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Twin Peaks Restaurant

Nearly two years after a deadly and horrific shooting it remains clouded with mystery, is intriguing and familiar, all at the same time.

There are unexpected admirers, hundreds of legal proceedings and thousands of investigative hours completed to date.  There is an on-going “outlaw motorcycle gang” task force and there was an interesting book written by Donald Charles Davis aka. “The Aging Rebel” about Texas law enforcement, the clubs, the personalities and the event.

Photo sampling of Twin Peaks shooting

Of course, I’m talking about the Twin Peaks Massacre — the deadliest biker violence in U.S. history that took place on May 17, 2015.

Make no mistake, some motorcycle clubs never shy away from flaunting their brutal pedigree, and in Waco, TX the shootout left 9 dead (four by police) and 18 wounded in or near the popular Central Texas restaurant.  Reportedly a dispute broke out, escalated to include knifes and firearms and then spilled into a shooting rampage in the restaurant parking lot.  Remarkably, law enforcement was aware of the large “gathering,” along with the potential for trouble and were pre-positioned in a show of force to address or stamp down any violence.

Shooting aftermath…

If only the parking lot could talk…

Once the deadly shooting brawl subsided, law enforcement arrested 177 persons (173 male and 4 females) from a variety of motorcycle clubs as well as everyday motorcycle enthusiasts/patrons who were in attendance.  Some may have rode in for fine dining, but they didn’t ride out.  Instead they were arrested on organized crime charges.

Yeah it’s Texas, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives retained and have in possession more than 475 weapons from the scene, including at least 151 firearms.

Sure, it can be a messy world, but this was no motorcycle episode of Sons of Anarchy debating how the biker life is too short for would-haves and the need to follow your own compass.  This was a disgustingly brutal and super bloody mass killing on full display during a public motorcycle “gathering.”  Is there any doubt why the press and media continue to push a negative biker narrative?

Sadly, the nine dead were members of the Bandidos and Cossacks motorcycle clubs.

Within a few hours accusations that the shootings were an aggressive overreaction by law enforcement began.  Then within days the conspiriacy rumors surfaced that it was a Federal agency tactic, motivated to bring the 1% clubs down.  And if that didn’t spark enough law enforcement skeptisim, many of the mass arrests were misclassified and have created severe consequences to innocent people not to mention the potential for numerous civil rights violations.

Jump forward nearly 2-years after the gathering and shooting spree or massacre, there remains 154 persons, currently under indictment. Nobody has been cleared.  38 people, including women, are still “under investigation.”  One indictee and one potential indictee has died during this lengthy delay to find justice.

There’s been a number of national and international publications “explaining” the event.  From the beginning, authorities in Texas have worked to control the narrative of what happened at Twin Peaks.  Almost 200 people potentially face long prison terms for conspiring to act criminally although prosecutors have refused to state what each of those defendants actually did other than what looks like they were trying to survive a mass shooting event.

Over the years motorcycle enthusiasts have become familiar with government entities nibbling away at their freedoms and this has a Déjà vu feeling.

I wasn’t there, but can imagine this event being a “change your life” moment.  I do recall instances of being in a public setting with riding buddies, other motorcycle enthusiasts along with various motorcycle club members enjoying the rally experience.  Only to witness a spark of personality that ignites a “bring it on bigger” a‘tude and the flaunting of an aggressive remedy putting everyone at risk.

I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night and being attentive to your surroundings can be just as important to protecting yourself as putting on a helmet.  I like riding motorcycles and the overall rally/group experience, but I also like my life away from it.

But I’ve digressed.

I’ve been monitoring the bits of information about this shootout as well as the legal proceedings and am reminded of that carney (Anderson) in the Twin Peaks TV series.  Every summer the Carnivàle came to town.  The strange little fellow spoke in an unusual manner.  He would speak backwards and used phonetically reversed speaking as a “secret language.”

It’s as if there is some type of “secret language” being used in Waco.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but according to Katherine K. Young who wrote in her book“every real conspiracy has had at least four characteristic features: groups, not isolated individuals; illegal or sinister aims, not ones that would benefit society as a whole; orchestrated acts, not a series of spontaneous and haphazard ones; and secret planning, not public discussion” — all of this seems to imply that nothing with the Twin Peaks Massacre happened by accident, nothing is as it seems, and everything is connected.

