DENVER (AP) — More than one person, including a Colorado Department of Corrections officer, opened fire during a weekend brawl among members of motorcycle clubs that left one dead and seven others injured, but police officials said Monday they still don't know who fired the fatal shot.
The Saturday melee started with a heated exchange of words among members of two biker groups and quickly escalated to violence at the bottom of a staircase at the crowded Colorado Motorcycle Expo, a gathering of motorcycle groups from around the country, Denver police Major Crimes Cmdr. Ron Saunier said.
Police were still interviewing witnesses and examining several guns and other evidence that will help them decide whether to make any arrests, he said. No one was in custody as of Monday afternoon.
Attorneys for the two biker groups — the Iron Order and Mongols motorcycle clubs— blamed each other for inciting the violence, in which three others were also shot, a fourth was stabbed and three more suffered injuries from a fistfight.
Victor Mendoza, 46, was shot and killed, the medical examiner's office said Monday.
Detectives have interviewed several members of Iron Order, a club made up mostly of law enforcement and military, but the other group, which Saunier called an "outlaw gang," has been less cooperative, he said. The commander urged witnesses and those with video footage to come forward.
Prosecutors will decide whether to file criminal charges.
Mendoza was a member of the Mongols, said Stephen Stubbs, an attorney for the group. He said Iron Order members started the brawl by taunting the Mongols into an argument that led to the deadly shooting.
But John C. Whitfield, who represents Iron Order, said Mongols jumped its members, instigating the fight. The corrections officer fired in self-defense, he said.
Saunier would not say whether it was a self-defense case, but said the corrections officer was not acting in his official capacity.
The officer did not immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.
"It sounds like it was a territorial type of verbal altercation," rather than a longstanding feud, Saunier said. Clubs had established "territory" inside the National Western Stock Show complex where the expo was held, Saunier said.
The violence put new focus on the motorcycle groups. The Mongols are recognized by law enforcement as a highly organized criminal gang with a reputation for violence.
A 2014 ATF report on motorcycle gangs said Iron Order was among the fastest growing motorcycle clubs in the country, with many police and corrections officers among its ranks. The report noted that Iron Order has been involved in other violent clashes with other groups but continues to proliferate.