Son’s Ride With Angels Parents’ Hell Family At A Loss At Man’s Descent Into Gang, Drugs
It’s worse than any parent’s nightmare.
A handsome son goes from riding BMX dirt bikes to varsity football at Mead High School to vice president of the Hells Angels.
Now, he’s out of the outlaw motorcycle gang - scared and looking over his shoulder.
The Hells Angels tattoos on his arms and back have been blacked out - “tatted over” - as the cost of his departure.
He knows he could have paid a much higher price.
Today, 29-year-old Evan Barton sits in the Spokane County Jail, facing trial and a possible prison term early next year if convicted of twin federal firearms charges.
Instead, he could be running his family’s heating oil business.
Authorities say he may have been kicked out of the world’s largest motorcycle gang for losing custody of his death-skull patch and important club business records.
He won’t answer questions or even tell his parents, William and Susan Barton, of Spokane, why he and the notorious motorcycle group parted ways after a year’s wild ride.
His parents are bewildered, shocked and saddened by what has happened to their son since he graduated in 1984.
Barton’s classmates from Mead can’t believe what happened to their friend who seemed to have it all just a decade ago.
Four of his closest buddies became a chiropractor, a cop, a minister and a businessman.
Barton ended up riding with what one biographer calls the “the rottenest motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.”
“As much as anybody tries to cover it up or deny it, drugs had to play a big part of this,” William Barton Jr. said from his office at Barton Oil Co.
Barton said he didn’t realize his son used drugs until just a couple of years ago. But Evan Barton’s friends say he’s been a drug abuser for years.
He was arrested 11 times in the past year for driving with a suspended license, assault and drug possession.
In the last two years, he was convicted of two felonies for possessing methamphetamine.
He was indicted in October and surrendered Dec. 1 to face federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition clips.
The gun, ammunition clips and the Hells Angels business records and membership rosters were seized on Sept. 1 by Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms agents after Barton was evicted from his Airway Heights apartment for not paying his rent.
His federal arrest is the latest heartache for Bill and Sue Barton.
The 62-year-old businessman wipes a tear from his eye and looks at a display of his son’s pictures that decorate his business office.
There’s a photograph of Evan, when he was about 10, jumping his BMX dirt bike at Liberty Lake.
Another picture shows him suited up as a cornerback for the Mead Panthers in 1983.
“We know what he’s really like, and it’s hard to believe he could change like this,” the elder Barton said.
“He bought his first Harley about five years ago, and that’s when it all started,” Barton said of his son’s involvement with outlaw bikers.
Born in 1966, Evan Barton attended schools in Mead where his family has a comfortable, upper middle-class home, complete with a backyard pool.
When he was a teenager, his father would often fly him and a friend to Seahawks games and spend the weekend in Seattle. “We used to have a great time,” the elder Barton said.
Did Barton and his wife spoil their son?
“Well, we might have spoiled him a little, but he handled it great,” Barton said. “To this day, he’s never been disrespectful to us.”
The Bartons have another son, Todd, who’s 39, and a daughter, Hillary, 25.
In high school, Evan was a popular guy who drove his dad’s low-rider pickup. The teenager worked part-time filling his dad’s fuel trucks and eventually bought his own 1973 Camaro.
“He was a nice kid, always the charismatic type,” recalled Mike McLaughlin, Mead varsity football coach.
“He was very handsome back then, and all the girls liked him,” said one of Barton’s best friends, Scott Lindquist, who’s now a chiropractor.
As a junior, Barton took the senior class homecoming queen to her senior prom.
“Evan’s problem, even back then, was that he always wanted to be in the limelight,” said another close friend.
“I still like Evan and I’m not afraid of him, but I am scared of those Hells Angels,” the young woman said.
Another friend said Evan Barton’s parents “were the most loving, caring parents you could ask for anywhere.
“They gave Evan everything he wanted, and everything he had was the best,” he said.
“If you knew Evan when I knew him, and saw him today, well, you just wouldn’t believe it,” the Mead graduate said. “It’s hard to watch this happen to somebody you grew up with.”
