Hells Angels rumble through Gunnison, Mesa County
Dozens of traffic tickets or arrests in just a few days might otherwise alarm Gunnison County Undersheriff Rick Besecker.
But considering recent company, he’s happy.
Last week, hundreds of members or want-to-be members of the notorious motorcycle club, Hells Angels, rumbled into Besecker’s backyard.
“From the perspective of our incident command, it went exceptionally well,” said Besecker, who estimated 150 to 200 officers from agencies from across Colorado were in Gunnison County over the weekend.
While Besecker said final numbers were not in, the massive law enforcement presence yielded several dozen traffic-related citations and the arrest of two Angels’ riders on outstanding warrants, including one member from New York who was also carrying a concealed handgun.
Mesa County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Lisa McCammon said 11 Angels were issued summonses for suspicion of speeding and reckless driving after being pulled over just before noon Sunday near 32 Road and U.S. Highway 50.
Besecker said they had estimates that 600 riders, including full “patched” members of the club and others trying out for membership, would descend on the town starting last week before departing on Sunday for the annual international biking rally in Sturgis, S.D. The Hells Angels started arriving in large numbers Wednesday and Thursday in Gunnison.
“We have 12 hotels, which for the most part were pretty much booked,” said Tammy Scott, executive director of the Gunnison Chamber of Commerce.
“They were very loud, if nothing else,” Scott said, laughing, while minimizing impact on the local economy.
The Angels’ leadership had rented a ranch on the east side of Gunnison, spending their days in meetings inside massive tents they brought with them, she said.
“They bring their own food, liquor and are pretty self-contained,” Scott said.
Scott said Gunnison saw a decline last week in visitation to the area as measured by the number of out-of-town guests stopping at the city’s welcome center.
“It dropped a couple hundred last week,” she said. “People were staying away and a lot of locals left town.”
For the Angels, last week’s visit to Gunnison was the second in eight years. Mindful of photo opportunities in 2002, some members of the club reportedly passed out ice cream to area children, Besecker said. This year, the club rented a city field where a group of Angels on Saturday competed against a local team in a softball game, he said.
The locals won by double digits, Besecker added.
“This one guy (Hells Angel) said he had come all the way from Arizona with two baseball bats stuck out the back of his motorcycle, and he was kind of surprised he hadn’t been stopped along the way,” Besecker said.
“He said they were for the softball game. He promised.”