Eric Wayne Thorsgard was in the worst possible situation. He was taken into custody, accused of beating up somebody in the alley outside a biker bar in Oceanside. That wasn’t the worst part.
Eric is known as “Thor” to his pals in the Hells Angels. (No, they don’t use an apostrophe in the name, and if you don’t like the punctuation you can tell them yourself.)
Thor is a “full patch” member, which is top status, full member. You might not know that a man needs an invitation just to have “hang around” status for this exclusive group of motorcycle riders. Women need not apply. The next step up in approval is “prospect” status. For each of these steps, one gets a small red-and-white patch to wear; the patch displays rank. Any recognition at all from the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is exhilarating to certain persons.
The notorious club guards its reputation, such as it is; for example, they will not tolerate someone pretending to be a member who is not really a member. And there are expectations for persons who are members; for example, one must have an American-made motorcycle. This includes Harleys and Indians and Victory-made bikes.
Thor ran into a problem when a rumor sprang up that the guy he’d “thumped” was an old man. Worse, the old man is reportedly a member of a “friendly” motorcycle club.
So Thor found himself needing to answer felony assault charges from the State of California. And he needed to answer to the Hells Angels, too.
“One More That’s It” Pub in Oceanside, California
On a Friday night last January, Thor was having drinks in a biker bar in Oceanside. The bar is called One More That’s It. Regulars refer to it as OMTI — they say “ohmtee.” The low-profile bar is located on the northern coast of San Diego County, near Camp Pendleton.
Thor is a largish guy, six feet tall and more than 200 pounds. He got a ride to the bar with his friend, John Michael Wayne.
John Michael Wayne is small and tough and an active-duty Marine. He is 28 now; he joined the Marines when he was 20. Wayne has been deployed twice to Afghanistan. He said he is anxious to go back to “forward deployment” with his platoon later this year.
Marine Staff Sergeant Wayne met Thor a couple of years ago when he bought a motorcycle. Thor was a salesman at Biggs Harley-Davidson. The two men discovered that they were both from Kansas. They enjoyed each other’s company and spent time together.
The night of January 6, 2012, Wayne drove his blue Ford pickup truck to the biker bar. It was only a mile from his home. Wayne brought his wife and his friend Thor.
Wayne’s wife is attractive, and Wayne knows it. (“My wife is a pretty girl, she gets talked to a lot.”) The security guy at the front door said he particularly remembered her, because he wondered why such a good-looking woman was with such rough-looking guys.
Wayne said that while he was playing pool, he noticed an old guy at the bar chatting up his wife. “He was kinda laughing and whispering in her ear.” The old guy bought Wayne’s wife three rounds, three shots of tequila. But the wife declined the last drink. She went to her husband to get the truck keys and said she wanted to wait out in the truck. “She was tired of drinking,” Wayne said later.
Then Wayne went up to the old guy hunched over at the bar. “I walked over to him and said, ‘Do you mind if we have a word outside?’” The old man agreed to go outside.
This is Wayne’s version: his friend Thor was outside having a cigarette with the doorman, and Wayne walked by them with the old guy. When the two were in the dark alley alongside the bar, Wayne asked the old man, “Hey, how come you’re hitting on my wife?” The tough old bird was not a bit intimidated. He leaned into the smaller man and said, “So, this is how it’s going to be?”
Thor then joined the discussion. He took a special interest when the old man claimed to be Hells Angels. The old man may have dated his membership as 1974–1981, but Wayne was later fuzzy on this detail.
Thor must have believed the old guy would enjoy revisiting the colors for a moment, because Thor opened up his overcoat to show the Hells Angels colors he was wearing underneath. The old man “bowed up” and puffed out his chest and Wayne said, “I saw that as a threat, so I punched him.” The old man immediately went down on the ground.
The doorman said he couldn’t hear any of the conversation, but he did see that Thor and Wayne had their heads close to the old man, “like an inch from his face.” The doorman speculated that the three were either close friends or menacing each other. Then the old man flew backward.
The Geezers Motorcycle Club
The old man didn’t really want to talk about getting punched out at the bar last January. “Whatever problem I had was already taken care of, resolved a long time ago.” He said he just wanted his broken eyeglasses replaced; they cost him $300.
The San Diego district attorney’s office said it might be dangerous to name the alleged victim, since he’d been served a subpoena to testify against two Hells Angels members.
The old man rides with a motorcycle club called the Geezers. He said he is the oldest member and admits to being 65. The Geezers go on “runs” and have barbeques and parties. The old man has a Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide. He’s been riding for more than 40 years. He was once a Marine (“I got blowed up with a mortar when I was in Vietnam.”) and has medical problems related to Agent Orange. He said he is on 100 percent disability.
The old man likes to go to the OMTI bar; he is a regular there. (“I usually chase women, drink tequilas.”) He is probably six feet tall and sturdily built, with a mustache and a long white beard. His thinning hair rests on his neck in a ponytail.
This is the old man’s version of the story: that Friday night, when that pretty lady refused his last drink and left, he moved right along to another woman. This other woman sat at the bar next to him and “said she was 39” and that “she was a nurse.” The old man had been at the bar maybe an hour and a half by then.
