ANGELA COREY SAYS NIPPERS SHOOTING WAS JUSTIFIED

On the surface, State Attorney Angela Corey’s findings seem to support her final decision: Iron Order prospect and Army combat medic Kristopher Stone was justified in shooting and killing Zachariah Tipton at Nippers Beach Grille in Jacksonville Beach on June 26 while Tipton and his fellow Black Pistons members were beating the shit out of Stone.

Self-defense, cut and dried, simple as that.

Only maybe it’s not. Tipton, 40, known to his friends as “Nas T,” suffered a broken rib from being kicked, a three-inch bruise from being punched or kicked, and a gunshot wound to the head, all in about 10 seconds, according to the state attorney’s office.

That was the only one of four shots Stone fired that hit its mark, passing behind Tipton’s right ear and exiting out the other side, but it did the trick. Tipton probably died instantly. When the police arrived, Stone’s gun was in the hands of another Iron Order member, presumably for safekeeping. The ammunition clip had been emptied; Stone told prosecutors he’d emptied the clip while firing because he feared for his life — he was in such fear, in fact, that he pissed his pants.

But in announcing the resolution to a case that has received international attention and has become the main focus of an ongoing feud between the Iron Order (a relatively new motorcycle club heavily populated with retired and active law enforcement and military who are contemptuous of established clubs like the Outlaws and the Hells Angels) and the rest of the motorcycle-club world, Corey threw in a cheap shot at the Black Pistons that might give some insight into how her office viewed the shooting from the beginning.

“Sadly, his friends left him there, basically to die,” Corey said mournfully during her press conference Nov. 7, as if fleeing gunfire weren’t a normal human reaction.

Some corners of the local media accepted 
the official version without question. WJXT Channel 4 reporter Scott Johnson and his station have announced a series looking into motorcycle clubs; the first entry paints the Black Pistons and their parent club, the Outlaws, as villains, while the Iron Order is portrayed as a law-abiding club that would never do anything untoward, because they’re cops and military, the good guys, and these things are black and white.

Johnson is apparently unaware of the Iron Order’s history [Cover Story, “Die to Ride,” Derek Kinner, July 16], and of how, since its founding in 2004, the Order has willfully and pointedly eschewed the unwritten rules that have (more or less) kept the peace between rival motorcycle clubs for decades, things like not wearing another club’s colors and respecting other clubs’ territories. They brag about doing so on their website, and while the Iron Order claims to be peaceful, this has led to problems with other motorcycle clubs.

As then-Iron Order president Ray Lubesky told Folio Weekly earlier this year, “Let me tell you, it’s been violent. This isn’t one incident for us. It happens all the time. We’re law-abiding. We just don’t care what they say, what they do.”

Both on Internet forums and in interviews with Folio Weekly, bikers whose sympathies 
lie with the Black Pistons questioned whether this whole thing had been a setup — whether the Iron Order had shown up at Nippers that night wearing the Black Pistons’ colors to provoke them.

Corey’s findings didn’t address that aspect. They do shed light, perhaps, on why Corey refused to meet with Tipton’s family during the five-month investigation, leaving them to hit the streets to protest the lack of information.

Not surprisingly, Tipton’s family isn’t happy about the outcome. “At the beginning, I thought that the state attorney’s office was going to do their job,” Glynda Purdy, Tipton’s mother, told Folio Weekly. “I am not a negative person. I thought justice was going to be served. I thought there would be equal balance based on the evidence.”

But that, she says, didn’t happen. And now, her family may pursue other legal remedies to obtain what they think is real justice. Purdy dismisses the cops and prosecutors as useless.

Purdy says she has many detailed statements from witnesses that seem to contradict the official story, though she declined to share these with Folio Weekly on the advice of her attorney (whom she also declined to identify). She says the family is concerned that if they announce what information they have, prosecutors will twist the facts to fit their narrative.

“If they know what we’re going to present,” Purdy says, “that will give them a better chance to counter.”

What we learned from the state attorney’s report is that Stone and another Iron Order prospect (essentially members-in-waiting who have to prove their worth), Tim White, were forced to wait outside Nippers and watch the others’ bikes. They weren’t allowed to drink and, according to the report, the police didn’t test them for alcohol. The only way to get into Nippers’ Bike Night event that evening was to walk past the two men. (In the report’s wording, Stone was sitting “just outside the valet stand.”) Witnesses have toldFolio Weekly that Tipton was offended because Stone was wearing the Black Pistons’ colors. A fight broke out.

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