Published: October 9, 2009
A second home was being raided in Amelia County the same time Tuesday that authorities raided a home in Dinwiddie County, where the owner was fatally shot by a state trooper.
State and federal authorities simultaneously raided the homes as part of a probe that officials acknowledge was at least tangentially related to a multistate investigation of the Pagans Motorcycle Club.
A Virginia State Police tactical team assisted agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in serving a search warrant at 6 a.m. Tuesday at a trailer home in the 11200 block of Genito Road in the Amelia Courthouse area, state police Sgt. Tom Molnar confirmed yesterday.
At the same hour Tuesday, a similar team raided the home of James M. Hicks Jr. in the 10000 block of Halifax Road in Dinwiddie, fatally shooting him as they entered. Authorities say Hicks, a member of the Pagans, refused to drop a shotgun.
State and federal authorities declined yesterday to discuss the two cases or describe the nature of the two searches. Molnar said both federal search warrants used in the operations are under seal.
Brian Swann, resident agent in charge of the ATF’s Richmond office, declined to even acknowledge the Amelia raid.
But he conceded the Dinwiddie operation was timed to coincide with Tuesday’s arrests of dozens of members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club in Virginia, West Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states. Four Virginia residents in the Roanoke and Alexandria areas were named in an 83-page indictment unsealed Tuesday in Charleston, W.Va., that charges Pagans members with multiple racketeering, firearms and extortion charges. The indictment does not name Hicks.
“The investigations were separate and distinct,” Swann said yesterday. “The law-enforcement activity that we had in Richmond is not associated with the indictments that were [announced] in Charleston. But of course we’re a national agency and we consult with one another and develop our investigative strategies together.”
“The timing was related” but the investigations were not, Swann said.
But Swann didn’t completely rule out a link.
“We may develop connectivity,” he said. “We executed search warrants with no arrests. They executed search warrants with arrests. So we’re at different stages of our investigation.”
Because the federal search warrants remain under seal, Swann said he couldn’t disclose even a general description of the investigation. He acknowledged that some local residents may feel frustrated by the lack of information.
“I don’t like the confusion,” he said. “I want the public to know what actually happened — as much as I can give them. And I think that’s important, especially when there’s a loss of life.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richmond, which would prosecute any regional cases made by the ATF, also remained tight-lipped. Peter Carr, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, said he couldn’t comment beyond what the ATF said.
Friends and family members of the slain Dinwiddie man continued yesterday to express their shock and dismay at his shooting. Defense attorney John Rockecharlie, who represented Hicks on a felony drug charge, said in a statement Wednesday that Hicks was armed when the officers entered but he didn’t point, brandish or fire the gun. His family says Hicks believed someone was breaking into the house he shared with his wife, who was also inside.
“He was a good man, good-hearted and would never be part of a violent or criminal act,” Luana Hicks wrote about her father in an e-mail to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “He had a love for motorcycles and good people. If he joined a biker club, it was not for any illegal incidents. For him to join is to ride. Those in the club . . . who give themselves a bad name and do bad stuff is not my father.”
She added: “My dad had too much of a good life as a father, grandfather, husband and son to waste it away.”