Three members of motorcycle gang shot; one critical

A police officer stands guard in front of the Wheels of Soul clubhouse in West Philadelphia.
A police officer stands guard in front of the Wheels of Soul clubhouse in West Philadelphia. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: January 07, 2013

Three members of the Wheels of Soul biker club were shot and wounded, one critically, early Sunday in front of their West Philadelphia clubhouse, police said.

Investigators were seeking a lone gunman and a possible motive for the 6 a.m. shooting.

The critically wounded 31-year-old man was shot in the head and was fighting for his life at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

In stable condition at the hospital were a 47-year-old man who was shot in the right leg, and a 34-year-old man who was hit in the buttocks, back, shoulder, and left thigh. The victims reportedly had attended a fellow biker's funeral in Illinois and had pulled up in a 2012 Ford Explorer to the clubhouse on the 6100 block of Market Street to unload their bags. A man they did not know was standing in front of the door and did not answer when they asked what he was doing there, police said.

Before the three victims could open the door, the man opened fire, police said. He fled south on Dewey Street, leaving five shell casings, police said.

The shooter was described as black, 6 feet tall, 190 pounds, wearing a hoodie and wool cap.

The club, in the shadow of the El and next to a tattoo parlor, is home to the "Mother Chapter" of the national Wheels of Soul club.

In 2011, federal agents raided the headquarters and arrested the club's national vice president, James "Animal" Smith, on a federal indictment accusing him and 17 others of murder, kidnapping, and distribution of crack cocaine. Smith, 66, and six others were convicted last month in St. Louis.

The outside wall of the Market Street clubhouse broadcasts its "diamond" or "1%er" status - reserved for the most violent chapters. More than a half-dozen shootings and assaults have been reported at the West Philadelphia clubhouse since 2006, according to police reports.

In 2007, a man reported being beaten outside the clubhouse and another man was shot in the stomach inside it. In 2010, a man was shot in an ankle and a group of about 50 members jumped five men outside the club. In 2011, a man was robbed and beaten as he left the club and another man was hospitalized with facial injuries after dancing with a club member's girlfriend, according to police records.

In April, two men were shot, one fatally, outside the clubhouse.

Jake Tillman, who owns Tillman Movers on the other side of Market Street, said he thought the clubhouse was empty.

"They weren't supposed to be open," he said, adding there had been a crackdown after a previous shooting.

Contact Jessica Parks at 610-313-8117,, or follow @JS-Parks on Twitter.

Inquirer staff writer Mike Newall contributed to this article.

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