STERLING – Lamont Mathias was murdered on June 28, 1994.
A leader of the Hell’s Henchmen Motorcycle Club, 47-year-old Mathias – “Monte” to his friends – was shot, beaten and finally stabbed to death with a screwdriver in his Rockford motorcycle shop by a member of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club.
1994 was a strange time for motorcycle gangs in the Midwest. Things had long been quiet between the Chicago-based Outlaws and Hell’s Henchmen, but when the Henchmen started to merge with the California-based Hells Angels, war broke out. Mathias’ death was one of the many blood-drenched outcomes of that war. It also is what effectively sealed the merger of the two clubs, with more than 300 Angels rolling into Rockford, colors blazing, to attend his funeral and posthumously induct him as a member.
Starting today and ending on Aug. 4, as many as 1,000 members of Hells Angels are expected to thunder through town en route to Rockford – 2013’s pick for the annual USA Run. And a number of them are expected to visit Mathias’ grave at Oak Knoll Cemetery, just north of Sterling, to pay respects to their fallen comrade.
Mathias grew up on a farm and graduated from Tampico High School in 1964 before he moved away. He worked for Chrysler Corp., served 2 years in the Army as an instructor in Boulder, Colo., and finally came to own a motorcycle shop in Rockford.
At the time of his death, he had been a member of Hell’s Henchmen for 18 years.
It’s not the first time this pilgrimage has occurred. Often when groups of Angels are in town, they’ve been known to head to the grave and hold a ceremony of sorts to celebrate Mathias’ life.
“It’s a tradition that they have, just like in any other organization,” said Scott Britnell, an intelligence officer with the Illinois State Police. “They go there as a sign of respect.”
Law enforcement will increase their presence in the area during the event, though there seems to be no concern about possible conflicts arising between Outlaws and Angels.
In Oregon, Lowden State Park put up snow fencing to keep any Angels off the campgrounds, should they stop to take a look at the statue of Chief Blackhawk.
Officers advise drivers to be aware that more motorcyclists than usual will be on local roads.
All of this comes in the wake of the condemning of the Hells Angels’ Rockford clubhouse, which the city closed on July 19. Police said 14 of the club’s members were arrested as the result of an investigation into aggravated battery, armed robbery, and kidnapping.
“It’s up to the city of Rockford to decide when they’re going to release it,” Britnell said.
Police don’t know how that will affect the Angels’ plans next week.