3 Shot as Rival Biker Gangs Clash at Toy Drive in Norco
Three people, including a firefighter collecting donated presents for children, were wounded Sunday when gunfire erupted between rival motorcycle gangs gathered for a Christmas toy drive at a Riverside County saloon, authorities said.
The shootings occurred about 3:30 p.m. outside Maverick Steakhouse in Norco, where participants in the Spark of Love toy drive -- most of them bikers -- delivered toys to be distributed to needy children.
Authorities said none of the injuries was life-threatening. About 100 bikers were being detained late Sunday for questioning, sheriff’s officials said.
The incident left toy drive organizers demoralized. Jeanette Seay, 39, of Brea said local law enforcement had been wary of the event because it involved so many bikers.
“They didn’t want us in their town, and this is why,” she said.
“It’ll be a cold day in hell before we ever get a firetruck to show up for us again. I’m heartbroken.”
The shooting began as firefighters from the Norco Fire Department were loading the donated toys onto firetrucks. Firefighter Dain Fish was struck in the leg, said Battalion Chief Frank de Boer.
De Boer said Fish was taken to a hospital but was not badly injured.
“He’s going to be fine,” De Boer said.
Two other people were shot and were also expected to recover, said Deputy Tim Brause, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
Brause said members of several motorcycle gangs with “violent elements” attended the toy drive. Several shots were fired, he said, but investigators had not determined how many people fired guns.
“We do not know who tonight was responsible for provoking or participating in the incident,” Brause said, declining to identify the groups involved in the altercation.
“But obviously the seasonal peace did not hold.”
Seay, who participated in the toy drive with her husband, said she watched as several members of one motorcycle gang walked toward members of another and started shooting.
“It was not an exchange of gunfire. It was a one-way shooting,” Seay said.
“They walked up and started firing at the crowd.”
Seay, who said she worked as a licensed vocational nurse, said she provided first-aid to one victim, whom she described as a biker shot in the back.
Well after dark Sunday, many of the scores of motorcyclists still being detained for questioning stood on the front porch of the Maverick, a well-known biker hangout near Interstate 15. The saloon, which features a glowing red steer head in its marquee, was cordoned off by police tape, and authorities wouldn’t allow anyone to enter.
The dirt parking lot where the shooting occurred was still filled with dozens of Harley-Davidsons, customized choppers and other bikes.
Brause said authorities also detained six people who were in a vehicle matching the description of a vehicle seen leaving the scene. He said it was not known what involvement, if any, they had in the shooting.
Brause said investigators planned to work through the night to determine who was responsible.
Times staff writer Scott Glover contributed to this report.