Tension between rival Hells Angels, Mongols biker :: Washington Confederation of Clubs :: Wear your Patch with Pride

BY: Denis C. Theriault California – ~Tension between rival Hells Angels, Mongols biker gangs on the rise~ INVESTIGATORS EXAMINING CLUES IN THIS WEEK’S BOMB BLASTS IN SAN JOSE First came the gunshots that left a San Francisco Hells Angels leader bleeding to death on a sidewalk earlier this month, victim of a rival gangster, police say. Then, two days ago came a trio of pipe bomb blasts in a humble San Jose cul-de-sac, targeting a member of that rival gang, the Mongols Motorcycle Club. Whether the events are directly related remained an open question Friday as local and federal investigators continued to pore over clues in the wake of Thursday’s bombing. But experts and law enforcement officers say they are certain of at least one thing: The brazen attacks have shattered a relatively peaceful period for warring motorcycle gangs in the Bay Area. “We have not had a lot of tension between these outlaw organizations in the Bay Area,” said Michael Gleysteen, acting special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ San Francisco field division, which is helping San Jose police look into the bombing. “Obviously, recently, tensions have been on the rise,” Gleysteen said. “We know, based on prior experience, that when there are tensions, there’s an increased propensity for innocent people being caught in harm’s way.” Now, even as investigators vow to chase every lead in Thursday’s bombing outside the Melannie Court home of known Mongol Robert Rios – even those who don’t see the bombing, in which no one was injured, as revenge for Mark “Papa” Guardado’s Sept. 2 killing – the rapid-fire succession of the two incidents has the Mongols’ and Angels’ hot-and-cold war facing scrutiny once more. “These boys have been feuding since at least 1977,” said John R. Schlim, a former Oakland cop who now consults on biker gangs for police departments across the country. “Just the fact that your victim is a Mongol you have to look at the Hells Angels. They certainly can carry a grudge.” No doubt, Hells Angels have not forgotten how the upstart Mongols essentially seized control of Southern California from the Hells Angels in the 1980s. Or, in recent years, the very public explosion of violence between the two clubs at a Laughlin, Nev., casino in 2002. More than 70 bikers joined the frenzy, guns blazing and knives slashing, leaving two Hells Angels dead. An hour later, a third Hells Angel was found shot dead on a nearby highway. And what began as a feud over who could wear the patch “California” – back in the 1970s, Schlim said, only Hells Angels could do so – has slowly mushroomed into a pitched battle for California itself. Both gangs are competing for criminal influence over drug and weapon trafficking and other lucrative vice operations, experts say, over a precious territory that stretches all the way up the Pacific Coast into Canada. That violence has reappeared in the Bay Area – a place, says Gleysteen, that many top gang members call home and would traditionally keep clean – did not surprise Schlim. He said this month’s spasms are the result of a decade-long boom in motorcycle gang recruitment and a northern push by gangs like the Mongols, primarily based in Southern California, into territories once traditionally held by their rivals. The San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels, established in the 1960s, Schlim said, has reluctantly had to share its turf in the past 10 years with the Mongols. “Like all of the other gangs, all of them, they have all spread dramatically in the last 10 years,” he said. For the Hells Angels, said Timothy McKinley, a retired FBI agent who specialized in outlaw motorcycle gangs, this general expansion by rival clubs has meant war not just with the Mongols, but with other groups, even in places like Britain and Scandinavia, far from the dust and grit of the Central and San Fernando valleys. Some of the clubs, both Schlim and Gleysteen said, have turned to recruiting members of street gangs, Surenos and Nortenos and others, to serve as soldiers in these ongoing wars. Schlim said that’s been especially true of the Hells Angels and Mongols. “Both have resorted to recruiting street gang members – some of them who don’t even own a motorcycle,” Schlim said with a chuckle. “They need cannon fodder. If you can hire three guns and I can hire three guns, let them fight it out.” But as much as turf wars might be motivating these gangs’ clashes, Schlim said, it’s the personal vendettas, the bad blood over fallen brothers and that now-ancient battle over the patch that provide the most potent fuel for bloodshed. “All those guys involved in those original shootings are still members,” he said. “These guys are 24/7, 365 days – for life. They know they’re at war.”

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