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The Outlaw Biker Gangs Behind Sunday's Deadly Shootings in Waco

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KUT
The Bandidos biker gang was at the center of Sunday's shooting at a Twin Peaks.

Authorities in Waco are still on alert after Sunday's shootout at a Twin Peaks restaurant, which involved five biker gangs and ultimately left nine dead and 18 injured. The gun battle centered around two Texas motorcycle clubs: the Bandidos and the Cossacks, an upstart gang that crashed a Bandidosmeetup at the restaurant.

While the news stunned many in Texas and garnered national attention, the news was especially shocking to Texas Monthly's Skip Hollandsworth, who wrote about the Bandidos for the magazine in 2007.

Hollandsworth spoke with KUT's Nathan Bernier about his experiences with the Bandidos, the fierce loyalty and business savvy of its members and the impact Sunday's shooting will have on the group in the future.

You’ve previously reported on the Bandidos for Texas Monthly and even followed them in your reporting. What’s your reaction to Sunday’s shooting?

I was stunned, myself, because I just thought they had been so underground – and there were very few investigations against them – that they were just not considered to be major players in Texas like they used to be. Yet, when I did my interviews with the Bandidos, you know, who are all just sort of pleasant beer-drinking guys, they would always tell me that, “Our blood runs red. If you hurt one of us, you hurt all of us, and we will take our revenge.” And one guy jabbed his finger into my sternum, because I sort of cracked this smile – that this older, middle-aged man who worked in the welding business, and had rode his bike with the Bandidos on weekends, was saying that he would go to his death for this club. But it was true and, obviously, it was true from what happened [in Waco], that the club felt that another minor club was coming into their territory and they just weren’t going have anything to do with it. They didn’t mess around.

Is there any indication these gangs are involved in organized crime?

There is. The DPS has always had task forces looking into the Bandidos and other gangs for a long time. It’s not major criminal activity. These guys are not like the Zeta Cartel. They’re not playing at that level. There’s methamphetamine dealing, there’s gun-running, there’s other kinds of drug dealing, there’s maybe some kind of financial shenanigans, according to the DPS, but nobody gets them. They’re very rarely brought down, and when they are brought down – like back in 2005 [when] there were some federal racketeering indictments against the Bandidos leaders – a new generation of Bandido leaders showed up immediately. I mean, they just don’t die off.

Do you think the shootout in Waco will push leaders to dial back the violence?

Well, they’ll stay away from the cops. There were lots of cops out there, and the cops knew something was brewing.  So those guys will keep their distance – they’re smart. The leaders of the Bandidos I met in 2007 could, if under different circumstances, run Fortune 500 companies. They’re that smart, they just don’t like playing by rules. They like to setup their own rules. They like the open road. All the shows are true. But I think that the fight will continue. The only way the cops will stop it is if they’ve got undercover guys in those biker gangs because they are secret.  Here’s the thing, though, that I want everybody to understand: These motorcycle gangs tend to shoot one another. They don’t really mess with civilians. You know, I was scared to death when I began to meet Bandidos, thinking they’re going to mess with me in some way, if I ask the wrong questions. And they were fairly patient with me. Any other biker gang that tries to cross them or disrespect them – just like your inner city street gangs – they come after you. 

Skip Hollandsworth is Senior Editor of Texas Monthly. He wrote about the Bandidos in his 2007 profile "The Gang's All Here." You can read the article on Texas Monthly's website.

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