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Motive for triple killing outside Fla. VFW post remains a mystery

ORLANDO, Fla. — Two of Central Florida's oldest motorcycle gangs, the Outlaws and the Warlocks, spent decades warring against each other.

Now, current and former Warlocks are caught in a deadly, unexplained rift.

Last month's triple killing in Winter Springs is the most obvious sign that factions within the Central Florida-based group have declared war on each other. But it was not the first time gunfire had been exchanged between riders who once considered each other brothers.

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Yet, no one — not the cops, and not the bikers — is saying why.

What is known is that three Warlocks were gunned down Sept. 30 in Winter Springs. Considered one of Central Florida's safest communities, the Seminole County city with 34,000 residents had just one other killing in the past 13 years.

Police arrived outside the Veterans of Foreign Wars post on North Edgemon Avenue within two minutes of the shooting.

Then something happened that gang experts say they rarely see: The suspected killers — four members of the breakaway, Seminole County-based Philly Warlocks faction — agreed to talk.

Every word broke what one investigator called an outlaw bikers' code: Never speak with police.

"Typically, these kind of guys don't talk about anything," said Steve Cook, executive director of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association, a law-enforcement group. "Obviously, they must have some type of strategy."

Each of the four Philly Warlocks waived his Miranda Rights and spoke to police without a lawyer present, arrest records state. And each allowed police to videotape their accounts of opening fire after a group of five Warlocks rode into the parking lot at the VFW post, where the Philly Warlocks were hosting a charity fundraiser for wounded military veterans, records state.

After the interviews, the suspects — David "Tin Man" Maloney of Longwood, Victor "Pancho" Amaro of Winter Springs, Robert "Willy" Eckert of Pennsylvania and Paul Smith of South Carolina — were charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. Days later, the attempted-murder charge was upgraded to murder when the third victim died. All remain held without bail in the Seminole County Jail. Their arraignment is set for Nov. 27.

Maloney is a Longwood businessman who served as head of the Warlocks chapter in Seminole County until he quit or was expelled in 2010 for undisclosed reasons, according to interviews with some familiar with the organization who asked not to be named because they fear for their safety. Seminole County sheriff's records identified him as the target of a "hit" by the Warlock group he had broken away from, which deputies learned about while investigating a shooting last year.

In the Sept. 30 VFW shooting, Maloney admitted firing his .380-caliber Ruger pistol underneath a car across the parking lot toward a brick wall. His arrest report stated that shooting victims David "Dresser" Jakiela and Peter "Hormone" Schlette "were in between the brick wall and [Maloney]." Schlette and Harold "Lil Dave" Liddle of Lake County died at the scene. Jakiela died from his injuries Oct. 2.

Last year, 52-year-old Maloney also shot a member of the Warlocks outside a Sanford bar. Prosecutors declined to charge him, ruling it was a case of self-defense because Warlock James "Ira" Higgins threatened Maloney with a knife, records show.

Maloney also served as president of the Seminole County Harley Owners Groups, a mainstream group not linked to criminal activity, state corporate records show. The Seminole HOG members meet on the first Thursday of every month at VFW Post 5405, the scene of the killings.

In the 12 days since the shooting, the Winter Springs Police Department has guarded details of the shootings and subsequent arrests. Police have declined to release the 911 calls, arrest affidavits or to comment on rumors that the accused killers wore body armor.

Immediately after the shooting, officers detained 12 people in the VFW parking lot and seized 13 firearms and 23 knives, officials reported. They have declined to release the names of those who were detained or whether anyone else was injured.

On Thursday, Warlocks National President John "Big John" Boudreau said in a telephone interview with the Sentinel that members of the motorcycle club "were warned not to go" to the fundraiser. Boudreau declined to comment further but said the Warlocks will issue a statement next week about the killings.

Less than 12 hours after the shooting, Boudreau wrote about his grief in a posting on the Warlocks' website.

"I am at a loss for words tonight. All three were great brothers, sons, fathers who will be sorely missed by all of them," he wrote on Sept. 30. "My sincerest condolences to the families of my Brothers. You have achieved a great goal in life, you get to live forever in our memories and the Freebird Chapter!!!!! R.I.P. my Warlock brothers, we here on earth will seek vengeance on those who shorted us of your life……"

Amy Pavuk of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

hcurtis@tribune.com
 

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