PENDLETON — Riven Fenton of Pendleton planned to have a good time with family and friends Saturday night at the closing concert of Pendleton Bike Week. But after a scuffle, a group of bikers attacked and assaulted the 24-year-old and left him with injuries that may require facial reconstruction.
Fenton said he did not provoke the attack, while others nearby say he did. Pendleton Police Chief Stuart Roberts said the attack was violent, and the response from event security and organizers was inadequate and unacceptable.
Riven Fenton said he and Jeff Mills went to get beer around 10 p.m., and his dad and brother stayed in the stands. But concert headliner Foghat was about to perform “Slow Ride,” the group’s biggest hit. Fenton said it was about the only song from the group he knew and he didn’t want to miss it. Instead of getting beer, he walked back from the east side gate of the arena toward the VIP area near the stage.
That’s when a group of bikers called him over, he said.
“They asked ‘Why the ***k you’re ignoring my friend?’” Fenton recalled.
They were referring to fellow bikers who were providing security at the east and west gates, Fenton said, so he showed his VIP pass that allowed him to be there. Then one biker shoved him.
Fenton said he collided with another man and tried to explain what happened. That guy asked, “You enjoying Bike Week?” Fenton recalled.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Then,” the man told him, “you’re not going to enjoy this.”
Fenton said the man punched him. Others joined in. He said he took about three shots before dropping and realized this was a fight he had no chance in. Perhaps as many as a dozen men slugged and stomped him, he said, so he covered his face to protect himself.
He said one man tried to stop the assault, but no one listened to him.
While on the ground, he said he grabbed one attacker’s leg and floored him. That man produced a knife. Fenton said he struggled with the man, pinned his knife hand and managed to scurry under a trailer to escape.
Roberts said police also have a different version of the event. He said it appears Fenton caused a disturbance and “was sent out” from the arena, but returned. When he did, he bumped into a biker.
“This guy started thumping him,” Roberts said. “And all his buddies put the boots to him.”
Roberts said a lone security officer jumped into the melee and someone else pulled Fenton under a trailer to safety.
John Fenton, Riven’s father, said Mills tried to intervene, but some bikers hauled him outside the arena where he pulled out a pocket knife and kept them at bay. The men shut the gate and kept out Mills. John Fenton also said he did not witness the assault, which took place near the front of the stage, but pieced together what happened from talking to Riven and others.
Jeff Bob of Beaverton said he and his wife had a first row view of the clash and that Riven Fenton started it.
Fenton looked drunk, Bob said, and got into a hassle with bikers, who were “pretty professional” in how they escorted Fenton and his friend from the area. He said the bikers ambled back toward the stage, and Fenton barreled toward the group and “flailed away” at them. He landed some good shots before the men took him to the ground, and Fenton rolled under the trailer.
“It was like a magic act and he disappeared,” Bob said.
Riven Fenton said he came out from under the trailer, saw security staff and bolted through the back doors of the convention center. He said he hurried through the hallway to the restrooms in the front. He was bleeding, he said, and wanted to clean up.
Moments later, four bikers strode into the restroom, ready to continue the beating. Riven said he asked them if they didn’t think the first beating was enough.
Others also rushed in, he said, including the man who tried to stop the attack earlier. Faced with new opposition, the bikers backed off.
Mere moments later, he said, Pendleton police officer Chase Addleman filled the door frame. Fenton said Addleman might have brushed shoulders with the men who carried out the assault.
Police Chief Roberts expressed frustration that no one who saw or knew anything called 911.
Roberts said convention center manager Pat Beard received a phone call Saturday night from a friend who witnessed the assault. Beard in turn called an off-duty Pendleton police lieutenant, who then called the on-duty supervisor, and he sent officers to the venue. That inefficient phone tree, Roberts said, cost valuable time. Police did not show up at the scene until about 30 minutes after the assault.
Roberts said Riven Fenton was unable to tell officers how many men attacked him or what any looked like — “other than there was a lot of leather.”
John Fenton said the ambulance arrived and rushed his son to St. Anthony Hospital, Pendleton, which transferred him to Providence St. Mary Medical Center, Walla Walla, because of his injuries. Doctors stitched the cuts in his face and wanted him to stay overnight, John Fenton said, but his son wanted to be home in Pendleton.
A bruised Riven Fenton said his whole body aches. He goes back to the doctor Friday to find out if he needs some facial reconstruction and to remove the 23 stitches in his face and head.
Police started investigating that night, but Roberts said officers had to “deal with a whole bunch of garbage” because everyone they spoke to did not cooperate with police. Roberts said that included event volunteer Al “Capone” Rafferty of Hermiston, who is president of the new Brotherhood United Motorcycle Association and has been a representative for Bike Week. Roberts said the police supervisor had to get nose to nose with Rafferty before he would say anything.
Rafferty on Monday morning said he was working and could not talk until later in the afternoon. But Bike Week organizers Brandon Packman and Eric Folkestad said Rafferty does not speak for Bike Week and is not an employee of the company, which is cooperating with police and working to provide video and photographs in hopes of identifying suspects.
Folkestad said he was in the stands and noticed a “tussle” near the stage as Foghat was playing “Slow Ride.” He said Bike Week paid Rovers Security to take care of such issues, and security moved the fracas outside the venue. Yet he emphasized he did not see or know what really happened. He also said he did not know anyone was injured until later.
“We want to have a full investigation to make sure it was an isolated incident and figure out what else happened,” Folkestad said. “But we do really appreciate the Pendleton Police Department and first responders, of course.”
Folkestad also urged others who know anything to contact police.
Roberts said police gathered information pointing to the Badgers MC Brotherhood out of Albany as being involved in the fight. The group left the convention center right after the attack and police tracked them to Crabby’s Underground Saloon and Dance Hall, 220 S.W. First St., Pendleton.
“They refused to even acknowledge the officers,” Roberts said.
That left police to take down vehicle information and obtain driver’s license photos from the state motor vehicles division. The investigation remains stuck in the mud of biker silence.
But Roberts said he is going talk with Beard, Rafferty and Folkestad.
“I guarantee you there will be conversations about that venue, that facility, that event,” he said.
The police chief also said Oregon law is part of the problem with these big events. A certain number of security staff must have the proper credentials, he said, but vendors can supplement those with staff who have no security experience.
Bike Week, which concluded its fourth year Sunday, has had “minor hiccups in the past,” Roberts continued, and resolved those internally without involving police. But the department won’t tolerate a situation where organizers cause problems for police and people involved just take off without cooperating. He said when these situations arise he expects someone will be there to answer questions and they will be sober. And if no one wanted to call police, he said, they should have clearly called for medical attention.
“None of that happened,” Roberts said.
Shutting down Bike Week is not the point, he said. Most of the people attending are not members of outlaw motorcycle clubs, but he said Bike Week has that element and does not need it.
“It’s been a balancing act to this point,” he said. “But I’m done.”
Bob said he and his wife attended all four days of Bike Week and had a great time. The fight was the only blemish, he said, and bikers were not blame. He said he hopes the event continues.
John Fenton said he is over Bike Week. He blamed the organizers for what happened to his son and said he is considering a lawsuit.
But Riven Fenton said he didn’t blame the annual gathering. He said the event has been a boon to the community and he blamed just one group of attendees.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story referred to Al Rafferty as an event organizer. Bike Week founder Eric Folkestad confirmed Rafferty and his motorcycle association help at Bike Week but do not work for Bike Week.