Utah - 'Outlaw' biker gang to meet at Duck Creek
Law enforcement agencies throughout Southern Utah are ramping up additional security in preparation for a motorcycle rally expected to draw hundreds of members of an infamous "outlaw" biker gang.
Police from Cedar City as well as sheriff's office personnel from Iron, Kane, Washington and Garfield counties are preparing for 500 to 1,000 members of the International Bandidos Motorcycle Club to descend on Duck Creek during Labor Day weekend.
Although the group refers to itself as a club, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Criminal Intelligence Service Canada have named the Bandido Nation an "outlaw motorcycle gang." The U.S. Department of Justice has also documented the Bandidos as one of the most visible outlaw motorcycle gangs in the country, along with other "one-percenter" groups, such as the Hells Angels, Outlaw Motorcycle Club and the Pagans.
The term "one-percenters" was coined after a 1947 motorcycle rally in Hollister, Calif., where a small group of outlaw bikers wreaked havoc. The event drew intense media coverage and prompted the American Motorcyclist Association to publicly state 99 percent of those at the rally were well-behaved, with just one percent being unruly. In 1953, the film "Wild One," starring Marlon Brando, was reportedly inspired by the Hollister events, and the "one-percenter" label was embraced by motorcycle gangs.
The Bandidos, established in 1966 in Houston by a Marine who served in Vietnam, is said to be linked to a range of organized crimes, including welfare fraud, gun running, arson, prostitution, bank fraud, contract murder and drug sales. The club's emblem is a pistol-toting bandit.
"They call themselves a club and motorcycle enthusiasts," said St. George Police Sgt. Johnny Heppler, the supervisor for the Fraudulent Identity and Securities Threats Unit in Washington County, whose duties include gang investigations. "But they have ties to organized crime worldwide and they publicly associate themselves with the outlaw lifestyle,"
The Bandidos' slogan is, "We are the people our parents warned us about." They are one of the groups known among law enforcement as the "Big Four" of outlaw motorcycle gangs, along with the Hells Angels, Pagans and Outlaws.
"This group is the same type as Hells Angels or any other 'motorcycle club,'" said Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower.
The Bandidos event will largely take place in Kane County on private property located at Duck Creek, but many of the members rolling in that weekend will likely stay in Cedar City and throughout Southern Utah.
Cedar City Police Public Information Officer Jimmy Roden said the department has taken the necessary steps to deal with the influx of people, including increasing patrol.
"We've been ready for this for a while," Roden said. "We've known it was coming and we've worked with several different agencies to plan for it."
Roden didn't want to go into too much detail, but said his agency will be providing additional information to the public closer to the actual event. He said he plans to elaborate more on the role of the police and also on what the community can expect during that weekend.
While Labor Day Weekend is generally abuzz with law enforcement out in full force, this year the various county sheriffs and Cedar City police plan on bringing in even more backup to beef up their presence over the holiday.
"We've called in some assistance from the state troopers and surrounding law enforcement agencies," said Kane County Chief Deputy Tracy Glover. "We're ready for this and we will have plenty of law enforcement out."
Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher also confirmed his department will be assisting Kane County during this time.
"I've been putting my guys through some additional training to prepare for this event." Pulsipher said.
With the Iron County Fair going on at the same time, the county sheriff's department is always out full force over the holiday weekend.
"There's no time off for anyone. We'll be fully staffed like we always are on Labor Day Weekend," Gower said.
Gower emphasized that while residents need to be aware of their surroundings there is no reason to panic.
The major issue for Southern Utah law enforcement with the Bandidos gathering isn't the club's activities while here, but the possibility of a rival gang storming into town to cause problems, Gower said.
Still, the sheriff encouraged residents to follow through with any plans they have for the weekend and to enjoy the activities going on in the community over the holiday.
Heppler, who confirmed the FIST unit has been collecting and sharing intelligence with various local law enforcement agencies on Bandidos activities, reiterated Gower's sentiments, adding that residents should be cautious, but at the same time confident that law enforcement does have a handle on the situation.
The Bandidos conference is a mandatory meeting and gives the club an opportunity to discuss activities, pending criminal cases, potential new members, disciplinary issues and plan the following year's annual ride. Group members refer to the gathering as "going to church."
The group's reputation for violence prompted Moab officials in 2008 to request emergency funding from the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice when the Bandidos swarmed there for their "annual conference."
The Bandidos are estimated to have 2,500 members in 13 countries, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. There are pockets of the group throughout Utah, with many of them in Tooele County. However, Heppler said the group does have members residing in St. George who call themselves the Dixie Chapter.
"The fact is, not every member in the group is bad," Heppler said. "But they are associated with the gang and they wear the one-percenter patch and align themselves with the outlaw lifestyle so we continue to monitor them."
In 2004 the area Utah chapter president of the Bandidos was arrested for investigation of attempted criminal homicide after the shooting of a former member. Until then, Utah had not experienced many problems with outlaw biker gangs but it was after this that they began moving in.
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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