After his brothers were ambushed, Wyatt Earp organized a federal posse with the intention of hunting down and killing every Cowboy he could find. What happened next was called the Vendetta Ride. It lasted 27 days, from March 20 1882 through April 15 and its victims included Johnny Ringo and William “Curly Bill” Brocius. After Earp got his fill of blood, he escaped the law in Arizona by fleeing to Colorado, Alaska and eventually Los Angeles where he spent his final days watching western movies and polishing his reputation.
There is a more modern, slightly less dramatic and longer lived version of the Vendetta Ride happening right now in Los Angeles. Police are trying to hound the Mongols Motorcycle Club out of existence as revenge for the death of Pomona Swat Officer Shaun Diamond last October 28.
A Mongol named David Martinez was charged with Diamond’s murder after Diamond and 13 other militarized police broke into Martinez’ home at four in the morning. That case isn’t as black and white as it has been widely described either. Diamond, according to numerous police spokesmen, was shot in the back of the head. The Swat team had just thrown a flash bang grenade into the Martinez home. In the last 102 days prosecutors have not made public any evidence that Martinez did what he has been accused of doing. The raid on the Martinez residence was one of seven simultaneous raids that morning that was looking for evidence that could be used to reinforce a RICO case against the Mongols club as a whole – all Mongols, not just those who have been convicted of crimes.
The Mongols have been around since Vietnam. The club celebrated its forty-fifth anniversary last Saturday night at a place called the House Lounge in Maywood, California which is on a narrow street in a mostly industrial section of East El Lay not far from the Los Angeles River. Other clubs that are friendly with the Mongols came to party with them and it was a peaceful assembly except for the police.
A multi-agency task force that included hundreds of California Highway Patrolmen, police from at least a half dozen area departments and federal investigators stopped and harassed everyone entering and leaving the party. A witness described the stops as maliciously “degrading.” Police found excuses to ticket most of the attendees. Many cars and motorcycles were seized for what seem to have been manufactured excuses. Every vehicle was illegally searched. At least one pack was run off the road. The harassment wasn’t confined to Mongols. The harassment wasn’t confined to men. As is almost always the case with these sorts of things, the police told their victims they were ensuring their safety. The stops were technically legal in California because the victims included motorists. If the victims had only been motorcyclists the “safety stops” would have been technically illegal.
A long time and reasonable member of the club who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “They made it clear to certain brothers that this was a direct result of what happened to the cop in the Martinez case. Obviously they are making a point and aren’t going to stop until they get what they want and that’s to strip our club of our trademarks. It’s been tough for our club. Hopefully they won’t kill any of us in the process.”
Given the entirely malicious nature of last weekend’s safety enforcement exercise, it is starting to look like that is what Los Angeles area police intend to do: Find some excuses to kill some Mongols. Then, maybe, run off to Colorado.