Texas - They are outlaws. Bikers with a notorious reputation. The Bandidos motorcycle club is the target, of police who say it is nothing but a gang of criminals. For the first time ever, News 4 Trouble Shooter Brian Collister is getting exclusive access inside the Bandido's world.
The Bandidos know they have an image problem. Most people are scared to death of them, and normally they don't like publicity, but now they're talking to us and telling their side of the story.
Sheriffs deputies storm the home of a Bandido looking for drugs. Another biker is arrested after a high speed chase with police. Yet another Bandido is kicked out of the club after stabbing and killing local boxer Robert Quiroga. These are the images you see on the news about the Bandidos.
When we were allowed inside a recent Bandido event, we saw San Antonio city councilwoman Lourdes Galvan giving the bikers a proclamation from the city for their charity work. While most people are afraid of the Bandidos, Galvan doesn't think they live up to their dangerous reputation.
"Well, I used to be one of those [who thought that], but I think this is a step in the right direction. If we can let the public know they are not bad people. They are good people, even though they make a lot of noise," said Galvan.
These self described outlaws wear a patch that says "expect no mercy," but they're not what you expect when you meet them. Many of the bikers have families and good jobs. They like to talk a lot about their love for Harley Davidson motorcycles and for each other.
Bandido Texas Red One-percenter Steve Solis told us, "My brothers invite me over for dinner. If it gets late, they offer me a bed to sleep in. [If] my car breaks down, I can call any of them to come down and help me out. It's unlimited what they'll do for me. It's closer than family. In fact, I'm closer to my Bandido brothers than I am to my immediate family.
The Bandidos insist they're just misunderstood.
Bandido Tool Man Tim Bagley said, "There's a perception out there for most of us and it's not always correct, and I think if you talk to us one on one, man to man, you'll find out that we're really just another man."
Law enforcement says these are no ordinary men. Cops claim the Bandidos are a criminal organization with hundreds of members who engage in drug dealing, prostitution and sometimes even murder.
John Portillo is the top Bandido in San Antonio, and says they are not a criminal organization. He admits he has some pending criminal charges for drugs possession and assault, but says the Bandidos are not some huge organized criminal enterprise.
Portillo said, "If a brother is caught dealing dope or doing anything illegal, that's individual achievement. He's on his own. We don't condone that. That is not done as a club."
The San Antonio Police Department declined to talk on camera about the Bandidos, but in an e-mail they told us they're not buying what they say is the club's attempt clean up its public image, and that they, and other law enforcement agencies, will continue to investigate their criminal activity.
To read the full SAPD e-mail, scroll down...
The Bandidos fire back saying that SAPD is where the public will find the real criminals.
"I think they need to take a look in the mirror, take a look at themselves," said Portillo, "I think if you look at the history here, in the last 18 months in San Antonio, there have been more cops arrested for slinging dope than Bandidos, and not to mention other things they've been arrested for. They make the paper a hell of a lot more than we do."
The Bandidos accuse SAPD of harassment, pulling them over for no reason and raiding their parties. There's no love lost between the law and the outlaws.
Portillo told us, "I'm going to give you an example: My home was broken into. I don't call the police department. I will handle it myself. It takes them 30 days to do what I can do in a day. I'll find out who did it. I don't need them. We handle our own business."
When a Bandido named Jay Negrete was gunned down outside a bar on San Pedro in 2001. Hundreds of Bandidos came to San Antonio from across the country to say goodbye. Negrete was buried in his Bandidos patch, leaving behind a wife, children, and hundreds of brothers.
Later the alleged shooter was found dead. A former Bandido admitted to the revenge killing, which the club insists was not ordered. Sanctioned or not, it sent a loud and clear message that the Bandidos are not to be messed with.
"We're not going away. We've been here 42 years. We're going to be here another 40. We are not going away," said Portillo.
Full e-mail from the San Antonio Police Department:
"Our police department, like many others across the nation as well as Texas DPS, FBI, DEA, ATF and others investigate the criminal activities of this outlaw motorcycle group (OMG) and will continue to do so as long as we have information that they continue to engage in illegal activities. The Bandidos hold themselves out as "outlaws" and have changed their patch from "Motorcycle Gang" to "Motorcycle Club". There is no doubt the Bandidos have gone to lengths to clean up their "public" image, but it is their criminal behavior that is of interest to local, state and federal law enforcement." *NOTE click to original article for video
Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are solely those of the writer, and may not reflect the beliefs of anyone at the Biker News Network/Outlaw Biker World.
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