Winter Storm Watch issued February 26 at 3:33AM PST expiring March 2 at 4:00PM PST in effect for: Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego
Authorities say a Santee-based gang, whose members include convicted felons with long rap sheets, is recruiting kids as young as 14.Members said the group known as the "Peckerwoods" is nothing more than a motorcycle club.An undercover police officer, who has been tracking the Peckerwoods since 2005, told 10News the group's ideology is illustrated in its members' clothing.Jackets taken from arrested Peckerwood members showcase Nazi symbols, including the iron cross and SS bolts.Additionally, the name Peckerwood has a deeper meaning -- it is what America's slaves called their masters.Police said, in Santee, members wear the name as a badge of honor."Sometimes their beliefs -- from what we can tell -- their symbols and colors, they teach at home," the undercover officer said.Santee resident Lyle Snow has two African-American children and was attacked by 15-year-old Trevor Solis last year. According to court records, Solis' father, Trenton, is a known Peckerwood who served prison time for crippling an African-American Marine in 1998."I have had a lot of cases that have involved juveniles that have looked me straight in the face and said, 'I was born a racist; I was raised a racist and you can't change that,'" the undercover officer said. "Coming out of a 14-year-old's mouth is just real surprising."Police said the Peckerwoods recruit new members by using things such as T-shirts that say "Support your local Peckerwoods."In 2007, police said weapons and drugs were found in a raid at the Peckerwoods' Santee clubhouse."I have to say, and I'm not just saying this to cover my tail, they've treated me with respect," said Santee Mayor Randy Voepel. "They are an organization that, like anyone, has a few bad apples."10News asked Peckerwood president Ronald Luetticke for an interview, and he said in a voice message: "My attorney advised me that I probably shouldn't do it, and the other consideration I got is I have two young kids. I got two kids; I don't want to put them in any harms way."Luetticke works professionally as a contractor and is licensed by the state of California.The Department of Justice won't allow police to disclose how many Peckerwood members there are in San Diego County. Police did say a large majority of the members have criminal convictions.Peckerwood board secretary Deron Jaffe came to the 10News studios unannounced Tuesday and left the following statement: "Peckerwood Motorcycle Club was established 23 years ago with the intent of providing a brotherhood for riders of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Our club members are not racist and we do not recruit children or anyone else to become members of our club. We cannot control people outside of our club who might be racist and call themselves "Peckerwoods." We are nothing more than a motorcycle club and are not affiliated with any other groups of individuals who refer to themselves or others as "Peckerwoods." Our members are working class people with families. We don't advocate or engage in violence towards others. The Peckerwood Motorcycle club is proud of its involvement in charitable causes such as the Amber Dubois Memorial Fund and annual toy drive to benefit the orphanage in Rosarito Beach Mexico."Peckerwoods M.C.