Recent violence at car club meetups not a representation of car clubs as a whole, members say

Local car club members said street racing, burnouts, donuts not part of legitimate meet ups

SAN ANTONIO - – In the last six months, there have been three shootings either at or after so-called car club meetups. Traditional car club members want the public to know that’s not the norm.

“A love of hot rods, love of custom cars, love of street riding,” said Gear Grinders Car Club member David Bixler.

To Bixler, that’s what car clubs are all about.

The San Antonio Gear Grinders Car Club started in 1951. The members include a wide range of ages and still bring their passion to monthly meetings, car shows, and meetups of their own.

“We see what work someone did on their car last week or last month. It’s supposed to be fun. No burnouts, no donuts,” Bixler said.

He said, sadly, that’s what some so-called clubs are doing now, and in some cases, those meetups have led to violence.

In the last six months, there have been three shootings either at or after these groups meet up.

Sunday night, SAPD broke up what they called a car club meetup. After the crowd dispersed, an 18-year-old who was there was shot and killed at a location down the road.

In October, one person died, and another was hurt at a car club meetup on the southside.

Then in July, two were hospitalized in another meetup shooting when one of the drivers got upset.

“I think it’s dangerous. They’re there in populated areas,” said Mike Krisak, who has been in the Gear Grinders Car Club since 1961.

Krisak does not consider these loosely organized groups car clubs.

There are protocols associated with legitimate car clubs, he explained.

When they have meet-ups, they make sure to check with the property owner when they’re parking the cars in a line. When they used to do what are called lime runs, driving together on the roads, they’d check in with DPS.

When they drag-raced, it was at sanctioned racetracks.

“We used to do a lot of things, even with the San Antonio Police Department. We would meet up at the Alamo Stadium, and they would inspect the cars and all. And we had a good rapport with them,” Krisak said.

He said their club isn’t just about cars either.

“We do a lot of charity work. We started that years ago,” Krisak said.

The Gear Grinders support families in need during Thanksgiving and Christmas and raise money for organizations like K-STAR, which serves families fleeing abuse in 14 South Texas counties.

KSAT checked in with several popular car clubs in San Antonio to find the same thing. They follow specific rules, and all are involved in charity work.

Both men hope these isolated violent don’t create a stigma about car clubs in general

“Doesn’t mean that everybody that meets in a parking lot is is there to start trouble. I think a handful of guys show up and start trouble,” Bixler said.

In a statement Monday, SAPD said they’re cracking down on car clubs that promote street racing and takeovers.

Here is their full statement:

“SAPD is aware that Car Club meet-ups occur throughout the city on private properties. Clubs should get prior permission to be on the private property from the owner or property manager. In the event that these clubs do not have permission to be on the private property, officers will arrive at the location and begin to disperse the vehicles in a safe matter. Many of these car clubs are respectful to our officers and the property they are on.

“Take Over” events are organized on social media and encourage the drivers (“swingers” or “drifters”) to perform donuts, burn-outs, or other displays of speed and acceleration. These are typically isolated incidents and we ask the public to call the police and report these activities. On the rare occasion that large numbers of takeover participants plan a “street takeover” we monitor the through our Fusion Center and respond accordingly. Our Street Crimes unit takes the lead on takeover meets along with our Traffic Unit Officers. We utilize all resources, including helicopters, to coordinate a response and keep the public safe.

As a reminder, it is illegal to perform these actions of blocking the police or other emergency responders path. Penalties can increase up to the felony level and vehicles can be seized by Asset Seizure.”

Related

SAPD: 18-year-old shot, killed in parking lot after attending car club meet-up on city’s West Side

1 person dead, 1 wounded in shooting at car club meetup on Southwest Side, police say

Two hospitalized after driver ‘gets mad’ at car club gathering, starts shooting, police say


About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.