Christian biker gang members charged with attempted murder

Los Angeles Times, August 6, 2008

Police say the charges against eight Set Free Soldiers stem from a fight last week at a Newport Beach bar, and the victims are members of the Hells Angels.

Authorities this morning arrested eight members of a Christian biker gang known as Set Free Soldiers on charges of attempted murder in connection to a bar fight last week between the gang and members of the Hells Angels, according to Anaheim police.

The arrests were made during raids in Anaheim, Rancho Santa Margarita, Costa Mesa, Norco and San Diego County, authorities said. Three people are still being sought on arrest warrants.

The raids took place a little over a week after the Set Free Soldiers and Hells Angels clashed at the Newport Beach bar Blackie's by the Sea, said Anaheim Police Sgt. Tim Schmidt. Schmidt said that during the brawl a stabbing took place.

All those arrested this morning are members of Set Free Soldiers, and the victims are members of the Hells Angels, Schmidt said.

The operation, which included SWAT teams and federal drug enforcement agents, began about 5 a.m. today, Schmidt said. No injuries were reported.

Those arrested are being held on $1 million bail each, he said.

Among those taken into custody was Phil Aguilar, the leader of Set Free Soldiers, who police said owns several houses in the 300 block of South Archer Street in Anaheim, where authorities raided at least four houses.

Neighbors said they were awakened by the noise and commotion of the raid, which included helicopters, police dogs, loudspeakers and what sounded like small explosions.

Rose Lambie, 65, who lives three houses down from one of the homes targeted, said the raid was not surprising because the gang had "taken over the neighborhood in a lot of ways." Lambie said gang members had bought several houses on the street and had a history of intimidating neighbors. Visits from the police have been common, she said, and motorcycles and cars with black "Soldiers" decals often line the street of single-family homes, she said.

Lambie said Aguilar is well known in the neighborhood.

"He's tried to pull himself off as being a Christian group, but it's not," she said. Lambie said she and other neighbors had met with each other and with police to raise concerns about the gang's behavior.

Aguilar's MySpace page says he is a resident of Anaheim who is also known as the pastor or "the Chief" of the group. Next to his photo is the statement: "Sinner or Saint you be the judge!"

Authorities said the gang has a religious ministry that recruits people discharged from parole, state prison and county jail and has an outreach program for convicted felons.

"It just seems they have a lot of people that have run into law enforcement and the court system," Schmidt said.

On their website, Set Free Soldiers describe themselves as "a group of men who love Jesus and love to ride hard. We are not your normal motorcycle club. Some say we are too good for the bad guys, and too bad for the good guys."

"We don't argue that," the statement says. "All we Soldiers know is that we take care of our own and help plenty of others along the way. We try to live right in this wrong world and let our light shine wherever we may go."

In addition to videos of the group in action, including some showing members in fistfights with other people, the site offers apparel for sale. A onesie for babies with the words "Soldier Made" written on the front in faux alphabet blocks sells for $30.

The address given for those wishing to buy items is in the same Anaheim block raided this morning by authorities.

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