Police: ‘Culture of violence’ holds true for Washington’s largest biker gang

SEATTLE -- A deadly shootout between two rival motorcycle clubs and police in Texas earlier this year could have an impact on the largest outlaw biker gang in Washington state.

According to a Seattle police gang detective, the Washington chapter of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club could be expected to carry out acts of retribution for a May 17 shooting outside a restaurant in Waco that left nine bikers dead and more than a hundred facing criminal charges.

Among those killed and arrested were members of the Bandidos and the Cossacks. Police believe the two outlaw biker clubs had a longstanding rivalry.

While the Cossacks do not have a presence in Washington, Bandidos MC is the state’s largest motorcycle gang with an estimated 250 members – including members of clubs that support them, like the Hombres MC.  The gang has a presence in Bellingham, Whatcomb County, King County, Tacoma, Bremerton, the Everett area, and Spokane.

“Law enforcement in general is definitely is aware of the Bandidos presence in the state of Washington,” said a Seattle police detective who tracks outlaw biker clubs. “Whenever there are public events that they’re going to be at where there’s always the potential for conflict, particularly with another motorcycle organization, we’re definitely going to have an interest in covering that.”

Dozens of Bandidos gathered in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood in June for a monthly motorcycle meet up. Members declined to speak on camera about the shootout in Waco and what impact it may have on the club.

The detective said members here will likely try to raise money for comrades who were arrested and charged with crimes in Waco. He said they may also be asked to retaliate for the shootout in some way.

“Retaliation or retribution may not come for six months, a year, or even longer. But if they are true to their past, they will retaliate at some point,” the detective said.

“The motorcycle gang culture is a culture of violence. To be a part of that culture is to basically understand that at any time you need to be able to either defend yourself or your organization over a disrespect or a slight.

“In Washington State, the Bandidos have basically been involved in just about every type of crime you can think of,” he said. “They have been involved in murders. They’ve been involved in federal RICO violations that included trafficking firearms, narcotics, stolen property, robbery, extortion. You name it and they’ve probably done it."

One of the most high-profile cases involving Washington Bandidos came in 2005 with the arrest of the club’s national president, George Wegers.

Wegers lived, and still lives, in Bellingham.

In June 2005, the feds arrested Wegers and a number of other Bandidos in a racketeering case. The bikers were accused of extortion, witness tampering, and a host of other crimes.

Federal prosecutors argued that as the national president of the Bandidos, Wegers called the shots when it came to members engaging in criminal activity.  He was eventually sentenced to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering.

Wegers, who is no longer a member of the club, declined an interview. He did, however, grant an interview to CNN following the shootout in Texas. He said reports that Bandidos made threats against law enforcement following the melee were “pure nonsense” and claimed many of the arrests in Waco were unjustified.

The Seattle police gang detective agreed that if threats were made against law enforcement, those threats are not credible.

“It’s not that Bandidos haven’t injured police officers in the past,” he said. “I think most of the Bandidos know, and the Bandido hierarchy knows, that it would not be in their best interest to try to carry out threats against law enforcement.”