Murder trial expert explains ‘one-percenter’ biker gang culture

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Colors, monikers, allies, rivalries, one-percenters, cuts.

Those were among the terms jurors in the murder trial of three alleged biker gangsters heard Wednesday as a Georgia gang expert testified for the prosecution.

The witness was A. Charles Lyda, a gang investigator for the Cobb County District Attorney, called to Columbus to analyze evidence in the case against Daginald Wheeler, Demark Ponder and James Daniel Jr., each allegedly associated with the Outcast Motorcycle Club that invaded a rival group’s Oct. 9, 2015, gathering where one man fatally was shot.

Lyda testified the evidence was consistent with biker gang culture: Testimony showed the Strikers Motorcycle Club hosted a meet-and-greet at the 4th Quarter Sports Bar, 6959 Macon Road, where the Outcasts assaulted the Strikers’ president and stole his club vest, the “colors” signifying his position.

It was during this altercation around 11:20 p.m. that Dominic Mitchell, who had been invited to cook for the Strikers, was shot twice in the chest and died on the bar floor as a gun battle erupted outside in the parking lot, wounding three others.

Lyda said the Outcasts, a black club affiliated with the national all-white Outlaws motorcycle gang, are the dominant black biker gang in Georgia, and would have taken umbrage at the Strikers’ holding such a public event without first seeking the Outcasts’ blessing.

So the Outcasts would have had to prove their superiority, Lyda said.

Asked what the perception would be if they didn’t act, he said: “In the motorcycle culture, it would show weakness.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker asked him: What could a rival biker group expect if it had a large gathering without the dominant area club’s OK?

“Violence,” Lyda answered.

The Outcasts consider themselves “one-percenters,” a term Lyda said dates back to a big 1947 biker rally that devolved into a raucous melee, prompting the comment that 99 percent of motorcyclists are law-abiding citizens, but 1 percent are not.

Whitaker asked what the Outcasts mean by calling themselves one-percenters.

“They are part of a subversive gang culture,” Lyda said.

He said one-percenters typically have support groups of bikers who are not admitted as members. These are their “allies,” and once allied, they have the same enemies or rivals as the core members, he said: “Once these gangs are allied, they share the same allies and the same rivalries.”

His testimony explained other terms prosecutors said were markers of an outlaw motorcycle culture.

  • They use “monikers” or nicknames, sometimes called street names, so they rarely refer to each other by their given names. “Moses,” “Toxic,” “Mad Max” and “Spider” are some examples, he said.
  • They refer to their clubhouse as the “church.”
  • A car or other automobile may be called a “cage.”
  • A vest representing a gang’s colors may be called a “cut.”

The latter’s what witnesses said the Outcasts took from then-Strikers president Hilliard London during the brawl they initiated inside the sports bar, with three of the rival gang’s associates assaulting him at the same time, forcing him to wiggle out of the vest to fight them off.

It was during this altercation that other fights inside the bar ensued, and that’s when Ponder is alleged to have shot Mitchell before the Outcasts fled with London’s vest.

Outside the bar, a Striker’s ally named Edward Bush grabbed an AR-15 rifle from his fiancée’s car, and at first fired into the air, hoping to scare the Outcasts off. A barrage of gunfire followed, with police later saying more than 70 shots were fired.

Bush testified Tuesday that when he was wounded in the exchange, he began aiming toward the Outcasts’ motorcycles. Bush said he likely was the shooter who then wounded Ponder, who had to go to St. Francis Hospital for treatment, accompanied by Daniel.

Bush also went to St. Francis, where his friends saw the Harley-Davidson motorcycles Ponder and Daniel were riding and recognized them from the bar. Columbus police then came to the hospital to question the witnesses, including Ponder and Daniel.

Ponder later acknowledged lying to police about his gunshot wound, telling officers he was hit in a random shooting as he rode his motorcycle north on Interstate 185.

Investigators said they later arrested Wheeler, reportedly an Outcast leader known as “Headquarters,” after witnesses recognized him from the bar, where surveillance video recorded him leading a line of eight motorcycles into the parking lot, marking him as the “road captain” in charge of the biker run.

Police said they served search warrants on Wheeler’s property and found a motorcycle matching the one recorded on the bar video.

Also testifying Wednesday was Catherine Jordan, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation firearms examiner, who said bullets and shell casings police collected at the crime scene showed as least five different firearms were there.

Among the bullets or casings police found were 9mm, .40-caliber and .223-caliber, she said. A bullet from a 9mm was recovered during Mitchell’s autopsy and matched to a Hi-Point 9mm pistol officers gave her to test, she said.

Prosecutors said that gun belongs to Ponder, who had a receipt for it in his pocket.

The trial continues Thursday in Judge Bobby Peters’ Government Center courtroom.

Each defendant is charged with murder, robbery, aggravated assault, using a gun to commit a crime and three counts of violating Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. Wheeler faces an additional count of violating the gang prevention act, and Ponder is charged also with lying to police about his gunshot wound.

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