Murders are usually solved in 48 hours. Murder investigations regularly continue for years. And, murder prosecutions often fail.
So far, the investigation of the shootings of John Lindeman, 43, and Bradley Lutzow, 45 in the parking lot of a QuikTrip convenience store near 19th and Peoria Avenues in Phoenix on February 17th seems to be following that pattern. Everybody already has a pretty good idea of what happened, who did it and why. So far nobody has been arrested.
The lead detective investigating the shootings is named Matthew Verthein. Verthein continues to lurk and has posted to this site using the moniker Matt Vermin. Verthein has declined a request from this page for a statement. He has, however, solicited information from readers of this site.
Last week, an unnamed police source fed a story about the case to the Arizona Republic. The source probably was not Sherlock Holmes. It was probably Verthein. And, it seems likely that if he was about to ask a judge to issue a warrant he would not be actively trying to solicit information.
However dozens of seemingly informed observers have been talking to this site and arguing with each other on this site and after about 30,000 words, about half the length of a book, a consensus has emerged. Anyone who has read these comments can see what happened. Verthein has been reading. So, he knows what people are saying happened.
Outlaw biker murders are notoriously hard to solve for three reasons. First, everyone involved is a participant in an implicit, although not necessarily an explicit, conspiracy. Second, these killings are as often as not about honor and so the motive is very hard for outsiders to see. And, finally, as a matter of honor, nobody cooperates with the police. Nobody knows a damn thing. Nobody backs down.
This page does not cooperate with the police. This site sympathizes with the survivors of the victims and with the fugitive suspects equally. And, this site also recognizes that this was not exactly your average outlaw murder.
We are not revealing any secrets. But, here is a summary of what the Phoenix police have already been told.
Two De Facto Clubs
The shootings of Lindeman and Lutzow were the culmination of an ongoing dispute between members of two de facto motorcycle clubs: The Association of Recovering Motorcyclists (A.R.M.) and the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club. Both clubs recruit recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. Both clubs, according to numerous testimonials, help members get well.
For decades, observers have described the biker subculture as a “saloon society.” Hunter Thompson used the phrase in 1965. A social scientist named Doreen Anderson-Facile recently defined the term to mean a biker who shares similar values to and looks like an outlaw biker but does not nevertheless belong to an outlaw biker club. By her definition patched and unpatched bikers both share the saloon society. And as the name suggests, the saloon society prominently features alcohol and drugs. It was true in old Tombstone and it is true today.
So it is natural that at least some alcoholic or addicted bikers who enjoy saloon society, or the biker lifestyle, would join a clean and sober motorcycle club. A.R.M. and the Sober Riders represent very different ideas of what a clean and sober club can and should be.
A.R.M. is punctilious about not calling itself a “motorcycle club” but it does acknowledge that it is a club. The organization describes itself as, “…bikers who have chosen to remain clean and sober without forsaking the lifestyle of brotherhood in the wind. We have been able to grow through our respect for other motorcycle clubs in our areas.”
Descriptions by members and former members argue that the club emphasizes sobriety more than the biker lifestyle. Joining A.R.M. offers the same benefits that belonging to any motorcycle club or practically any affinity group provides. Members are accepted by an institution that is greater, stronger and wiser than they are. They are not alone. They are loved and helped and they find companions who they are able to love and help.
By all accounts, A.R.M. emphasizes sobriety more than being a motorcycle club.
The Sober Riders is the edgier of the two groups.
The Sober Riders was officially organized in Tucson in 1994 when, according to its founder, “we were awarded the privilege of wearing our patch. That honor was not won easily, nor is it one taken lightly. It was by respect for the age old traditions of the Motorcycle Club world that we accomplished this step of our path.
“Those traditions are the results of lessons learned and not blocks to freedom. Our road did not end there. We continued to embrace the MC world; we have become respected and are entrusted with many opportunities to be of service.”
“We are not your typical recovery club in that we do not shoot our wounded nor do we police our member’s programs as we participate in the mainstream of the motorcycle club world.”
In other words, the Sober Riders are a club first and a recovery group second.
Although they protest that they do not claim territory, the Sober Riders have a reputation for being territorial. The A.R.M. seem to claim only the territory they are standing in.
There is a preeminent motorcycle club everywhere in the world. There is even one in Arizona. At least 20 motorcycle clubs claim or dispute preeminence over some patch of territory somewhere in the United States. A few of these clubs are very well known. Some, who claim preeminence over little pieces of the prairies and the plains, are not.
