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Carlton stopover: Typical Hells Angels visit -- minus the mayhem

Hell's Angels

With only one arrest -- for drunken driving -- and 24 speeding tickets issued during the Hells Angels' summer gathering in Carlton so far, law enforcement officials were guardedly optimistic Thursday afternoon.

"So far things have gone very well," St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman said at a media briefing. "If [one drunken-driving arrest] is all we have to talk about this week, then we've done our jobs."

Violence and drug crimes have marred some Hells Angels' USA Runs in the last decade, and law enforcement agencies in Northeastern Minnesota prepared for the worst.

Though some local residents have complained about the large-scale police presence, officials have said they are modeling their approach on a relatively low-key response in Missoula, Mont., last year.

For the Hells Angels 2000 USA Run, also held in Missoula, law enforcement reacted with a show of force, trying to keep streets clear and the public separated from the bikers, but tensions flared into public unrest. In 2008, when the Hells Angels returned to Missoula, the police response was more subdued and Police Chief Mark Muir said the outcome was far better.

"This is a plan used by law enforcement across the country," Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said Thursday, "and it's a plan that has worked in the past and is so far working here."

Though officers had stopped what sounds like an enormous number of vehicles in the area since Tuesday -- 250 vehicles and motorcycles as of

1 p.m. Thursday, only 24 of 95 citations were issued to Hells Angels members, Lake said at a media briefing in Carlton.

"Everyone has been cooperative on the stops," Lake added.

One 43-year-old Hells Angel from New York was arrested Wednesday night for driving under the influence and refusing to give a breathalyzer test. Police said the motorcycle Jeffrey Paul Amatowas driving at the time of his arrest had been reported stolen in the state of New Jersey.

Amato posted $600 cash bail Thursday afternoon and was released from Carlton County Jail pending a future court appearance.

About 300 members of the club had arrived in Carlton by Thursday morning and officials expected the number to climb to 500 by the end of the day. Most were concentrated in the Carlton area between Black Bear Casino Resort and the Lost Isle Bar, which motorcycle club members have rented through Sunday for their events.

Law enforcement officials said they had not talked to anyone from the Hells Angels since Monday and said they didn't know when or if any large group rides would take place. Small groups were seen riding through Jay Cooke State Park in Carlton and near Brighton Beach in Duluth.


Officials had no new information about the motorcycle group known as the Outlaws, who had reportedly gathered Wednesday in Northwestern Wisconsin in response to the Hells Angels event.

"We are still closely monitoring that," Lake said. "There still has been no movement by the Outlaws to enter Minnesota."

Squad cars from several agencies in Wisconsin were seen Thursday night following a group of several dozen Outlaws on motorcycles on Tower Avenue in Superior.

Lake declined to say exactly how many officers are patrolling the area this week. She said agencies contributing personnel, in addition to the Carlton County Sheriff's Office, are Cloquet, Fond du Lac and Duluth police, the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, the Minnesota State Patrol and several federal agencies.

Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Border Patrol; and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have played a role in planning and some also are patrolling the area.

When asked about a reporter's tip from a Wrenshall resident who said "a challenge had been laid down in Wrenshall between the Hells Angels and Outlaws," law enforcement officials at the meeting said they weren't aware of any challenge or motorcycle activity in Wrenshall.

Duluth News Tribune staff writer Peter Passi contributed to this report.