Thunderguards agree to leave clubhouse

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Thunderguards Motorcycle Club members agreed to vacate their Wilmington clubhouse Wednesday, a month after the state sued to oust them from it because of ongoing violent criminal activity.

The agreement, signed Wednesday by Superior Court Judge Vivian Medinilla, came a day before an emergency hearing to close the club at 2800 Northeast Blvd. was set to take place. Members of one of the nation's oldest black motorcycle clubs must be out of their clubhouse at 5 p.m. Thursday.

"No resident of Wilmington or visitor to our city should be at risk from the ongoing pattern of violence that has been occurring on this property," Attorney General Beau Biden said in a statement Wednesday. "Today's action accomplishes our first goal of immediately closing the property to protect the safety of the public.

In his statement, Biden said they will continue to monitor the property "in order to hold the defendants accountable to its obligations."

Last month, Biden's office requested an emergency injunction to force Thunderguards to vacate the property, attributing multiple killings, stabbings, assaults, drug dealing, gambling and prostitution to the "national outlaw motorcycle gang."

Wilmington officials said they seized two illegal gambling machines and cases of alcohol from an illegal bar operating in the clubhouse. Gunshots were fired toward the clubhouse early Sunday.

Other terms of the order include:

• Club members can not allow anyone on any part of their property during the closure.

• While it's closed, the Thunderguards can not hold meetings on the property and can not rent, lease or have events on the property.

• Only the Thunderguards' president and vice president are permitted on the property for the sole purpose of performing maintenance and physical repairs, removing any accumulated trash and debris and removing high grass and weeds. They can only do this on weekdays from 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Two other businesses on the property will be allowed to operate Monday through Saturday until 7 p.m. The businesses are prohibited from allowing Thunderguards members or club activities on-site.

Members of the Thunderguards held two rallies to protest Biden's lawsuit and were calling for a third protest outside New Castle County Thursday morning, when the hearing was to take place.

Thunderguards club leaders have said many of the problems cited in the civil lawsuit occurred outside the clubhouse. They added their clubhouse was near the Riverside housing unit, one of the more dangerous parts of a city already branded as one of the most dangerous small cities in America.

FBI statistics for 2012, the last year for which records are available, show that Wilmington's violence per capita was third highest among about 45 cities with 50,000 to 100,000 people, and eighth highest among about 750 American cities with more than 50,000 people.

Despite having more than 1,000 members from Claymont to Seaford, Thunderguards considered Wilmington its hometown since its founding in 1965 by men who enjoyed biking together, club vice president Edwin O. Mitchell told The News Journal earlier this week.

A fixture in the community, Thunderguards have organized book drives, Halloween parties, backyard clean-up days and rides supporting research for multiple sclerosis and cancer treatments. The group incorporated in 1995 to be an educational, community service corporation organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes.

While the Thunderguards had plenty of support and even community praise, there have been scuffles that caused alarm such as fights with the Wheels of Soul cycle club and clashes with a section of Wilmington Hispanics in the 1970s.

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Esteban Parra
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