Respect each other, and don’t infringe on anyone’s turf.

It’s a common creed between motorcycle clubs everywhere, and for years, bikers in the Charleston area have lived by it.

Members of separate clubs were friends. They rode together. They partied together. They raised money for charities together.

But in recent years, the expansion of larger motorcycle clubs with tentacles nationwide has driven a wedge between Lowcountry groups of mostly black riders, according to interviews with club members and experts keeping an eye on the trend. And it’s an issue, they said, that could explode.

The Outcast Motorcycle Club and the Wheels of Soul Brotherhood recently started scooping up the support of smaller clubs, whose members wear patches on their leather vests to signify allegiance to the dominant group. The patches, or “colors,” comes with pride and prestige.

The struggle among umbrella organizations to claim control of South Carolina’s clubs festered in recent months beyond the view of the police.

The first obvious sign of trouble arose two weeks ago.

On June 29, Wheels of Soul members and some of their affiliates dined on crab during an afternoon cookout outside a North Charleston auto-detailing shop off Dorchester Road.

Two motorcyclists from The Real Kings Motorcycle Club, who wear the Outcast patch, rode up and put on a display that angered the Wheels of Soul people. Their engines revved.

Police investigators said the Wheels of Soul members, who outnumbered The Real Kings, followed the duo into Cycle Gear, a motorcycle equipment shop across the street.

Words were exchanged. Fists flew. At least two members pulled out guns and fired on each other. Each side has said it was self-defense.

Three men died, and one was wounded.

For Thomas Dixon, who leads the Old School/New School Coalition in North Charleston that uses car clubs to distract community members from the gang life, the shooting was a wake-up call. He said something needs to be done before the once-peaceful community of black motorcyclists gets out of hand.

“The negativity is on the increase,” Dixon said. “If we don’t deal with it now, there will be more trouble coming.”

Wheels of Soul members Theodore Waymyers Jr., 36, of Summerville and 39-year-old Carlos Davis of Columbia were killed. Columbia resident Maurice Horry, 41, the founder of the Outcast-affiliated Real Kings, also was slain.

Authorities arrested three men: Wheels of Soul members Ronald Reid, 43, of Summerville and Barry Stinson, 32, of New London, N.C., as well as Derryl Gadson, 49, of West Ashley, a member of the Band of Bruthaz group that wears the Wheels of Soul patch.

Reid is charged with murder, and Stinson and Gadson each face a second-degree assault by mob charge in connection with the fight. Gadson posted $500,000 bail with the help of family members, many of whom are entrepreneurs.

Most of the men had steady jobs, children and little in the way of criminal records.

The North Charleston Police Department’s investigators and gang specialists had received no word about violence between club members until that deadly scene unfolded in a busy shopping plaza that includes a supermarket, a bank and a Chinese restaurant.

But the agency’s spokesman, Spencer Pryor, wouldn’t say whether any building tension poses a threat of further violence.

The Wheels of Soul brushed off the concerns. The club president’s attorney, David Aylor, said the group isn’t a gang and isn’t looking for retribution.

Band of Bruthaz

West Ashley residents Derryl and Terryl Gadson started the Band of Bruthaz seven years ago.

For the identical twins, it was an opportunity for friends to get together and enjoy a common interest. They wanted to ride and do good deeds.

They work on Habitat for Humanity projects three times a year. They host an annual poker run to raise money for a scholarship. Their logo symbolizes their service efforts: Four hands clinched together at the wrists to form a square.

They handpicked a dozen members. One is a police officer and Army soldier now readying for a second deployment to Afghanistan. Derryl Gadson himself is a retired Air Force mechanic who found a second career in insurance estimating.

The Band of Bruthaz members never butted heads with other clubs. Others invited them to oyster roasts and club anniversary celebrations.

But the dominant groups showed their muscle within the past two years.

Members of the Band of Bruthaz started wearing the Wheels of Soul patch. Though their vests say “W.O.S. Brotherhood,” Terryl Gadson said they don’t pay dues and are not controlled by the dominant group.

