Pendleton Bike Week sued over 2018 fight

PENDLETON — Just a few weeks after it was supposed to celebrate a revamped event, Pendleton Bike Week is now the target of a seven-figure lawsuit.

Riven Fenton, of Pendleton, is suing Pendleton Bike Week LLC for more than $1.5 million, alleging that a physical altercation he was a part of in 2018 resulted in long-term health and economic damages.

Fenton not only sued Pendleton Bike Week, but also three other businesses or people who provided services at the 2018 event: Rovers Security Co., a private security company with offices in Boardman and Gresham; Al “Capone” Rafferty, the leader of the Brotherhood United Motorcycle Association; and Unruh Management & Consulting, a Salem-based alcoholic beverage contractor.

According to the July 21 complaint filed in Umatilla County Circuit Court, Fenton was trying to reenter the VIP area of the Pendleton Bike Week concert at the Pendleton Convention Center when he was stopped by security, which included members of Brotherhood United and the Badgers MC Brotherhood motorcycle club.

The complaint states that the security guards were interfering with people of color and people who weren’t “patched” members of a motorcycle club. According to the court filing, Fenton is part Native American and not a patched club member.

In Fenton’s account, the guards began verbally intimidating Fenton, despite his possessing a VIP pass. The lawsuit alleges that one of the guards eventually attacked Fenton and was joined by up to 12 other bikers.

Fenton was able to escape after one of the bikers allegedly brandished a knife at him, and an ensuing confrontation at a convention center bathroom was broken up by some bystanders.

Riven Fenton, of Pendleton

The complaint states that the defendants failed to call the police, who didn’t arrive until 30 minutes after the incident. According to the lawsuit, Pendleton Bike Week organizers referred law enforcement to Rafferty, who was in charge of outdoor security. The lawsuit states that Rafferty was uncooperative, intoxicated, and untruthful about identifying the assailants who allegedly attacked Fenton.

Fenton was treated for facial injuries at St. Anthony Hospital and Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. According to the court filing, Fenton continues to suffer from permanent scarring, no sensation on parts of his face and intermittent headaches.

The damages Fenton seeks include medical bills and estimated economic damage, but the bulk is attributed to “future pain.”

“As a result of Defendant (Pendleton Bike Week) and Unruh’s negligence, Plaintiff has suffered, and will continue to suffer in the future pain, emotional trauma associated with motorcycles, bikers and race tracks to his compensatory, noneconomic damage in the amount of $1,500,000 or as a jury determines reasonable at trial,” the complaint states.

The sequence of events largely aligns with the account provided by Fenton to the East Oregonian in July 2018, although not everyone corroborated his story at the time.

One observer told the East Oregonian that Fenton was the one who began hassling the bikers, who escorted him out of the area before Fenton returned and began hitting them. After Pendleton police investigated the incident, Police Chief Stuart Roberts said at the time that authorities pieced together that Fenton caused a disturbance and was sent out of the area before bumping into a biker when he returned, spurring the attack.

In a July 29 text message, Fenton referred questions about the lawsuit to his lawyer, La Grande attorney Brent Smith, who did not return a voicemail message requesting comment.

Founded in 2015, the multi-day motorcycle rally aimed to attract motorcycle enthusiasts from across the Northwest with scenic rides, a vendor area and a classic rock concert. After the 2019 event, Stuart Rice of Hermiston agreed to take over Pendleton Bike Week from the original organizers. Rice vowed to reinvigorate the event, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to cancel the rally, which was slated for July 16-18.

Rice did not return a message left for him at his Hermiston restaurant, Midway Bar & Grill. Rovers Security President Jacob Turner and an Unruh representative also didn’t return requests for comment.

In a Facebook message, Rafferty wrote that he had “not heard anything about this,” but didn’t respond to follow-ups about the lawsuit.

While Fenton is now set to face off against Pendleton Bike Week and its associates, the lawsuit represents a change of heart.

Speaking to the East Oregonian in 2018, Fenton said Pendleton Bike Week had been a boon to the community and he didn’t blame the organization for his attack, instead pinning responsibility to one group of attendees.

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Source: East Oregonian by Phil Wright