As reported here yesterday, Denver District Attorney Mitchell R. Morrissey issued a 177-word press release this morning confirming that “no criminal charges will be filed” against Colorado prison guard and Iron Order Motorcycle Club member Derek “Kong” Duran.
Duran indubitably carried an automatic pistol into the Colorado Motorcycle Expo in Denver on January 30. The Iron Order, many of whose members are peace officers, military policemen and prison guards advises its members to carry pistols and conducts role playing classes for members – the club calls the classes TRU Training – about how to contrive confrontations with members of traditional motorcycle clubs and civilians which may lead to gun play and what to say to investigators afterward.
Over the last forty years, all traditional motorcycle clubs have collaborated to create a sophisticated code of intra-club and interclub behavior that unambiguously defines the use of symbols of organizational identity (to borrow Wiliam Dulaney’s phrase) and an evolved etiquette that allows clubs to avoid confrontations with one another. This evolved etiquette – defining who can be assumed to be whom, who can be where when, and when fights can be avoided and when they cannot – has been the dominant characteristic of outlaw motorcycle clubs since the 1980s. Anyone who knows anything about outlaw bikers knows that club members are very private and that clubs have very many rules. Outlaw motorcycle clubs are paramilitary fraternities that value self-reliance, discipline and courage. They are not, to use a common phrase, “mafias on wheels.”
The Iron Order has gone out its way to parody and insult these club conventions and that, according to numerous witnesses, is what led to the tragedy in Denver. Duran and other Iron Order members went to the Expo wearing black and white insignia that parodied the Mongols’. They did not avoid the Mongols but rather sought them out. They didn’t just seek them out but went out of their way to challenge them. Their actions were premeditated and strategic and were intended to shove the Mongols into a psychological corner in which their choices were either to be “punked” or to fight. The Mongols, predictably, fought.
Duran, who appears in photographs to have been intoxicated won his individual fight by pulling a gun and shooting his opponent in the stomach. Iron Order members habitually gloat about shooting members of other clubs by saying “He should have brought more than his fists to a gun fight.” It is almost a club maxim. After Duran seriously wounded a Mongol, he retreated to the high ground, at the top of a set of stairs, and continued to brandish his pistol in a threatening manner. Someone shot at him. The bullet grazed Duran and more seriously wounded another Iron Order member. In the District Attorney’s account, Mongol Victor Mendoza, whom Duran then killed, fired the shot that grazed Duran. Other accounts say the shot that grazed Duran and struck another Iron Order member was fired by an unknown person.
The District Attorney’s account appears to be contradicted by photographic evidence.
Four people were shot in the encounter. Two of them were struck by a single bullet fired, the District Attorney alleges, by Mendoza. The other two were shot by Duran. Duran shot first. By most accounts, Duran was the first person involved in the altercation to use deadly force.
The incident at the Denver Expo was the third Iron Order homicide in 19 months.
In June 2014 during an apparently contrived confrontation, Iron Order prospect Kristopher Stone shot Black Piston Zachariah “Nas T” Tipton in the head after Tipton punched him in the nose at a bike night at Nippers Beach Grille in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.
Police immediately determined that Stone had acted in self defense when he shot at Tipton four times as Tipton was backing away from him because Stone, an Army Reserve medic, knew that a blow to the head could be deadly. Stone had a slight fracture of his nose which prosecutors interpreted as a threat of “imminent death or great bodily harm.”
Stone was moved out of Florida by Iron Order club officers including current club vice president Mike “Cgar” Crouse. Crouse is an Army Lieutenant Colonel and former military policemen. An Iron Order attorney and club officer named John C. “Shark” Whitfield conferred with police after the murder. State Attorney Angela Corey, who is a little famous for having indicted vigilante George Zimmerman, stonewalled the public about the case until November 7 when she officially announced that Stone had acted in self defense. The statement she released was larded with gratuitous innuendo and, in some cases – particularly summaries of witness statements, with outright lies.
On June 19, 2015 a student at Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania named Tonya M. Focht was punched in the face and either shoved or pratfalled under the wheels of a car during a fight between her boyfriend, a former Pagan named Mark Groff, and Iron Order Reading chapter sergeant at arms Wayne “Mo” Ritchie and Iron Order Reading chapter member Timothy “Munch” Martin. Groff has alleged that Focht was murdered. A month after she died Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams ruled that Focht’s death had been an accident and charged Groff with disorderly conduct.
The Denver District Attorney’s complete statement on his decision not to charge Duran with anything – not anything at all including disorderly conduct – reads in full:
“The investigation into the shooting at the Denver Coliseum on January 30, 2016, in which one person was killed and several others were injured, has concluded; no criminal charges will be filed.
“The extensive investigation, which has been ongoing since January 30th, confirmed that following a confrontation, shots were fired by both Derek Duran and Victor Mendoza. It was determined that Duran fired a shot first, injuring one person. Within a minute or so of that shot, Mendoza fired at Duran, grazing Duran’s torso and hitting another man behind Duran. Duran immediately fired a shot at Mendoza, killing him.
“The lengthy investigation was complicated in part by the large number of eyewitnesses and numerous 911 callers. In addition to the four people hit by gunfire, there were also two additional assault victims and a victim who had been stabbed during the incident.
“The case was presented for consideration of charges yesterday, and the legal review concluded that there is no likelihood of a conviction due to the self-defense claim of Mr. Duran.”