Four suspects held in VFW shooting in Central Florida

Winter Springs, FL
A charity poker ride organized by a motorcycle club quickly turned into tragedy in the parking lot of a Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge this past Sunday morning.

Harold Liddle and Peter Schlette were finishing their breakfast at the VFW post, awaiting the start of the charity event when other bikers, armed with guns, arrived at the scene.

After a fight broke out in the parking lot, gunfire erupted. Liddle and Schlette were killed in the melee and another member of the Warlocks, Dave Jakiela was critically injured. Jakiela died as a result of his injuries two days later. Police charged four men in the case originally with two counts of homicide and one count of attempted homicide. Police now expect to elevate the attempted homicide charge to a third count of homicide.

David “Tinman” Maloney, 52, Victor “Pancho” Amaro, 41, Robert “Willy” Eckert, 38, and Paul Smith, 47 were charged with the crimes and are being held in the Seminole County Jail without bond.

The parking lot at the VFW post #5405, located in Winter Springs, Florida about 15 miles northeast of Orlando, was taped off. A nearby senior center was evacuated after the shooting.

“This is a complete and utter shock to me that this happened,” said Joe Gault, a quartermaster with the local VFW.

At a news conference hosted by WFTV Monday afternoon, Winter Springs police definitively identified the two murdered men as Harold “Lil’ Dave” Liddle, and Peter “Hormone” Schlette. David “Dresser” Jakiela was shot in the head and was in critical condition at the Orlando Regional Medical Center at the time of the news conference.

The Police reports disclosed that it was actually the Philadelphia Warlocks motorcycle club members that set up the charity poker run and gunfire started when the unaffiliated Orlando Warlocks showed up to attend the event at the VFW on Edgemon Avenue. A poker run is an organized event where participants, usually using motorcycles, other vehicles or horses, must stop at five to seven specified checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one. The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run.

Police questioned dozens of witnesses trying to discover what happened initiating the brawl. Eyewitnesses said that at least six motorcyclists appeared out of nowhere and opened fire on the other motorcyclists as they were finishing their breakfast. Some witnesses said the shootout was sparked by a dispute over turf and influence but police would only confirm that Warlocks members from both factions of the group were at the VFW at the time of the shooting.

The original Warlocks motorcycle club was founded by Tom Grub near Orlando in the late 1960s. Since its inception, numerous chapters have been added throughout the U.S and Europe. The local Warlocks website lists members who’ve died, and also displays those who have been convicted of committing crimes and are serving time behind bars.

Investigators said they recovered a total of 36 weapons from the shootout, including guns, and a variety of knives.

Lt. Doug Seely, of the Winter Springs police reported “We recovered 13 firearms and 23 edged weapons,”
WFTV correspondent Daralene Jones asked Lt. Seeley if the Philadelphia Warlocks were angry that the Orlando Warlocks showed up at the event. Seely responded “We’re trying to still to ascertain exactly who’s affiliated with what to be able to accurately have that for our case,”
Bill Farrell, a witness to the shootings commented “As they pulled into the parking lot, a huge fire, I call it a firefight [broke out] … don’t know what else to call it. At least 30-40 rounds of ammunition expended,”
Further questioning Lt. Seely; the television commentator posed the inquiry: “How worried are you that this could lead to some sort of bike war?” Seely stated: “We feel this, that happened in Winter Springs; as far as anything major than that, we’ll have to rely on larger agencies,” However, WFTV learned that police were so concerned about retaliation that Orlando Regional Medical Center was put on lockdown because that’s where one of the victims was admitted.

On Monday, when WFTV’s reporter Jeff Deal and his cameraman were trying to shoot video of the Warlocks’ Orlando headquarters, women from inside the chapter attacked the photographer and attempted to block the footage from being acquired.

The DEA and FBI are assisting Winter Springs Police with the investigation.

Many cases over the years have turned on the admissibility of eyewitness testimony. A skilled trial attorney should always consider the necessity of filing a motion to exclude eye witness testimony when there are indicia of unreliable eyewitness identifications due to unfair suggestibility; Experts are sometimes helpful and even though many courts exclude attempts to challenge he general proposition that eyewitness testimony should be excluded statistically based upon expert testimony, this strategy should always be considered along with more accepted legal practice attempting to exclude such witnesses.

In a situation such as this one, even eye-witness testimony can become muddled. The simple fact that events unfolded so quickly can cause usually reliable witnesses to the occurrence to view the events inaccurately. With this in mind it is essential that a qualified attorney is hired if you or someone you know is ever charged with these types of offenses.

If you are being investigated for, and/or charged with murder and are looking for a criminal defense attorney in the Fort Lauderdale, Miami, or West Palm Beach area that specializes in murder, the law office of Michael B. Cohen can provide you with the skilled, experienced representation you need.

Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He practices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, among other counties. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.

When you need an experienced and committed defense lawyer you can trust in South Florida contact The Criminal Defense Law Firm of Michael B. Cohen, P.A. Online at or call 954-928-0059.

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