An outlaw motorcycle gang in the Keys? Really?
Yes, sheriff’s deputies have arrested three members of the Pagan’s Motorcycle Club in the Lower Keys in the past two weeks. (The erroneous apostrophe in Pagan’s is theirs, not ours.)
All three suspects had guns. All three had drugs — two to 12 grams of cocaine each and four grams of a crystal-like white powder that the suspect said was Molly.
But before you start rewatching all seven seasons of “Sons of Anarchy”, Sheriff Rick Ramsay describes the recent spate of arrests more as a circumstantial coincidence than a concerted effort by a biker gang to infiltrate a small town.
“A lot of things happened at once to make the issue seem worse than it is,” Ramsay said, but added, “All three recent arrestees — two of them are Key West locals and one was in town for the Pagan’s annual meeting on Big Pine Key — had guns and drugs on them, which means our guys now treat the group’s members as armed and dangerous.”
But the club has been coming for years to Big Pine for an annual membership meeting.
“This is nothing new. There’s not an invasion of biker gangs suddenly occurring,” Ramsay said.
On Feb. 3, deputies arrested Pagan’s member Austin Christopher Reynolds, 26, of Key West, after he fled from a deputy on U.S. 1 on Stock Island. Reynolds was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a weapon (a large knife) by a convicted felon, possession of cocaine, fleeing and eluding, evidence tampering, reckless driving and knowingly driving with a suspended license.
“They stay at the Big Pine Motel, Looe Key Resort and at Parmer’s. They have a barbecue and recruit members, which is fine as long as they’re peaceful, and we generally haven’t had problems with them. Like the mob, outlaw motorcycle gangs don’t want to draw attention to themselves or to any criminal enterprises occurring within them. And I do believe drug sales are a coordinated enterprise within the Pagan’s. It’s organized crime and I’ll give them as much attention as they demand. I want them and our citizens to know that they’re not going to intimidate law enforcement.”
Ramsay pointed out that most Pagan’s are on their best behavior while they’re here. And most — but not all — are smart enough to realize there’s only one road out of the Keys, he said.
“We have Stinger Spike Strips along the highway every seven miles. I can get deputies positioned in front of someone long before they reach the mainland. If they want attention, I’ll give them plenty of attention. We’re the biggest gang. My gang has chapters in all 67 Florida counties, but my chapter presidents are called sheriffs.”
Ramsay said the recent arrests were separate and individual incidents. On Sunday, Feb. 6, Pagan’s member Ryan St. Clair, 29, of DeLand, Florida, was arrested at the Bahia Honda Bridge. St. Clair told deputies he had had an argument with his girlfriend and had slept under the bridge. He was wearing a Pagan’s sweatshirt and ball cap, but had no motorcycle under the bridge.
St. Clair was charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a license, possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana and possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. A search revealed two knives, a 9mm handgun, a stun gun, two grams of cocaine, four grams of a crystal-like white powder that St. Clair identified as “Molly,” and eight grams of marijuana, the sheriff’s office reports. He went to jail.
Officers recognized Reynolds when he was leaving Key West on his motorcycle, and knew he had a suspended license. When they attempted to pull him over, he veered onto the bicycle path and fled, but was soon caught after witnesses saw him discard a gun on the bike path, Ramsay said.
And on Jan. 27, deputies arrested Pagan’s member Justin August Meyer, 31, of Key West following a search warrant of his Staples Avenue home.
“He lived with his girlfriend’s parents,” Ramsay said. “That’s where we executed the search warrant.” Meyer was charged with possession of cocaine, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon and possession of drug paraphernalia. About 12 grams of cocaine, an AR-15 pistol, a 9mm pistol, 140 rounds of ammunition, $3,310 in suspected drug sales and a digital scale were found in the residence.
“That arrest was related more to a drug investigation than to his Pagan’s affiliation,” Ramsay said.