Police check into possible biker gang war

Friday, March 8, 2002

The AssociatedPress

PHILADELPHIA -- Police believe the firebombing of a South Philadelphia tattoo parlor may have stemmed from a running battle between two motorcycle gangs involved a deadly brawl last month in New York.

The owner of the shop, Joseph DeMatteo, was one of more than 70 alleged members of the Pagans motorcycle gang arrested Feb. 23 after crashing a Hells Angels meeting known as the Hellraisers Ball.

One biker was killed in the fighting that ensued and at least 10 other people were injured.

Police Capt. Joseph O'Brien said police were looking into possible connections between motorcycle gang members out for revenge and Tuesday's fire, set with three plastic bottles filled with gasoline.

Investigators have no witnesses to the fire, which occurred when the shop was closed.

"Everyone is speculating that it was retaliation," said Joshua Briskin, DeMatteo's lawyer. "I hope that's not the case."

DeMatteo has been held without bail on assault and riot charges since the Hellraisers melee. A federal grand jury is expected to return indictments this week.

Police said some of the animosity between the two gangs has come from the defection of several Pagan chapter leaders in recent months.

The once-powerful Philadelphia branch of the Pagans is in disarray, said Lt. Thomas Coccia of the Philadelphia Police Department's Organized Crime Unit.

South Philadelphia club president Steven Mondevergine was jailed on assault and racketeering charges last year. Another one-time Pagans leader, Thomas James Campbell, was charged last month in the killing of a police officer.

Several members, including the presidents of two chapters, have defected to the Hells Angels, Coccia said.

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