And, the system where some clubs are preeminent and others are sanctioned is a good system. It keeps the peace. In general it protects the civilians and it minimizes the drama. If everybody agrees to the rules and plays by them there should be no murders, no bad publicity and no heat from the police.
The problem in Arizona arose because members of the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club seem to think-ridiculous though the notion may sound to outsiders-that they are the preeminent clean and sober club in the state. And, A.R.M. thinks that they have an obligation to redeem drunks and addicts wherever they may be.
And, six weeks ago the two philosophies collided.
The dispute between the A.R.M and the Sober Riders has been alleged to have begun nine days before the shootings, on February 8th, the day of the Florence Prison Run.
The Florence Prison Run is a long standing and very well known event in the southwest. Motorcycle outlaws and, to use as good a term as any, members of saloon society ride past the prison in Florence, Arizona and wave to the inmates. The inmates stand near the fences and wave back. The ride is intended to reassure prisoners that they have not been forgotten.
The event was sponsored for many years by the Dirty Dozen Motorcycle Club and is now sponsored by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. Both clubs have always been respectfully regarded and participants in the event are expected to behave themselves.
But this year something happened. Members of A.R.M. rode in the event and they have been alleged by readers of this site to have provoked the wrath of all Sober Riders in Arizona. Either the A.R.M. assaulted someone at the event, or A.R.M. insulted someone at the event or A.R.M. insulted someone by simply attending the event.
The list of those who may have been offended by the A.R.M. riders includes every motorcycle club in Arizona. Somebody is always getting offended by something. Whether it was the Sober Riders in particular who were insulted or whether retribution for the insult simply fell to the Sober Riders because they are “the preeminent clean and sober club” in the state depends on who you hear.
No one has alleged that either Lindeman or Lutzow insulted anyone in Arizona on February 8th. In fact, it is not clear if either man was even in the state on February 8th.
But nine days later they both were.
And, on February 17th, at least three members of A.R.M. were followed into the parking lot of the QuikTrip by up to ten men. All of these pursuers were wearing cuts with Sober Riders Motorcycle Club patches on the back.
The national President, Vice-president and the, possibly, brain-damaged Secretary of the Sober Riders have all explicitly or implicitly stated on this site that no member of the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club is responsible for the murders of Lindeman and Lutzow. Which leads to the conclusion that the assassins must have been imposters who intended to frame the Sober Riders.
The assailants disguised as Sober Riders and the A.R.M members agreed to sit down at a nearby Denny’s. Over coffee, the Sober Riders told the A.R.M. members that they were being offered “a free pass to leave Phoenix but the bottom line is you need to get out of Arizona.”
If that is actually what was said it is a patently offensive and territorial pronouncement. The A.R.M. members chafed at that ultimatum and an argument ensued.
The argument devolved into a fight in the QuikTrip lot and the A.R.M. members were outnumbered. Sober Riders, or their nefarious impersonators, blocked the exits of the QuikTrip. While at least one of their companions escaped, Lindeman and Lutzow covered for him and fought back. They may have been armed.
Multiple correspondents to this site have alleged that a Sober Rider was stabbed. A public police report indicates that one member of A.R.M. was armed with a folding baton.
Two Sober Riders, who have been identified on this site as Spike and Orphan, drew guns and fired. One of these two men might have been a stabbing victim. One of the shooters left his gun at the scene and so far the gun appears to be untraceable.
Minutes after the attack a Sober Rider who may have been Spike or Orphan borrowed a car from a female acquaintance who lived nearby. The female, who police have described as cooperative, does not know the real name of the Sober Rider who borrowed her car. Only his road name. And, regrettably, he has not yet returned her car so she has not yet had an opportunity to ask him what the name that appears on his driver’s license might be.
Both Lindeman and Lutzow went down fighting, defending their friends, in the most admirably masculine way. The fine character of both men has been widely eulogized by their survivors.
Lindeman suffered multiple gunshot wounds and died at the QuikTrip. Lutzow died in the passenger seat of a pickup truck in the parking lot of a nearby hospital. Moments before he was shot Lutzow text messaged his wife in Illinois. The last words she heard from him were, “I love you.”
No arrests have been made or are anticipated in the case.
Members of the Association of Recovering Motorcyclists and members of the Sober Riders Motorcycle Club continue to intemperately rage at and threaten one another.