Biker Gangs  cover

Biker Gangs

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By the time the May 2002 melee was over, three bikers were dead and at least 70 members of two outlaw biker gangs had either been shot, stabbed or beaten during the orgy of violence at the annual River Run motorcycle rally in Laughlin, a Nevada casino resort about 90 miles south of Las Vegas.





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Biker Gangs

The Unexpected

Just for a moment, the gamblers at Harrah’s casino thought the rat-tat-tat came from a slot machine spilling its winnings to a lucky punter.

Then a wave of burly, brawling bikers in leather jackets and jeans spread through the packed casino, battering each other with guns, knives, hammers, wrenches and anything else that came to hand.

CCTV cameras caught petrified gamblers scattering and ducking for cover as more shots rang out.

Losing Lady Luck

Losing Lady Luck

Lives Lost

By the time the May 2002 melee was over, three bikers were dead and at least 70 members of two outlaw biker gangs had either been shot, stabbed or beaten during the orgy of violence at the annual River Run motorcycle rally in Laughlin, a Nevada casino resort about 90 miles south of Las Vegas.

Denise Massey, then 48, was gambling with her fiancé on the first floor of Harrah's when she noticed 20 to 30 bikers suddenly converge.

''Next thing you know you just hear 'Bam, bam, bam,' '' she recalled. ''All of a sudden they're running and just shooting at each other.''

Rival Encounters

The worst ever outbreak of biker gang violence in the US began when members of the Hells Angels walked into bikers from the rival Mongol California clan at Rosa’s Cantina, the casino bar.

The two gangs had been fighting a fierce turf battle - and the bitterness suddenly boiled over, catching innocent bystanders in the crossfire. Two of the dead, Jeramie Bell, 27, and Robert Tumelty, 50, were Hells Angels, the other, Anthony Barrera, 43, was a Mongol.

Keeping Them Under Watch

Police - who said later they found six guns, 50 knives, two hammers, two wrenches, six flashlights and a piece of leather weighted with steel abandoned inside the casino - kept an iron grip on biker gangs from then on, even arresting motorcyclists wearing emblem patches on their backs because they’re deemed gang insignia.

As a result, in recent years the gangs - many of them dealing in drugs and protection - have been driven underground.

Hollywood glamorized the motorcycle club culture that sprung up on the West Coast following World War Two with movies like the 1953’s ‘The Wild One’ starring a young Marlon Brando.

Living Under Their Own Laws

Living Under Their Own Laws

More recently, the TV show ‘Sons of Anarchy’ has bolstered the image of the two-wheeler gangs.

But real-life undercover cop Charles Falco, who wrote a book called ‘Vagos, Mongols, and Outlaws: My Infiltration of America's Deadliest Biker Gangs,’ claims biker gangs are desperados with laws of their own.

“They’re more like the armpit of the criminal world. They’re hardcore, vicious criminals, but they’re low-lifes.” he claims.

Hells Angels

The Hells Angels with their death’s head insignia are still the biggest and most feared gang.

They famously provided security for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 free concert in Altamont, California, when a biker stabbed a fan to death in a melee around the stage. The Angel was later acquitted on the grounds of self-defense after it was revealed the fan was about to shoot Mick Jagger.

Other gangs include the Mongols and Vagos from California, the Oregon-based Free Souls, the Texas-founded Bandidos, the Highwaymen from Detroit, the Warlocks from Philadelphia, the Colorado Sons of Silence, the Pagans, founded in Maryland, and the Outlaws, one of the oldest clubs that started in Matilda’s Bar on the old Route 66 in McCook, Illinois, in 1935.

New Technology

Police are now also facing a new breed of motorcycle groups that are proving much harder to keep track of in the computer age.

Unlike the close-knit traditional gangs, these packs of young bikers on speedy Japanese “crotch rockets” barrel down highways performing “wheelie” stunts and weaving through traffic at top speed, often taunting the police – all for a few minutes of Internet glory.

The bikers may not even know each other but come together at pre-arranged meeting places via messages on Facebook or Twitter. They then film their exploits and put them on YouTube.

Free-Form Gangs

Free-Form Gangs

While theses free-form gangs aren’t inherently violent, mob mentality quickly kicks in if the ride doesn’t go to plan.

Several bikers were arrested last year in Manhattan after they swarmed a SUV driver who was so panicked at their antics he accidentally hit one of the riders in his haste to escape.

The man, whose wife and child were in the Range Rover, was dragged out of his vehicle and savagely beaten in an attack that was caught on video.