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Tevlin: Hell's Angels leader tells his story with the help of the cop who caught him

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN
  • Star Tribune
  • July 26, 2014 - 9:50 PM

They were two guys heading in opposite directions, contrary career arcs destined to cross. As they sat in the sun on a deck overlooking a bucolic setting, however, they seemed like buddies rehashing old times.

One was Chris Omodt, who as a young man followed a long family tradition by going into law enforcement, working for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office. His dad, Don, was a storied sheriff. Omodt also rose through the ranks to become an investigator, and late in his career he was entrusted with leading the Metro Gang Strike Force after it began to unravel.

The other was Pat Matter, who was a small but tough kid who had dropped out of school by the seventh grade. He wasn’t educated, but he likes to say he had a Ph.D. in street smarts and plenty of ambition. He would need both, plus a combination of charisma and ruthlessness, to become one of state’s largest drug dealers as president of the Minneapolis branch of the Hell’s Angels.

Omodt retired two years ago, just about the time Matter was getting out of prison. Matter reduced his potential life sentence down to nearly nine years by cooperating with authorities on other drug cases.

The cop and biker began meeting when Matter got out of jail, and have written a self-published book together, “Breaking the Code,” which gives a rare glimpse into the world of biker gangs, as well as the people who chase them.

The two first met on Feb. 15, 2002, when Omodt, then a detective with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, went to the Anoka County jail to introduce himself to Matter, who had then been the top Hell’s Angels leader for 20 years. Omodt was part of a team that had been trying to take Matter and his group down for five years.

“I know who you are,” Matter said. Running a multimillion-dollar drug ring, Matter had to know who his enemies were.

Omodt had studied Matter’s habits and moves for years but was never able to catch him in any illegal activities. But they had finally gotten a break while investigating a rash of stolen motorcycles that Omodt incorrectly believed was being orchestrated by Matter. Their investigation took them to a garage, where they also found 2 kilograms of cocaine, which they eventually tied to Matter.

When Omodt finally met the guy he’d been investigating, he was surprised. He liked him.

“He came across as very professional,” Omodt said. “I always thought of him as a very violent guy. He was always very charismatic, and I wondered where this sudden violence came from.”

Matter describes in the book a life that’s at turns romantic and violent. During an infamous fight between bikers at Jesse James Days in Northfield, Matter shot one of the bikers from another gang. He also describes exchanging hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for crystal meth or cocaine while being guarded by members with machine guns, and burying a million dollars in his back yard.

Being an Angel meant belonging to something. “That’s where I found my family,” Matter said. “For the most part, it was a brotherhood and you were in it for the camaraderie.”

Still, “I was always looking over my shoulder,” he said. “I’m a very paranoid guy when it comes to trusting people.”

Omodt said he put the Hell’s Angels “at the top of the pile” of gangs he wanted to bust, and Matter was the “Godfather.”

He was further motivated by Matter’s reputation. “I was told by the IRS that he was untouchable,” Omodt said. “I said, ‘No one’s untouchable.’ ”

Not only did Matter worry about law officers such as Omodt, he had plenty of enemies from other bike gangs. In fact, in 1993, members of the Outlaws gang tried to kill Matter by putting a bomb under his truck. By happenstance, Matter left his custom motorcycle business in another vehicle and the truck blew up after he was gone.

When Matter was eventually caught for his drug dealing, he had a decision to make. “I was on my way to getting straight, and I had a lot to lose. I had someone I really cared about,” said Matter, who was 52 at the time. “I looked at the amount of time [in prison], and if I went to trial I was looking at life. I decided to cooperate. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but my wife and son meant everything to me.”

“I could handle prison,” said Matter, who still has “Hell’s Angels” tattooed down both arms. “It was losing my family that hurt the most.”

So he “broke the code” and told authorities about the drug dealing being done by some members of the Hell’s Angels.

Asked whether he feels bad about the impact his drug dealing had on people, Matter said, “I do. At the time, I thought of it as something I was just selling to bikers, it was recreational. I never thought about it going to anybody else, but I’m sure it did. I got into the motorcycle clubs and saw there was a market with meth. It was an easy way to make money, it was the lure of the money.

“I’m not ashamed of who I was, but I’m really happy with the change in my life,” Matter said.

Omodt said seeing a hardened criminal such as Matter actually turn his life around has been a huge reward for him. When they decided to write the book together, they made a pact to be honest with each other.

“He’s as straightforward with me as I am with him,” Omodt said.

“When I got out [of jail], of all the people I found I could trust, one just happened to be one of the guys who put me in prison,” Matter said.

“Breaking the Code” will be available Friday on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin

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