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Details emerge in biker brawl

August 22, 2008|From the Associated Press

A violent brawl in a Newport Beach bar may have started because the Hells Angels believed that a Christian motorcycle ministry was claiming an affiliation with them, according to court documents made public Thursday.

The 52-page search warrant affidavit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, also cites an anonymous tipster who called police shortly after the July 27 brawl and said the Set Free Soldiers were planning a "war party" at an abandoned chicken farm in Riverside County.

One member had readied a "truckload of guns" there, the caller told authorities.

Set Free's leader, Phillip Aguilar, and four other biker ministers were charged with weapons and gang felonies after the bar fight, in which two people were stabbed.

The brawl prompted police to raid the Set Free Christian Ministries compound in Anaheim, where they allegedly recovered thousands of rounds of ammunition and dozens of guns and knives. They also raided Hells Angels homes in Costa Mesa and Rancho Santa Margarita.

Nineteen pages of the documents dealing with the Set Free Soldiers were sealed by a judge.

Lloyd Freeberg, an attorney for Aguilar and his son, who was also charged, said the accounts in the affidavit were not true. He said his clients believe the Hells Angels attacked them because they had entered the bar, which the Hells Angels considered their turf.

Aguilar and two others plan to enter pleas of not guilty when they are arraigned next month. Two other defendants, including one member charged with attempted murder, are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Aguilar, 60, started his counterculture church in 1982 after saying that he found Jesus while in state prison for child abuse. His church, which prides itself on its outreach to criminals, drug addicts and biker gangs, has attracted thousands of members nationwide and operates several drug rehab homes in Southern California.

The brawl began at Blackie's By the Sea when five Hells Angels met with Aguilar and two other Set Free Soldiers, according to police reports and the affidavit. During an argument, eight other Set Free Soldiers entered the bar and surrounded the Hells Angels, who then began throwing punches.

Police believe the Set Free Soldiers initiated the meeting and wanted to ambush the Hells Angels.

One Set Free pastor caught fleeing with a bloody knife in his car told police the brawl began when the Hells Angels' leader confronted Aguilar and accused him of claiming affiliation with the Hells Angels, the documents state.

The Hells Angel leader allegedly told Aguilar that Set Free Soldiers was not authorized to take business from the Hells Angels.

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