The motorcycle gangs involved in Sunday’s shootout in a Waco, Texas, restaurant parking lot are a breed apart from weekend hobbyists on bikes, authorities say.
The groups are serious criminal organizations — including one that the FBI alleges is among the largest outlaw motorcycle gangs in the USA.
Police in Waco say the melee involved five gangs, including the Bandidos and the Cossacks, who clashed at a weekend recruiting event. The FBI says on its organized crime Web page that the Bandidos is one of the largest outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) in the USA, with about 900 members and 93 chapters. The group itself says it has over 200 chapters with more than 2,500 members in 16 countries.
The FBI says OMGs such as the Bandidos “pose a serious national domestic threat.” It defines them as “organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises” including drug trafficking, cross-border drug smuggling, prostitution and human trafficking. More than 300 OMGs are active in the USA, it says, coordinating smuggling operations with “major international drug-trafficking organizations.”
The FBI says the Bandidos “are involved in transporting and distributing cocaine and marijuana and are involved in the production, transportation and distribution of methamphetamine.” The group is most active in the Pacific, Southeastern, Southwestern and the West Central regions of the USA.
The FBI’s National Gang Intelligence Center in 2013 found that just 2.5% of U.S. gang members belonged to an OMG — by contrast, 88% were street gang members and 9.5% were prison gang members. OMGs were considered the greatest threat in only about 11% of jurisdictions.
But the center said the low percentage is misleading. OMGs, it said, “are more problematic than their modest numbers suggest. This is likely due to their solid organizational structure, criminal sophistication, and their tendency to employ violence to protect their interests.”
On one of its websites, the Bandidos says a U.S. Marine named Donald Eugene “Mother” Chambers formed the group in San Leon, Texas, in 1966, after he and other veterans returning home from Vietnam found themselves abandoned by the U.S. government, living in poverty “and without any respect for what they have done” during the Vietnam War.
“What they have learned in their unit of companionship and unconditional support … has no existence in the civilian life,” according to the site. The club chose the red and gold colors of the U.S. Marine Corps. The group’s motto: “We are the people our parents warned us about.”
The FBI in 2013 said the Bandidos and other groups use their ties to “military-affiliated gang members” to extend their operations, through transfers and deployment, “and thereby potentially undermine security at military installations.”
The FBI identified at least 60 gangs whose members or associates “have been either enlisted or have attempted to gain employment in the military or various government agencies.” Of the 60, 54 had members who served in the military or who were affiliated with the military. It also said the Bandidos and others were encouraging members without criminal records to enlist in the military “to obtain weapons expertise, combat training, or access to sensitive information.”