Photos courtesy of Waco Tribune-Herald (Jerry Larson) and Google Image Search

Some references in developing this post:

Motorcycle Profiling Project

One Percenter Bikers

Daily Mail

GQ Article

Texas Monthly

Aging Rebel

Waco Tribune-Herald

 

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Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally - 2010

Semi-Truck Fire closes I-90 at Sturgis Rally – 2010

At the 2012 Sturgis Rally attendance was up 7% (official est. at 450K) and in all, the city of Sturgis spent approximately $960K to host the 6-day event which generated nearly $1.4M in revenue.  Nearly $400K profit for the city which has more than double the net profit from the 2011 rally at $197K.  There were 1,012 vendors registered vs. 976 in 2011 and gross sales by vendors were $13.1M compared to $12.6M in 2011.

sturgis-flagAnd the man who made Sturgis?  There are several who come to mind, but one near the top of the list would be Steven Piehl, the Harley executive who invented the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  In 1983, Mr. Piehl worked under Harley’s General Sales Manager, Clyde Fessler, and was given 3 months to launch the program.  They promoted the rally to hundreds of thousands of HOG members and is at least in part responsible for the transformation of Sturgis from a biker party into a profit center.  Mr. Piehl was inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame last year and received the JC “Pappy” Hoel Outstanding Achievement Award for establishing HOG.

HD-Sturgis3Motoring USA is the consultant group that essentially coordinates the Sturgis rally for the city as they help line-up sponsors (Harley-Davidson, Dodge, Jack Daniels, Geico etc.), vendors and publish the official rally magazine.  For their 2012 services they were paid more than $308K ($163K commissions/fees and $145K to publish the official guide).  Ironically, the city of Sturgis paid the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Inc., $26,944 in licensing fees to use the “Sturgis” name!  Clearly corporate America has found the motorcyclist market and made the profit driven transformation.

Sturgis-night12

Main Street Sturgis at Dusk

Those are a few of the financial aspects of the motorcycle rally.  Sadly, 9 people died at last year’s rally-related accidents and collisions.  In 2011 there were 4 deaths.  And you might have been one of the unlucky riders trapped on the freeway in 2010 after a semi-trailer caught fire (video HERE) and closed the interstate (see above photo)?

It’s also well known that at the Sturgis Rally large numbers of law enforcement descend on the area to make sure those 450,000+ bikers don’t get out of hand.  On any typical week the city has 15 officers to keep the community of 6700 safe.  During rally week it pays a hefty amount for law enforcement hiring people from nine different states.  The city police budget in August is estimated to be in excess of $300K to cover salaries, equipment and other expenses for the event.  Visiting officers are housed and receive two meals a day.  In addition, there are also significant numbers of federal agents (FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals Service, the National Guard, the Bureau of Land Management and even the National Forest Service) on hand.

loud-american

Loud American Roadhouse (L)

However, budget cuts known as sequestration have stalled the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives attendance and for 2013 there will be fewer federal agents available to keep an eye on things for the first time in 10 years.  The value of announcing this information to the public prior to the rally is interesting.  Is it to alarm the public?  Is it an open invitation for the motorcycle clubs to restart some of the “wild times” prevalent in years past?  Historically, more than 20 ATF agents patrol Sturgis during the Rally.  This year there will one agent in Rapid City who will be on call when the rally officially starts on August 5th.

Remember the 2006 rally shootout between the Outlaws and Hells Angels at Custer?  How about back in 2008 when Sturgis ended with the first shooting in over 20-years where the Iron Pigs (off-duty Seattle LEO – Ronald Smith) had a confrontation with the Hell’s Angels (Joseph McGuire) at the Loud American Roadhouse?  Anytime there is a large gathering of people, there is a potential for an incident, but I would anticipate if any intelligence or threat hits the radar we’ll see it rain law enforcement personnel sequestration or not.

It wasn’t too long ago, the rough, anti-materialistic, anti-authoritarian attitudes showed up on motorcycles en-masse at Sturgis.  The motor company that helped put Sturgis on the map and was once so revered that men tattooed its name on their arms, is now more about demographics, international expansion in China and India and tapping female consumer spending.  For example, Claudia Garber, Harley’s Director of Women’s Marketing Outreach, worked the 2012 rally to convince affluent, professional women that Harleys are really fun to ride.

Yes, the transformation of Sturgis from a quaint biker party into an enormous profit center is fully complete.  Stay classy Sturgis!

Interstate photo courtesy of Renegade Wheels, other photos taken by author at 2012 Sturgis Rally.  The 2012 Sturgis stats are HERE (.pdf).

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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queen_bookI won’t attempt to make sweeping comments about another outlaw motorcycle “club” undercover “tell-all” novel.  There are so many styles and flavors these days and when a reader interacts with a book they are not only served a story, but often feel connected to the writer.

The Under and Alone novel is different because of movie rights, but more on that in a minute.