A YouTube video shows the Band of Bruthaz riding a mix of sport motorcycles and road cruisers to Philadelphia with the Wheels of Soul and the Diamondz & Pearlz, a women’s group.

Other local clubs joined a different dominant group. Some refused. The camaraderie linking riders in the black community started to erode.

“Years ago, you never would have to choose a club to be under,” Terryl Gadson said. “There are people who used to be friends who don’t speak now because of things like this.”

These days, Terryl Gadson said a hip replacement prevents him from riding.

The Real Kings

A football star in the 1980s at Wando High School, Horry left the Lowcountry to join the Army and serve a tour in Korea.

When he returned, he drove a truck for a living. He married and had four children.

For more than a decade, he lived in Columbia, but he remained affiliated with the Charleston-based Streetkingz.

Horry, who people knew as “Bad Boy,” started to warn of upheaval in the club in November, when he took to the group’s Facebook page and announced that he was leaving the Streetkingz.

He was always known for saying what was on his mind. The name of the new club he started reflected that: The Real Kings Columbia.

“In the last six or seven months I have seen (people’s) true color,” Horry wrote. “Many told me not to take a (stand) in what I saw was wrong. Lost friends. ... Was in a club that I would die for! But I was told long ago, some friends you just outgrow.”

During the next few months, Horry wrote about the “movement,” about being part of “something great.”

In late June, he asked other motorcyclists on Facebook why they would wear a patch without being proud of it. On the right shoulder of his black leather vest, he wore the “Support Outcast” patch.

“Tell me why you wear it,” he wrote. “Love what you wear.”

Dominant clubs

Black motorcycle clubs never have gained the notoriety of their predominately white counterparts, like the Hell’s Angels or Outlaws.

Many members of those clubs developed reputations as “1-percenters,” or the portion of bikers considered to be hard riders and heavy drinkers. To some authorities, the 1-percenters often ran afoul of the law and got wrapped up in the firearms and drug trades.

With all black members, the Outcast MC started in Detroit in the late 1960s. It became known to the FBI as an outlaw gang.

In 2011, an FBI list deemed the club active only in Alabama and Georgia. But the group has experienced a resurgence in recent years.

Two years ago, gunfire erupted during a club meeting in Charlotte and ended in a man’s death.

In the Atlanta area, the Outcast MC is considered a disparate group whose members occasionally get arrested for drugs, violence and weapons.

Territorial squabbles and shows of disrespect spur sudden, unorganized fights between the clubs, according to Arthur Musselman, an instructor at the Georgia Police Academy who studies them. Fighters tend to make weapons out of bottles and chairs — whatever they can get their hands on.

Like any of the larger clubs with chapters nationwide, the Outcast MC fought to expand. That often comes with growing pains.

“Smaller clubs may be forced to support the dominant club by displaying support patches,” Musselman said. “The desire to potentially join a larger club in the future may cause smaller clubs to submit themselves to the dominant club.”

The Wheels of Soul MC, which accepts members of all races, also has found itself in tight spots.

Two years ago in Missouri and at the club’s mother chapter in Philadelphia, 18 members were implicated on murder, robbery and drug charges. The group unraveled when six of them were accused of trying to kill Outcast members at a Chicago nightclub. But police officers were there and foiled the plot.

In the Charleston area, riders who maintain full-time jobs and ride for fun are not considered outlaw gang members, said Marc Embler, a criminal justice professor at Charleston Southern University. He spoke generally about the issue.

But local clubs who pledge allegiance to a dominant group might not know what they’re getting into.

“The common denominator is going to be drugs and weapons,” Embler said. “When you have any of those, usually someone’s going to get hurt.”

The shootings

On the morning of June 29, Horry had just returned from Texas, where he had delivered a cargo load with his truck.

He woke up and posted on Facebook about a party he planned to attend that night with another Outcast-linked club, RPM Riderz, in Orangeburg.

