SAN BERNARDINO - Steve Kinzey has lived life as a respected, tenured university professor, residing in an East Highland neighborhood lined with crepe myrtle trees and peach-colored tract homes.

But authorities say he had another identity that he tried to keep hidden - one involving drugs, biker gangs and weapons.

It was that secret life that shocked family and friends after law enforcement announced Thursday the takedown of a drug ring Kinzey allegedly ran.

"I'm just hoping that this is an accident, just a mistake," said Hank Kinzey, Steve Kinzey's father. "That's what I'm praying for."

Hank Kinzey, 66, who lives in a suburb of Detroit, said he didn't know that his son, an associate professor of kinesiology at Cal State San Bernardino, was a fugitive until a reporter called his home Thursday evening.

KINZEY
KINZEY

He heard his son had been nominated for a teacher of the year award, and assumed that's why the reporter was calling him.

"Everybody's always in denial when it's something to do with their family, but this is really surreal," he said.

Deputies launched the "Devil's Professor" investigation six months ago while engaged in a separate probe into outlaw biker clubs.

They said they found that Kinzey, 43, a chapter president for the motorcycle club, The Devil's Diciples, was also the head of a methamphetamine trafficking operation that distributed pounds of the drug weekly in Highland, San Bernardino, Redlands and Mentone.

Investigators reportedly seized more than a pound of meth, firearms, brass knuckles and other items from his home.

The District Attorney's Office has charged 11 people, including Kinzey, with drug trafficking and conspiracy.

Five of the suspects have already been arraigned in San Bernardino Superior Court, while others have either not been caught or haven't been to court yet.

A court complaint filed by the District Attorney's Office detailed alleged conversations between Kinzey and his associates. They allegedly discussed drug transactions, sometimes speaking in code to disguise the nature of their conversations, authorities said.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies are looking for Steve Kinzey, 43, of Highland, who taught kinesiology at Cal State San Bernardino.

San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies are looking for Steve Kinzey, 43, of Highland, who taught kinesiology at Cal State San Bernardino. Investigators said they believe Kinzey is the leader of a drug trafficking ring that led deputies to arrest 11 others. (Courtesy photo)

Prosecutors wrote that Kinzey and Jeremy Disney, 30, had a cellphone text conversation on Aug. 25. Investigators said Disney was Kinzey's drug supplier.

"In summary, Kinzey asks Disney if he has grade A quality study materials. Disney responds by texting `I might az well get a degree lol,"' prosecutors wrote.

Kinzey has been at Cal State San Bernardino for 10 years.

Several of Kinzey's former students posted comments on the website RateMyProfessor.com, showing their support for him.

"This guy was brutally honest, fair, never drank, never smoked, etc. He was the one getting everyone else on track. How could this happen?" wrote a University of Mississippi student.

At Cal State San Bernardino on Friday, Kyle Cantrell, 21, a third-year liberal arts student, reflected on what he knew about the professor.

Kinzey was known for riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle to school, Cantrell said.

Faculty members talked about him as being known as a "bad-ass," he said.

"I guess that was his persona," Cantrell said.

No one answered the door of Kinzey's Pleasant View Lane home on Friday, and neighbors seemed to know little about him.

Kris Sheehe, who has lived on the street several years, hears Kinzey fire up his motorcycle in the morning when he leaves for work. But he never noticed anything suspicious.

"You'd never think your neighbor could be into anything like that," he said.

Kinzey's father said his son grew up in the Detroit area with his two younger sisters. He described him as "a good Catholic boy" who is a Republican in a family of Democrats.

He knew his son was a member of the Devil's Diciples, but they never discussed the club's activities.

"Was I thrilled about it? No," he said. "College professor by day, biker by night. But he's still Stephen. He's a good young man."

Hank Kinzey, a motorcyclist himself, said he taught his son to ride.

The Devil's Diciples, a group formed in Fontana in 1967, intentionally misspells disciples in their name "to distance ourselves from religious affiliation," according to the group's website. 

The group also says it is not an outlaw motorcycle gang and doesn't condone criminal activity.

Hank Kinzey says all he can do is hope his son is safe and that he eventually calls him.

"It's like finding out your house burned down," he said. "I can't believe it's true. I have no reason to believe it's true."

Staff Writer Josh Dulaney contributed to this report.

melissa.pinion-whitt@inlandnewspapers.com, 909-386-3878