David “Tin Man” Maloney was almost in court in Sanford, Florida again today trying to win his freedom.
Maloney and three other men are charged with three counts of second degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the aftermath of a gun battle in the parking lot of a VFW Post in Winter Springs, Florida on September 30. The other men are Robert William “Willy” Eckert, Victor Manuel “Pancho” Amaro and Paul Wayne Smith. They are accused of killing Harold “Lil Dave” Liddle, Peter “Hormone” Schlette and Dave “Dresser” Jakiela and of wounding Brad Dyess and Ronnie “Whiteboy” Mitchell.
The fight was between men who belonged to two separate and distinct motorcycle clubs that share a common name. The only mainstream news outlet that has covered the shootout and its aftermath in any detail is the Orlando Sentinel. The Sentinel’s coverage appears to be based mostly on police sources and has been, at times, infuriatingly inane.
The Two Clubs
The men in jail are all members of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club that was founded in West Philadelphia in 1967. Members of that club wear a patch that portrays a highly stylized harpy. The harpy is a mythological creature that is half woman and half bird. The Harpy Warlocks are a comparatively small club that has established two chapters in Florida. The Sentinel has repeatedly told readers that the two clubs are the same because they share the same name
The casualties were all members of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club which was founded on an aircraft carrier in 1967. Members of that club wear a stylized, mythological bird on their backs. Members of that club refer to their patch as both a “Warbird” and a “Phoenix.” The Warbird Warlocks consider themselves to be the preeminent motorcycle club in Florida. The club also has members as far west as Louisiana and as far north as Virginia. The mother chapter for this Warlocks Motorcycle Club is in Orlando.
The two clubs have generally gotten along over the last 45 years. There is some lingering resentment among some Harpy Warlocks that the Warbird Warlocks stole the Philadelphia club’s name but that had nothing to do with the gun battle. In the last few years, individual members of the Harpy Warlocks have attended Warbird Warlocks parties. Although the Harpy Warlocks do have a standing rule that reads: “Don’t party with other one percenter clubs.”
The Gun Fight
The VFW parking lot was the staging area for a charity poker run sponsored by the Harpy Warlocks. Three of the accused are former members of the Warbird Warlocks who became Harpy Warlocks after they were voted out bad from their original club. Maloney has claimed that he was the target of death threats and harassment by members of his old club. He shot and wounded a member of his old club outside Jonny Rotton’s Bar Out Back in Sanford last year. He told police he acted in self defense and he was not charged. During the last month and a half, Florida police and the Sentinel have portrayed Maloney as a violent and dangerous loose cannon.
The fight erupted when the five casualties rode into the Harpy Warlock event. According to police, the five were victims of a premeditated “ambush.” At a hearing last week a prosecutor named Stewart Stone told Debra S. Nelson, the judge who has been assigned the case, “These five men were ambushed. They didn’t have a chance. They were there for a charity event…. Two were shot before they were able to get off their motorcycles.”
The Sentinel reported that one of the wounded men, Ronnie Mitchell, “told police his group arrived to donate money to support wounded veterans – and didn’t know the event was hosted by the Philly Warlocks.”
“If I was coming here to do something that would not be the crew I would bring,” Mitchell allegedly told police. “And I would not bring five people, man.”
Warbird Warlocks National President John “Big John” Boudreau also told the Florida paper that members of his club “were warned not to go” to the poker run.
The truth of what happened that Sunday morning is more ambiguous than the simple drama described by police and reported by the Sentinel. There is now reason to believe that important details of what happened might be substantiated or disproven by undercover police who anticipated trouble, surveilled the event and may have actually video-recorded the beginning of the fight.
Since they were arrested, the four accused men have stated that they acted in self defense. The hearing today was a probable cause hearing at which the government would have had to prove that Maloney probably did not act in self-defense or let him walk. The disclosure of the rumored surveillance tape could be vital to the defense.
At the last minute Maloney’s lawyer, Michael LaFay, cancelled the hearing because he had not yet seen all the evidence the prosecution holds. “I don’t want to go off half-cocked,” he explained.
Maloney has not yet testified but he is likely to tell his version of the shootout before the case is over. So far his only relevant statement made to police and reported by the Sentinel is that he had been hiding under a car and had aimed his .380 caliber pistol at a brick wall. Two of the victims were standing between Maloney and that wall. Police have also eagerly leaked the facts that Maloney was carrying a total of three pistols when he was arrested and that he had “two Mossberg 12-gauge shotguns, a .38-caliber revolver and a.357-magnum revolver along with a bullet-proof vest and an undisclosed amount of ammunition” in his car.
The fate of all four accused men is tied together. And Maloney’s defense depends on what Judge Nelson or a jury thinks was running through the four men’s minds when the shooting began.
If and when he testifies, Maloney will state that the Warbird Warlocks were aware of the poker run for at least two months before the date of the event. He will also testify that he received a phone call from a Warbird Warlock the night before the event advising him that members of the big club would be attending. He will also testify that he believed that all members of the big club had been notified by email of the event and who was sponsoring it the previous day.
Maloney will testify that he believed that at least 40 Warbird Warlocks had assembled at that club’s nearby, Orlando clubhouse and that he feared they would descend on the VFW Post after most of the riders had left on the poker run. Maloney believed that a woman at the event was the girlfriend of a Warbird Warlock and that she was in near constant contact with the Orlando clubhouse as participants in the run arrived.
Maloney will also testify that because of the animosity that existed between him and his old club he advised three of the seven other Harpy Warlocks present at the event to secure the entrance and prevent any Warbird Warlocks from attending.
He may substantiate the police version of events that when the five victims arrived one of the three Harpy Warlocks at the entrance shouted, “Get the fuck out. We don’t want you here.” Maloney will testify, as his attorney has already stated, that he was inside the VFW Post when the shooting began and came under fire when he walked outside.
All four of the accused will testify that the shooting began after the five Warbird Warlocks refused to stop and one of the riders actually ran his motorcycle into one of the guards.
Undercover police probably witnessed all of this.