“It’s going down today!!!!!,” he wrote. “About to jump on my 2’s,” referring to his two-wheeled vehicle.

He rode to a salon in North Charleston, where he had his braided hair prepped for the party.

At his childhood home in Mount Pleasant, his mother started fixing green beans, rice and baked chicken.

“He was going to stop for some of my cooking,” Virginia Horry said. “But that never happened.”

Horry met with 37-year-old Timothy Haymond, a fellow Real Kings member known as “Spank.”

From Haymond’s home on Superior Street, they rode a short distance to Norton & Sons Auto Detailing on Dorsey Avenue, where parked cars and motorcycles choked the roadside. That’s where the Wheels of Souls members mingled.

Something happened on the street around 3 p.m. Haymond and Horry might have stopped and revved the engines on their sport bikes. Like flashing the middle finger, motorcyclists consider the gesture disrespectful.

Haymond and Horry continued across the street to Cycle Gear. They went inside. Haymond inquired about buying a tire, Horry about a pair of goggles.

That’s when the police said five Wheels of Soul members walked inside and asked the duo to leave. Other motorcyclists waited in the parking lot. A fight began, and three Wheels of Soul members started beating Haymond with what the police said was a “paddle stick.”

Haymond fell. He soon lost consciousness.

Horry ran to his motorcycle and grabbed a pistol. He usually carried it to protect himself on his long hauls as a truck driver, and in South Carolina, a motorcyclist doesn’t need a concealed weapons permit if the gun is kept in a saddle bag or some other secure place.

Reid saw Horry’s handgun and pulled out his own. The confrontation spilled through the front doorway.

At some point, the police said Reid shot Horry once in the chest. Before he collapsed, relatives said Horry managed to shoot Reid in the leg and fatally shoot Waymyers and Davis.

Family members said Davis was running toward his Honda parked outside when he was shot in the back. He had left his motorcycle at home, driven the car to the cookout and stopped at Cycle Gear to buy a part for his bike.

The police haven’t confirmed many details or said who fired first. They’re using ballistic testing to determine if Horry and Reid were the only gunmen.

When officers arrived, Reid hollered about his leg wound and hobbled near his friend, Waymyers, who had fallen among some Harley-Davidsons. Derryl Gadson helped a woman and another man perform CPR on Davis.

Someone inside had a gun, but officers later learned that the man had picked up the firearm after someone dropped it.

Some motorcyclists started leaving. A group of about a half-dozen rode down Dorchester Road, bound for Interstate 26.

“Y’all just gonna let them walk?” Haymond, who had regained consciousness, later asked officers.

Gadson and his Harley-Davidson Street Glide stayed. He gave a statement to the police and later went on a cruise with his family to the Bahamas. About an hour after he returned Monday, the police arrested him.

Some Wheels of Souls members hung around, including one from New Jersey who told an officer that he’d make sure nobody sought retribution. The Wheels of Souls are a different club, he said ­­— one whose members have jobs, don’t do drugs and avoid guns.

“We don’t condone this (expletive),” he said in a conversation shown on a police cruiser’s camera. “I can’t believe this (expletive) even happened.”

The question

Relatives of those who died were left wondering what could have been done to settle any disagreement without violence. They were family men who didn’t have a history of fighting. Davis was a married father of three who owned a trucking company in Columbia.

“He wouldn’t want to fight,” his cousin, Howard Davis Jr. of Charlotte, said. “He was always making the peace.”

Waymyers had a young son. He worked for S.C. Electric & Gas and tinkered with motorcycles in his spare time.

“He was a gentle giant who didn’t go looking for trouble,” his wife, Tiffany Waymyers of North Charleston, said.

A week after Horry’s death, 1,000 people gathered for his funeral at Greater Goodwill AME Church in Mount Pleasant. Police officers watched the parking lot, which was packed with motorcycles.

But the gathering was peaceful.

“Why would grown men in a bike club do something like this?” his mother said. “They had a fun thing going. They were doing good things for the community. Now, they’re making themselves look bad.”