Then these two guys, who were strangers to him, asked if he could help them start their bike. It was an old motorcycle with a magneto. The old man was reluctant to leave his new female find, but he let the strangers talk him into going outside to help with the bike.
Outside, the old man was accused of being a member of the Mongol motorcycle club. “I was kinda shocked, being accused of something like that.” The Hells Angels and Mongols are fierce enemies; they have well-publicized shootouts in which people die. “I told him that I wasn’t no fucking Mongol, never have been, never will be.”
“I asked him where the bike was,” the old man remembered. “That’s when they hit me with a pistol upside the head.” He said he remembered the feel of metal.
“It knocked me out cold. Broke my glasses.”
The old man said he has been knocked out before. “I used to like to fight. But I wasn’t hurt. Just bruised up a little bit.”
He didn’t sound too shocked about getting punched out in the alley, but he was embarrassed that he’d been tricked into going outside to get “thumped.”
“It’s no big deal, you know. I got up.”
Some days later, he phoned the police department to tell them he did not want to press charges. “We already had the problem solved. I wanted it over with, it was done.” He denied being afraid to talk about the confrontation; it had nothing to do with what happens to snitches. “First of all,” he said, “I’m not a snitch.”
But somebody called police that night.
The old man didn’t want to stay outside on the street, talking with police. Even though he had blood on the side of his head, collected around the diamond earring in his left ear, he wanted to hurry back into the bar. He was thinking about that nice nurse. In a courtroom four months later, the jury heard a wiretapped recording of the old man’s voice making a vulgar comment about “mercy” sex, except he used crude language. The nine women and three men in the jury box mostly remained composed.
The Oceanside Police
At least eight police officers responded to the radio call about an assault. Four cops had their guns drawn when they requested that the people inside the blue Ford pickup, which had left the scene, get out.
Officer Nicholas Olsen said Thor came out of the truck first. The cops did not find Thor compliant. “He continually shouted, ‘Come on! Come on! Come on! This is bullshit!’” When Officer Olsen directed Thor to step away from the truck, “he literally, kinda, shuffled and danced and kinda belittled the situation, while I was giving him commands.” The officer said, “It definitely wasn’t amusing.”
Another officer described the “dry stun” treatment they applied to Thor. This involved officers removing the cartridges and darts off a stun gun, so that it could be held against the offender for “two seconds.” Thor cursed the officers as they cuffed him, according to officer Jon Dominique.
Marine Staff Sergeant Wayne and his wife did not require any kind of “stun” treatment after they got out of the truck.
Wayne is not a member of the Hells Angels — they don’t accept active-duty Marines as members.
Around the Fire Pit
After the Friday-night knockout, on the following Tuesday, some men gathered around a fire ring on the patio outside the OMTI bar. There were four members of the Geezers motorcycle club there, including the old man and a couple of Hells Angels “full patch” members. Because word had gotten around that a Hells Angel had beaten up an “83-year-old man,” which sounded bad, it was decided that there would be a meeting.
One Hells Angel member named “Hollywood” asked the old man if he wanted a chance to fight the guy who had hit him. The old man said that he just wanted his $300 glasses replaced. Hollywood, who was wearing a Hells Angels shirt, said he wanted to make sure everything was good between the two clubs, the Hells Angels and the Geezers. According to everybody who was willing to talk, both clubs decided they were all fine about everything.
The trademark logo of the Hells Angels has changed over the years. One of the changes is to the mouth of the winged death’s head which is at the center of the logo. The skull used to have an open mouth with fanglike teeth, but now the mouth is zippered shut. Persons who claim to be experts on the Hells Angels say this is to emphasize the importance of people “keeping their mouths shut.”
There was a trial in San Diego’s North County courthouse in May 2012. The jury could not come to agreement on whether Thor and Wayne had committed an assault on the old man, and the judge declared a mistrial. There was one felony charge of attempting to dissuade a witness brought against “Hollywood,” which was ultimately dismissed.
A month later, plea deals were made.
Staff Sergeant Wayne pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge. He was sentenced to time already served — the one day that he was arrested.
The prosecutor in this case, Geoff Allard, made special allegations during trial that Thor and Hollywood were part of a “criminal street gang,” the Hells Angels, and that all three defendants acted to “promote” that criminal gang. Much was made during trial of the tattoos on the men, rude bumper stickers associated with the Hells Angels, and their storied reputation.
Thor pleaded guilty to felony assault and admitted that he is a member of the Hells Angels. He was ordered to obey these “gang conditions,” which are found listed in his court file:
“Do not associate with any person you know is a HA gang member or ‘hang arounds’ or ‘prospects’; do not own or possess any firearm; do not remain in any building where you know a firearm exists; do not knowingly be within two blocks of Hells Angels hangouts; do not wear or display any insignia nor photographs nor emblems nor caps nor jackets nor flags nor any article of clothing evidencing affiliation with Hells Angels gang.”
Thor was ordered to “attend cognitive behavioral therapy” and “anger-management counseling programs.” Then he was released on three years probation.