Arrested: Christian biker gang members and Phil Aguilar of Set Free Churches Worldwide

Attempted murder among bikers’ charges

ANAHEIM — More than 150 officers are serving search and arrest warrants this morning on members of a Christian motorcycle gang and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club stemming from a double stabbing that occurred at a Newport Beach bar more than a week ago, police say.

Four search warrants are being served at four homes here in the 300 block of South Archer Street, near Brookhurst Street and Broadway, belonging to members of the Set Free Soldiers — a biker gang masquerading as a church, said Anaheim police Sgt. Tim Schmidt.

Authorities obtained search warrants for residences of members of both motorcycle gangs, including two residences in Costa Mesa, one in Rancho Santa Margarita and four in Anaheim, said Newport Beach police Sgt. Evan Sailor.

Several SWAT teams descended on the residential street at 5 a.m. today to serve 11 people with $1 million arrest warrants for attempted murder, Schmidt said.

At least eight people have been arrested and several firearms have been seized, Schmidt said.

One of those arrested — John Phillip Lloyd, 41, of Costa Mesa, a Hells Angels member — is being held on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, Sailor said.

Also behind bars is Pastor Phil Aguilar. He is the founder and director of Set Free Churches Worldwide, according to the group’s Web site.

The stabbings, which officials believe involved members of the Christian gang and members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, occurred the afternoon of Sunday, July 27, at Blackie’s By the Sea, near the Newport Beach pier, Sailor said.

Newport Beach officers responded to the large fight, but everyone had fled the scene, Sailor said.

During the investigation, police identified those involved in the fight as members of the Hells Angels and Set Free Soldiers. Sailor said it appears that the two stabbing victims were Hells Angels and a man hit by a pool ball was a Set Free Soldier.

A neighbor to one of the Archer houses with Set Free Soldiers said that the group has been a nuisance on the street.

“The neighborhood has been trying to get them out of here for years,” said Sharon Murphy, 50, who lives across the street. “It’s supposed to be a sober-living place, but they’re always at the liquor store buying beer. They’re running their motorcycles all night long. They own three or four houses up and down the street.”

According to the Set Free Soldiers Web site, the group members “love Jesus and love to ride hard.

“We are not your normal motorcycle club. Some say we are too good for the bad guys, and too bad for the good guys. … We try to live right in this wrong world and let our light shine wherever we may go.”

– Source: Attempted murder among bikers’ charges, Denise Salazar and Adam Townsend, Orange County Register, USA, Aug. 6, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

Coincidentally, Apologetics Index — publishers of Religion News Blog — this morning posted Chapter 1 of Churches That Abuse, by Dr. Ronald Enroth. The chapter deals with Phil Aguilar’s Set Free church.

Christian biker gang members face attempted murder charges

Neighbors said they were awakened by the noise and commotion of the raid, which included helicopters, police dogs, loudspeakers and what sounded like small explosions.

Rose Lambie, 65, who lives three houses down from one of the homes targeted, said the raid was not surprising because the gang had “taken over the neighborhood in a lot of ways.”

She said gang members had bought several houses on the street and had a history of intimidating neighbors. Visits from the police have been common, she said, and motorcycles and cars with black “Soldiers” decals often line the street of single-family homes.

Lambie said Aguilar is well-known in the neighborhood.

“He’s tried to pull himself off as being a Christian group, but it’s not,” she said.

Lambie said she and other neighbors had met with each other and with police to raise concerns about the gang’s behavior.

Aguilar’s MySpace page says he is a resident of Anaheim who is also known as the pastor or “the Chief” of the group. Next to his photo is the statement: “Sinner or Saint you be the judge!”

Authorities said the gang has a religious ministry that recruits people discharged from parole, state prison and county jail and has an outreach program for convicted felons.

“It just seems they have a lot of people that have run into law enforcement and the court system,” Schmidt said.

On its their website, Set Free Soldiers describe themselves as “a group of men who love Jesus and love to ride hard. We are not your normal motorcycle club. Some say we are too good for the bad guys, and too bad for the good guys.

“We don’t argue that,” the statement says. “All we Soldiers know is that we take care of our own and help plenty of others along the way. We try to live right in this wrong world and let our light shine wherever we may go.”

– Source: Christian biker gang members face attempted murder charges, Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times, USA, Aug. 6, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 6, 2008.
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