A young woman recalled that as Evan Barton neared graduation in June 1984, his clean-cut image began changing to that of a long-haired drug user who loved heavy-metal music.
“Being from a rich family, I just think he wanted to rebel, but he went too far,” she said. “He started becoming a real screw up who liked parties and girls.”
Barton said his son graduated with over a 3.0 grade point average and could have gone to college. “He’s very intelligent, and the (financial) support was there if he’d wanted college.”
Instead, Evan Barton began working full time at his father’s heating oil and wholesale gasoline dealership in east Spokane. The elder Barton, a decorated Korean War veteran, started Barton Oil in the basement of his home in 1962.
“Evan even worked here in the office for a time,” his father said, “and he’s real good with numbers.”
In his idle time, Barton and some friends started a heavy-metal band. “Evan called it singing, but everybody else thought he was just screaming,” one friend said.
He left Spokane in about 1987 for Seattle, where he worked as a equipment grip for another rock band called “Hot Pink.”
Fascinated with that lifestyle, Barton had the band’s name tattooed on his torso.
When his hopes for a music career fizzled, he worked briefly as a construction laborer before returning to Spokane around 1988.
He again worked at his dad’s business before getting a job with Sicillia Trucking as a mechanic-laborer. Another close friend from high school, Pete Sicillia, who is now a Seattle police officer, helped Barton get the job.
He stayed there a little more than a year.
By 1992, with his father bankrolling the venture, Barton opened his own small auto dealership, Performance Autos, in a lot adjoining Barton Oil in East Spokane. The dealership specialized in muscle cars.
“He had a lot of ability in selling cars,” his father said.
About that time, his father recalled, Barton started spending more time with bikers he met at American Motorcycle, a shop on East Sprague.
He became friends with the business owner, the late Dave Nave. He invited Barton to join his club, known as the Northmen.
The Northmen “patched over” and changed the club name in the summer of 1994 to become the Spokane chapter of the Hells Angels - the first in the Northwest.
Barton was a young, new recruit - an “Angels prospect”- and quickly earned full membership and his Angel’s death skull. That membership allows a Hells Angel to have the club’s death skull and name tattooed on his arms and back. They must be removed from members who leave the club for any reason.
In Spokane, state, local and federal law enforcement have devoted significant resources to tracking activities of the newest Hells Angels chapter.
Authorities wonder why the organization picked Spokane to open a new chapter, but guess that the reason has something to do with methamphetamine distribution.
In its first 18 months, a half dozen members have left the club for reasons that aren’t discussed. Most other chapters and their members develop ties to businesses, such as bars, strip joints or motorcycle shops. The Spokane chapter ties remain with American Motorcycle, where some of its members have worked.
West Coast chapter presidents recently voted to support the Spokane chapter “100 percent.” An estimated half dozen Angels from other chapters, including Alaska, are now in Spokane.
By the time the club marked its first anniversary last summer, Barton was its vice president.
“I really don’t remember when I first learned he was in the club,” Bill Barton said. “I kind of stayed away.”
Barton recalled telling his son that “I didn’t think it was a good idea.” His wife was “pretty upset.”
“He’s brought a few of those guys here to the business, and they’ve always been respectful to me,” Barton said of his son’s Hells Angels friends. “I’ve had nothing to do with them other than worrying about Evan.”
His son lived for several months at the Angel’s Spokane clubhouse at 1818 E. Third before renting the Airway Heights apartment with his 17-year-old girlfriend, Amber Moore.
Now 18, she also wouldn’t talk about Barton or the Angels.
In early October, Bill Barton saw the Hells Angels tattoos on his son’s arms and back were blackened over. “He told me he was out of the club, but wouldn’t say anything else about it.”
Those who escape the grasp of the Hells Angels with their life know they can never discuss details about their past affiliation, law enforcement experts say.
“We had a heart-to-heart talk and he told me, ‘Dad, I’m out and I’m sorry. I’m turning my life around. I know I’ve got a lot to live with, but I’m going to do it.”’
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 4 Photos (2 color)