ST. GEORGE – Individuals alleged to belong to a biker gang and accused of being involved in an alleged riot that resulted in a stabbing last year appeared in 5th District Court Tuesday.
Some of those involved, who are either members of or associated with the Eastside and Brothers of Legion motorcycle clubs, saw their hearings continued to new dates, while others had charges against them dismissed. One man, David Davenport, 43, of Washington City, had his preliminary hearing pushed through and is now awaiting arraignment.
Altogether, 12 people were arrested in December 2014 following an investigation into an incident at The One and Only Bar in St. George that occurred on Aug. 24, 2014. According to probable cause statements by St. George Police Officer Aaron Bergquist, two men who were outside of the bar smoking were allegedly overheard throwing insults at members of the Eastside and Brothers of Legion motorcycle clubs who were also at the bar.
A “violent physical altercation” erupted between the two men and the club members at some point that resulted in one of the men getting stabbed, St. George Police stated in a press release related to the arrests. Individuals involved were charged with being party to the riot in an incident the police characterized as involving a biker gang.
Details on the altercation and arrests can be found here.
During Davenport’s preliminary hearing, Bergquist said witnesses pointed to Davenport being involved in the alleged riot. The officer said he also recognized Davenport from surveillance footage connected to the incident.
Davenport was also identified in a witness statement submitted by Heather Sheppick, whose statement was submitted into evidence. Originally listed as one of the people involved in the riot and subsequently arrested, the state has dropped its charges. Deputy Washington County Attorney Bryan Wheat said in court that Sheppick has been cooperating with detectives investigating the case and is receiving “consideration” from the state.
A member of the Eastside Motorcycle Club, Davenport holds the rank of “enforcer” for the Washington County, Utah, Eastside Chapter of the club, according to court documents. Fifth District Judge Jeffrey C. Wilcox also noted Davenport’s status in the club when making his judgment.
Kenneth Combs, Davenport’s attorney, asked the court to dismiss the charge of third-degree felony riot against his client.
“The evidence the court has received, as I see it, should be more assault,” if anything at all, Combs said, adding that a fight isn’t always a riot. He also revisited Bergquist’s testimony and reiterated that the Eastside club wasn’t even considered a “gang” until the August incident.
Wheat said the gang distinction is relevant as it shows the club members as a group – which includes Davenport – “engaged reckless and tumultuous conduct” that left a man seriously injured.
“There’s plenty of reason to believe there was a riot and (Davenport) participated in that riot.” Wheat said.
The judge agreed, and ruled there was enough evidence in Davenport’s case to move forward. An arraignment hearing has been set for April 16 at 2:30 p.m.
Along with Davenport, area residents Zachery Robert Babcock, Austin Wesley Sharp, Steven Perry Neal, Zachary Ross Humphries, Scott Arthur Wells, Jr., John Thomas Benyo, Chase Edward Smith, Brent Taylor, Ramsey Joseph Campos, David Delmar Mangold and Heather Sheppick were arrested in connection with the alleged riot.
“(The police) say (the victims) were fighting a gang – well, the ‘gang’ is the Eastside Motorcycle Club with veterans, business owners – it’s a bike club, not a gang,” said E. Christian Warmsley, a private investigator involved in the case.
While some club members have had brushes with the law in the past, Warmsley said, club rules stipulate that members be law-abiding members of the community.
“They’re not a rogue biker gang,” Warmsley said.
Bergquist, who testified during Davenport’s preliminary hearing Tuesday, said the Eastside Motorcycle Club hadn’t been considered a biker gang by police until the alleged riot and stabbing incident.
In a probable cause statement relating to the arrests, Bergquist alleged both the Eastside and Brothers of Legion motorcycle club operated in ways consistent with “outlaw motorcycle gangs.”
Members of area motorcycle clubs in general have often protested the characterization when it arises.
Warmsley questioned the validity of the victims’ claims. Before the incident, he said, the two men were allegedly causing trouble at the bar prior to the fight.
According to court records, the two men categorized as the victims in the case invoked their 5th Amendment rights when asked to testify during the Feb. 23 preliminary hearing. That hearing was continued.
Whatever the events leading up to the alleged riot, a man was still stabbed and sent to the hospital, Wheat said following the court hearings. While the state doesn’t have evidence pointing to the exact individual who stabbed one of the victims, there is enough evidence supporting the pursuit of felony riot charges against various individuals involved, Wheat said.
As for “Eastsiders” allegedly involved in the incident, it is true some of the club members were present at the bar, yet their level of participation is suspect, Warmsley said. Some of the accused, he said, weren’t at the bar when the fight happened.
Benyo’s preliminary hearing is set for March 23, with Wells, Smith and Marigold’s preliminary hearings set for April 6. Babcok and Humphries’ hearings were granted continuences.
Charges against Sharp and Neal were dismissed. Charges against Sheppick and Taylor were dropped prior to Tuesday’s hearings.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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