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Bikers Help Fallen Officers' Families


There's nothing like the collective glint of 1,200 Harley-Davidson motorcycles lined up side by side on a piercingly clear summer morning.

As Bob Hayes, patrol deputy by week, Harley rider on weekends, swung a leg over his new $20,000 Harley Soft Tail, he cast an eye across the assemblage of fat tires and polished pipes and said, "Pretty freakin' awesome."

That captures the spirit of the fifth annual Downed Officer Support Ride, a motorcycle event organized by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

On Sunday morning, an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 motorcycle enthusiasts massed in a parking lot in front of Sears in Valencia to take a 104.5-mile ride to raise money for the families of law enforcement officers who died on duty. The ride began with a pep talk by Sheriff Lee Baca and Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks.

Parks beamed as he faced the crowd of bikers, many of them officers. "When law enforcement comes together," he said, "nobody can stop us."

According to event organizer Bob Norlemann, more than half of the riders were officers and their families. But you wouldn't know it by looking at them. Many sported tattoos and chains hanging from their hips and strutted around in leather vests with names like "Valley Mutz" and "Lords of Loyalty" and "Outlaw Pigs" stitched on the back. Some had kids with them, including Terry Ellis of Castaic.

"This is my bike, my bike," said 4-year-old Kimberly Ellis, patting the fiberglass fenders of the sidecar she was riding in.

The charity ride, which cost participants $20 and wound through the Santa Clarita Valley to the Antelope Valley and back, was more of an excuse to cruise than a big cash earner. Last year, the event netted about $14,000, Norlemann said, and a similar amount was projected for this year.

The ride didn't go completely smoothly. One participant, a guard at the California State Prison in Lancaster, ran off the road near Lake Hughes and was hospitalized with a head injury, Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Gurlitz said. He was in critical condition Sunday evening at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, according to a nursing supervisor. Two other bikers wiped out nearby and were treated for minor injuries.

"Yes, bikes have their dangers," Gurlitz said. "But there's a whole lot of other things you would never do if all you focused on were the dangers."

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