A feud between rival biker gang associates apparently triggered a brazen shootout at an underground private lounge in Albany over the weekend that left a 29-year-old military veteran dead and six others wounded.
The shooting incident that rocked a neighborhood Saturday night two blocks north of Central Avenue on the edge of West Hill underscored what some law enforcement officials fear could be increasing tensions between a proliferation of biker gangs that have recently formed in the region, and others that have made a resurgence.
Court records and interviews with law enforcement officials indicate the shooting began after a fight outside the lounge at the corner of Elk Street and North Lake Avenue. The lounge, which city officials said was operating without a permit, is apparently a hangout for members of Suicide Squad, a local biker club. Police who executed a search warrant at the club noted in arrest reports that the location is a “Suicide Squad Club House.”
Law enforcement sources said their investigation is focusing on whether individuals with ties to the Pagans Motorcycle Club allegedly went to the location because of an earlier incident in which they believed someone associated with another gang had insulted them by screeching a tire in their direction. There also was information that the club’s patrons had organized a social event there that same evening.
The shootout involved at least three firearms. A 9mm handgun with a round still in the chamber and a homemade 9mm ghost gun – neither with serial numbers – were seized by police after they obtained a search warrant and found the illegal weapons tucked under a mattress inside the back of the club at 117 N. Lake Ave.
Ten people, ranging in age from 29 to 54, who were inside the club all were arrested on felony weapons charges based on the two handguns that were seized. Seven of those arrested list addresses in Troy. Three others arrested live in Albany, Schenectady and Ballston Spa.
Forensic evidence at the scene indicated there had been a dangerous firefight between multiple people. Police recovered nearly 70 shell casings that were scattered around the intersection and the lounge in patterns that suggested guns were being fired from behind cars and through windows of the lounge. There were also shell casings recovered inside the lounge. Police also recovered casings from a .380-caliber handgun, but it’s unclear if that weapon was recovered by police.
Forensic detectives dug many of the rounds that were fired from the walls of buildings, including a nearby school, and from cars.
The New Bedford, Mass., man who was killed, Alexander Bolton, was in a parking area near the club when paramedics and police arrived. He had been shot in the chest and later died. Five other people went to Albany Medical Center Hospital and walked into the emergency room with wounds from the gunfire, while another victim went to a local motel and then called 911 for help.
There has been a surge in shootings and homicides in Albany over the past two years, but Saturday’s melee has cast a spotlight on the intensifying relations in the region’s biker underworld.
Law enforcement sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said police started monitoring an Albany tattoo shop around the beginning of this year when neighbors complained about members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club congregating there. The presence of people associated with that club, who are relatively new to the region, has set up the potential for tensions with a Hells Angels charter that has been headquartered in Troy since 1984 — one of roughly seven Hells Angels clubs that are chartered in New York.
A year ago, the Times Union profiled Joseph Brady, a former longtime legislative director for state Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr., who was the co-founder of a chapter of the biker gang East Coast Syndicate. The Capital Region motorcycle club formed about seven years ago and has drawn the attention of law enforcement for its members’ alleged drug use and violence. The group also was the focus of a homicide investigation in Saratoga County, although no one in the club was arrested in connection with that case.
Saratoga County sheriff’s investigators acknowledged last year that biker club members were a focus of an investigation into the disappearance of a Saratoga County biker, Michael P. Ahern, of Stillwater, who was last seen on Jan. 6, 2019, nine days before he was reported missing. His pets and vehicles were still at a garage on Brickyard Road where Ahern, who would now be 44, had resided.
In January, Jack L. Jeffers, a 25-year-old New York National Guard member from Clifton Park, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the disappearance of Ahern. But police and prosecutors never recovered Ahern’s remains and, in an extraordinary move, allowed Jeffers to plead guilty without providing any details as to what happened or why he was responsible for the homicide.
There is no indication that anyone associated with East Coast Syndicate was involved in Saturday’s shooting in Albany.
A spokesman for the Albany Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan this week called the Lounge an “illegal, after-hours club.”
In response to questions Wednesday about any concerns she has regarding the presence of apparently violent biker gangs in the city, Sheehan issued a statement, saying: “The events that occurred last weekend are deeply concerning to me. As we stated yesterday, this is a highly sensitive, serious, and active investigation. It has our full attention and the full attention of our law enforcement partners.’
Neither police nor the mayor have mentioned the biker gang connection to Saturday’s shooting in public statements.
Jeff Bolton, the shooting victim’s father, told the Times Union again on Wednesday that his son, “was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” When he and Alex’s mother met with police this week, he said, they assured them they would do everything in their power to solve the homicide.