WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT NIPPERS?

By now you may have heard them, the rumors flying all over Jacksonville Beach and even nationwide about the June 26 shooting at Nippers Beach Grille that claimed the life of 40-year-old Zachariah Tipton, a father of three and member of the Black Pistons motorcycle club. These rumors exist and have gained traction because there’s so much about Tipton’s death that we don’t know, information that the police are keeping from the public.

One thing the Jacksonville Beach Police Department did confirm is that the shooting resulted from an altercation between two area motorcycle clubs.

“It was a dispute between two motorcycle clubs that began very quickly and ended in violence,” spokesman Sgt. Thomas Crumley told Folio Weekly. But that’s all we know from official channels. The shooter’s name is being kept secret. So too is what provoked the altercation. The police incident report is so thin as to be utterly useless. Further obscuring matters, bikers have a habit of clamming up when violence occurs in the course of their regular activities; in addition, police have instructed witnesses not to talk to the press.

The information void led to speculation that the shooter was a cop, and that perhaps his fellow officers were protecting him. The speculation grew and intensified so much that last week, Jax Beach police felt the need to quash it, telling local media in no uncertain terms that the shooter was not and had never been in law enforcement.

That is true. It is also true that Tipton was killed by a single gunshot wound, not by four bullets, as the widely circulating rumors suggested. The cops say they have interviewed hundreds of potential witnesses (at least some of whom described hearing multiple gunshots), and have turned their information over to the office of State Attorney Angela Corey, where prosecutors will decide whether charges are warranted or if the shooting was justified.

But interviews this magazine has conducted over the past week with members of the biker community and people familiar with the events of June 26 — many of whom agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity — reveal that there is much more to this story. The shooter, whom Folio Weekly has been told is a member of the military, was a prospect of a motorcycle club called the Iron Order, a national organization heavily populated by cops and federal agents — both active and retired — and thousands of their friends, including many active or retired military. Their motto is to create chaos and get away with it, according to their own website and a published memorandum the group’s leaders reportedly have distributed.

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This story, which appears in the July 16-22 issue of Folio Weekly, is updated from an earlier version originally published online July 12. 

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