David Jakiela, 52, of Orlando was killed in a biker gang shootout in Winter Springs in 2012. (Suzelle Miller / May 25, 2014)
SANFORD — They looked like characters who had wandered off a movie set, more than a dozen outlaw bikers trooping into the Seminole County criminal courthouse week after week in April and May for a series of murder trials.
Some took the witness stand. Others were there just to watch.
Many had tattoos, beards, shaved heads or ponytails. Most were members of the Florida Warlocks, which law enforcement considers a dangerous outlaw motorcycle gang.
The stories they told focused on threats, intimidation, beatings, knives, guns and killings.
An estimated 300 to 400 outlaw motorcycle-gang members live in the part of Florida that stretches from Tampa Bay through Orlando to Daytona Beach, according to Jim Dillman, a law-enforcement officer on Florida's West Coast who specializes in gangs.
"The American Motorcyclist Association said in 1947 that 99 percent of motorcycle riders are law-abiding citizens but that 1 percent are thugs and criminals," Dillman said.
That makes motorcycle gangs such as the Warlocks, Hells Angels and the Outlaws "1 percenters." Some wear a patch that reads "1%er."
"They're very proud of that lifestyle," Dillman said. "They don't care about laws, about law enforcement and citizens. They only care about their club."
Men seeking camaraderie
Most are white, middle-aged military veterans who work at blue-collar jobs, Dillman said.
"They find a kinship, a fellowship, a brotherhood with each other," said Suzelle Miller, who for 12 years lived with David "Dresser" Jakiela, 52, a Florida Warlocks member. "Cut one and they all bleed."
Jakiela and two other members of the Florida Warlocks were killed Sept. 30, 2012, in a shootout with a rival biker gang at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Winter Springs.
The club's appeal, Miller said, "was being able to depend on and know that someone had your back, you had their back. It was unconditional. If you needed help, all you needed to do was call a brother."
Said Dillman, "The club comes before work. The club comes before your family. The club and your motorcycle come before everything else."
Many outlaw bikers are mechanics, some are truckers, others are tattoo artists. Jakiela was a project manager at an Orlando architectural company. One of the state's witnesses in the Winter Springs killings works at a local attraction.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 300 outlaw motorcycle gangs in the U.S. are involved in crime, including gun trafficking, drug trafficking and violence.
In Central Florida, the Outlaws are the dominant motorcycle gang, Dillman said. The gang claims to have 16 chapters, including those in Orlando, Osceola County and Daytona Beach.
"Seminole County is considered to be Warlocks territory," Assistant State Attorney Lisa Haba told jurors at David Maloney's murder trial in Sanford on April 1.
Shootout in Winter Springs
Maloney, 54, of Longwood was the first of four defendants to stand trial, accused of murdering Jakiela and the two other Florida Warlocks. A judge threw out one count, and a jury acquitted Maloney of all but one attempted-murder charge April 9. He may be retried later for that charge.