The back story is the novel is based on the real life of William Queen, a motorcycle enthusiast who successfully penetrated the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle “club” using an identity of “Billy St. John.”  After becoming a fully “patched” member, he eventually rose to the level of chapter Vice-President and treasurer where he had access to the clubs activity of which some was criminal.  In the book, Queen details how, after 28 months in the club he began to battle the conflicts both within the club and within himself as the isolation of the work made him feel the Mongols were his family.

What makes the story compelling is that Queen spent twenty years as a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).  He was a Vietnam War veteran serving with the U.S. Army Special Forces and was awarded the Silver Star during his 1971 tour of duty. After his military service, he devoted his entire career to law enforcement.  Early operations involved infiltrating the Aryan Nation and the Ku Klux Klan organizations.

William Queen

William Queen

Despite his nickname, “Billy the Slow-Brain”, he was successful in gathering evidence resulting in a series of raids in May 2000 by almost 700 LEO’s in four states.  His efforts led to the arrest and conviction of 54 club members.  Queen was awarded the Federal Bar Association’s Medal of Honor for his successful involvement with the Mongols.  After the club member trials, Queen retired from the ATF, and then wrote the book while in the witness protection program.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  In 2003, while the book was still only a draft, film rights were sold for $1M to Icon Productions, the Hollywood production company owned by Mel Gibson.  The book became a bestseller upon its release in 2005, and the movie adaptation, will have Gibson himself playing Queen.  The movie is scheduled for release by Warner Bros in 2010.  This would be the first project that Gibson takes the lead role in, since the 2003 movie Signs.  Gibson will not direct the movie, instead Gregor Jordan (Ned Kelly) and Antoine Fuqua (Shooter, Training Day) have been hired to direct.  The book is being adapted by Ned Zeman and Daniel Barnz.

Consumer spending drives demand. The profitability of individual companies depends on creativity, marketing, and distribution of quality movie content and time will tell if this subject matter is something the public wants to consume. Gibson has been a lightning rod for controversy of late, but this role could bring him back into the mainstream vernacular like the Vietnam War drama We Were Soldiers and Payback did.  Who knows.

Photo courtesy William Queen/Random House.

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Jay Dobyns

Jay Dobyns

It’s a popular saying and loosely defined as life is so unfair that a person is more likely to get into some sort of trouble than be rewarded if they attempt to do a good deed.

That might be what Jay Dobyns has on his mind these days.  Who is Dobyns?  I posted an article previously on his soon to be released tell all book “No Angel” which detailed his years working undercover as an ATF Special Agent who penetrated the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC).  Dobyns was the lead agent in Operation Black Biscuit which resulted in the gathering of 1,600 pieces of evidence, the seizure of 650 guns, more than 100 explosive items including grenades, napalm and 30,000 rounds of ammunition.  Fifty people were indicted as a result of the undercover sting.  In Arizona alone, the government assembled 800 hours of bugged conversations, 92,000 phone calls and 8,500 seized documents in an effort to prove that the HAMC is a criminal enterprise. Dobyns received a top cop award by the National Association of Police Organizations.  CNN has a video snippet with more information HERE and HERE.

The news is the Arizona Republic is now reporting that Dobyns is suing the ATF for failing to protect his family from various death threats. The dispute and subsequent filing of a $4.5M claim against the ATF seems to be supported by an Inspector General’s finding late last year that the ATF has a pattern of agent neglect and failed to provide security or fully investigate a series of threats against Dobyns and his family.  If these facts hold up it’s a sad testimony on the ATF as he put a lot on the line and deserves better!   On his own dime Dobyns has moved himself and family several times to elude people who’ve threatened to kill him or harm his family. He filed a claim with the ATF for the emotional stress and financial burden he’s endured.

It would be easy to speculate that when the press spotlight faded on “Biscuit” the ATF somehow didn’t have the motivation, funds or struggled to deal with the complexity of undercover work and how to best manage agents when they’re back in the LE world.  However in 2004 the agency received indefinite annual funding for the establishment of the Violent Crime Impact Team (VCIT) which was designed to reduce homicides and other firearm-related violent crimes in 20 cities. In 2006, the VCIT/ATF received $20M to identify, target and arrest the “worst-of-the-worst” offenders.  Is funding really an issue?

I’ll follow the Dobyns situation and provide updates as appropriate.

UPDATE: February 5, 2009 – Good interview and summary written by Leo W. Banks of the Tucson Weekly.

Photo courtesy Jay Dobyns and AZ Republic.

