Hundreds of police officers and federal agents armed for a standoff rolled in to serve search warrants on members of the Set Free Soldiers Christian motorcycle gang and the Hells Angels motorcycle club, in early-morning raids from Anaheim to Costa Mesa to Ranch Santa Margarita.
"We've got nine in custody right now, six members of the Set Free Soldiers, all on warrants charging them with conspiracy to commit murder, with a million-dollar bail," said Officer Evan Sailor, Newport Beach Police Dept. "Three Hells Angels in custody, one of them is for assault with a deadly weapon."
The arrests stemmed from an afternoon brawl at Blackie's Bar in Newport Beach on July 27, when investigators say two members of the Hells Angels were stabbed. One member of the Set Free Soldiers was hit with a billiards ball.
Investigators now believe the Christian motorcycle gang plotted the attack on Hells Angels.
"This does appear that maybe this was some type of planned event, but again, we don't know what precipitated or led up to this event, what the motivation is behind it," said Ofcr. Sailor.
Investigators say a number of firearms were seized during the raids. Arrests were made without struggle.
"It's been our belief that these people are dangerous and have the potential for violence here, and that's why we took the precautions we did," said Sergeant Rick Martinez, Anaheim Police Dept.
Among those under arrest: Pastor Phil Aguilar, the founder and director of Set Free Churches Worldwide, according to the Set Free Soldiers Web site.
Neighbors are skeptical.
"I know they have ex-convicts and stuff living with them," said neighbor Charles Becktell. "When I heard about that ... it's why I keep a tight rein on this little one [his baby] right here"
Set Free Soldiers claim to "Serve Jesus, encourage uplift, and give hope to those who have none. According to members seen on a video posted on YouTube.com.
"We are the original Christian motorcycle crew," says Pastor Aguilar on the video. "We're not your regular Christians; we really scare the hell out of the devil."
"I believe that as a result of this case, the residents will be able to sleep a little bit better right now knowing that these people that were wanted for attempted murder are in custody right now," said Sgt. Martinez.
Bail for those charged with attempted murder has been set at $1 million each. The search for five more attempted-murder suspects continues.