Biker club shootout in Calwa leaves 1 dead, 12 injured

The Fresno BeeOctober 5, 2013 

One person is dead and at least 12 are injured following a shooting early Saturday at a motorcycle club gathering in southeast Fresno.

The shooting erupted about 2 a.m. at the Soul Brothers clubhouse at Calwa Avenue and Pullman Street, according to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's spokesman Chris Curtice said deputies arrived at the chaotic scene to find hundreds of people running from the area as shots still were being fired. As many as 100 deputies along with Fresno police and California Highway Patrol officers sped to the scene.

Curtice said the Soul Brothers were hosting a dance in the clubhouse and about 500 people were present. The shooting erupted in the clubhouse and quickly moved outside, where a running gunfight ensued on Calwa.

The dead victim and several injured people were found in the clubhouse. Another injured victim was found sprawled on a nearby street.

Some of the wounded were rushed to Community Regional Medical Center before deputies arrived. The injuries ranged from very serious to minor.

The Soul Brothers is a Fresno-area motorcycle club that is affiliated with other Soul Brother chapters in Northern and Southern California and several other states, including Arizona and Nevada.

Once a year, the club hosts other motorcycle clubs including the Oakland-based East Bay Dragons and clubs from throughout California and the southwest.

Donnie Turnmire, 51, who lives near the Calwa club, said while club members seem nice, the violence that often ensues there is not.

"I have kids and I know my kids get pretty nervous -- it's scary for them," Turnmire said. "It's unfortunate. No one wants a shooting around their house. It's pretty dangerous."

Turnmire has lived in Calwa for "too long," he says -- 18 years. Over the past couple of years, he said, there have been several shootings around the motorcycle club. After Saturday's shooting, he woke up to find a trail of blood on the street in front of his home.

Tally Torpin, 45, also shared her concerns as she pushed her 2-year-old granddaughter in a stroller down Calwa Avenue.

"Since the beginning of summer, it seems like there's been a shooting almost every night," Torpin said. She has two grandchildren who live with her, and a third on the way.

Torpin said she wished things still were like the "old-fashioned days," when bar fights were fought with fists, not guns.

The Soul Brothers club were founded several decades ago. The club touts its multiracial membership and the club's patch depicts a black arm with clenched fist crossed with a similar white arm. Most members ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles; some also ride Japanese sport bikes.

Large gatherings of bikers make Fresno their destination twice a year in the spring and fall. While the motorcyclists generally are peaceful, police usually put extra officers on duty to prevent bikers from speeding, pulling wheelies and drinking in public.

Violence has occurred frequently at the gatherings. This spring, a shooting broke out at a motel near Highway 99 and Olive Avenue where bikers were gathered and several were wounded. Several years ago, one person was killed at a dance held by bikers in southwest Fresno.

The violence isn't always started by the bikers. Police say gang members often attend the dances and gang rivalries can erupt at the events.

Another neighbor who did not want to give his name because he feared retaliation said the Calwa area is plagued by lots of gang issues and violence. He said a suspected burglar was shot and killed by a police officer last year in the middle of the street.

"That's Calwa," he said.

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