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NO ANGEL 5.26.qxd

There are many ways to talk about the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC); as a reporter illuminating the record, as an advocate praising their actions or as an undercover agent providing clear insight into the mind of a biker enterprise.  Sure, not everyone agrees with the mission and tactics of law enforcement just like not everyone is going to praise OMG. It’s the way of the world.

Much thanks to G. Walker (Det. Retired) who provided me a preview of the book “No Angel” by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  I wanted to pass this along because as the preview suggests, this is going to be one great read!

“No Angel – My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels”

ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton

(Crown Publishers, 2009)

      ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns sat with his back to me.  He was furiously typing on a well-used keyboard.  He wore a white wife-beater t-shirt and both his exposed arms were fully “sleeved”, or covered with tattoo work.  Pulled down low over his bald skull was a dirty blue knit cap.  I quietly watched him as his fingers danced over the keyboard, wondering how no one else at the outlaw motorcycle gang conference I was attending hadn’t spotted this brazen infiltrator who was even now probably sending license plate numbers and other handy information to whichever 1%er club he belonged to.

      It had happened before.  Two full patch members of the Vagos MC had openly walked into a past OMG conference presentation, the room filled with cops and investigators.  The Vagos went unnoticed for several minutes before being identified and ushered out of the hotel.

      I found the conference coordinator and shared my concern about the tough-looking b*astard using the business room Internet service.  “Oh,” he replied, “that’s just Jay…Jay Dobyns.  He’s our ATF guest speaker on the Hells Angels.”

      Well f*ck me…

      Later in the conference I listened to Dobyns speak about his role in Operation Black Biscuit, a two-year ATF undercover operation against the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Arizona.  Pacing back and forth in front of a table featuring some of the OMG props he and his ATF team of UC bikers, known as the “Solo Angels”, had used to gain introduction and then admittance into the inner sanctum of the HAMC, Jay’s rapid-fire account of the deepest UC thrust into the heart of the Angels’ organization came alive.

      Today Jay Dobyns, in conjunction with co-author Nils Johnson-Shelton, has written the true story of both his greatest professional and near personally ruinous achievement – riding shoulder to shoulder with the Hells Angels to include the ultimate Angel himself, Ralph “Sonny” Barger.  It is a book the Red & White won’t appreciate; however in all fairness, it’s also a book some in the ATF will hate with equal passion.

      Whether brokering deals for illegal automatic weapons, taking on murder for hire contracts, arming up to do battle with the rival Banditos on behalf of the “81”, or riding 18″ off the rear wheel of an Angel juggernaut Jay Dobyns shoves us down the slippery steep steps that lead to the glowing red inferno that is the world of the Hells Angels.

      Finely woven throughout the book is the agent’s personal decent into the madness of both the investigation and his increasing loss of identity as a human being.  He writes “As I said, dark days.  I turned to the only things I had left: God, friend, and family…It wasn’t my job, it wasn’t ATF, and it wasn’t the Hells Angels that had transformed me into the worst version of myself.  It was I alone who had done that.”

      There have been several previous books on the HAMC and Operation Black Biscuit but none comes close to the knife-edge reality and factual accuracy of Jay’s memoir.  Of the Hells Angels he observes “I realized in that single moment that the brotherhood the Hells Angels claimed to be part of was nothing more than a support group for misunderstood loners held together by hate and money…I’d thought I was the one infiltrating them.  I had it backwards.  They were the ones who had infiltrated me.”

      In mid-2003 Operation Black Biscuit was brought to closure in a series of search warrants and arrests.  The case, however, was gutted by squabbles among prosecutors and the decision makers at the ATF and by 2006 “Black Biscuit” looked more like Brier Rabbit’s badass tar baby.  Earlier, in 2004, the Angels put a contract on Dobyns’ head.  In 2008 his home mysteriously caught on fire and while no one was injured the implications were obvious to the man once draped with the Angel’s coveted Deathhead for “killing” a rival Mongol down Mexico way, an elaborate mock murder that brought Dobyns to the goal he’d always thought he wanted – to become a fully patched Hells Angel as an undercover ATF agent.

      You can advance order your copy of “No Angel” through Amazon.com. The book will be released this February.  Warning! Once you’ve opened its cover and entered the world of Special Agent Jay “Bird” Dobyns there’s no putting it down.  This is one 5-star weekend’s reading about the man who dared enter the innermost sanctuaries of the Hells Angels and returned with his soul singed but intact.

More information available on Jay Dobyns web site.  Book pre-order information from Amazon.

Previous posts on 1%er bikers (1, 2, 3, 4).

UPDATE: February 5, 2009 – Good interview and summary written by Leo W. Banks of the Tucson Weekly.

Book cover photo used with permission.

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