Two motorcycle gang experts testified Thursday that the Bandidos, the nation’s largest motorcycle group, constitute a criminal street gang.
Second-day testimony in the trial of Bandidos Dallas chapter President Jacob Carrizal bogged down significantly Thursday with objections over items included in a PowerPoint presentation to accompany the testimony of Douglas Pearson, a state motorcycle gang expert.
Carrizal, who is on trial in Waco’s 54th State District Court, is the first to stand trial of 154 bikers indicted in the May 17, 2015, shootout at Twin Peaks in Waco that left nine dead and more than 20 wounded.
Carrizal’s attorney, Casie Gotro, objected to the slide presentation prosecutors wanted to use with Pearson’s testimony. Judge Matt Johnson sustained many of her objections that certain photos or charts were irrelevant to Carrizal’s case or were too prejudicial.
While the jury waited about an hour in the jury room, Johnson ordered prosecutors to revise the presentation by omitting a number of slides.
The delay kept Pearson from completing his testimony, and he will return to the stand when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Friday.
Pearson, a police officer in Aurora, Colorado, who is assigned to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives motorcycle gang task force, told jurors a brief history of the Bandidos, which he said were formed in Texas in 1966 by former Marine Don Chambers.
Pearson said the Bandidos have 5,000 members worldwide, with 210 chapters in 22 countries. While Texas is the main stronghold for the group, he said there are 113 Bandidos chapters in the U.S., with 1,100 members.
He said 72 percent of Bandidos have criminal convictions, including 35 percent with felony convictions.
Pearson described the significance of patches worn by the Bandidos, including colors associated with the “Fat Mexican” center patch worn on members’ vests.
The Bandidos wear “rockers,” curved patches at the bottom of their vests, to indicate that Texas is their territory, Pearson said. The violent melee at Twin Peaks was fueled when the Cossacks motorcycle group starting wearing the Texas rockers without permission from the Bandidos, Pearson said.
Pearson, who said he has debriefed Bandidos and a former Bandido and interviewed about 100 Bandidos in his 26-year law enforcement career, explained the hierarchy of the group, calling it a rigid chain of command with an identifiable leadership structure.
Carrizal was vice president of the Dallas chapter during the Twin Peaks incident but has since been elected president. Prosecutors must prove that he directed the actions of the Bandidos membership in a conspiracy to commit murder or aggravated assault and did so while a member of a criminal street gang.
Gotro is arguing that, while the Bandidos of old might have been an outlaw gang, the group headed by Carrizal changed and should not be considered a criminal street gang.
Pearson said Bandidos bylaws are consistent from state to state and it is not permitted for individual chapters to stray outside those approved rules.
Those who want to join undergo background checks, and recruits file documents pledging their motorcycles to the group. If they are not accepted by the Bandidos or get kicked out, the Bandidos retain ownership of their motorcycles, he said.
In state testimony earlier Thursday, Darin Kozlowski, an ATF agent who infiltrated three major motorcycle groups during a 30-year career, also gave jurors a primer on the operations of what he called “outlaw motorcycle gangs.”
Kozlowski infiltrated the Vagos, Warlocks and Mongols gangs as an undercover agent and said he has received awards and commendations for his work with motorcycle gangs.
He said motorcycle groups started after World War II when soldiers returning from war found commonality in biker clubs.
The “1 percenter” designation was born after a violent confrontation in Hollister, California, in 1947, Kozlowski said. After the riot, the American Motorcyclist Association released a statement saying 99 percent of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying the last 1 percent were outlaw bikers.
Not long after that, outlaw groups proclaimed they were the other 1 percent and started wearing diamond-shaped 1 percenter patches, he said.
Both Koslowski and Pearson agreed the Bandidos are a “1 percenter” gang and fit the criteria of a criminal street gang.
Kozlowski said motorcycle gangs use the media to try to create a false image by sponsoring toy runs at Christmas and other charitable events. But while those events accomplish positive results, they are “facades” that belie the gang’s true criminal proclivities, he said.
Kozlowski said motorcycle gangs are involved in a wide variety of crimes but draw the line on sex crimes against children. Members will not tolerate those types of crime, he said.
Kozlowski said there are a lot of biker groups that are not 1 percenters, including police, veterans and lawyer groups and civic and religious clubs.
Under cross-examination from Gotro, Kozlowski said he has not infiltrated the Bandidos but worked surveillance on the group in California in 2002. Gotro asked if any biker who wears colors is a member of a criminal street gang. Kozlowski said no, not necessarily, but said that any biker with a diamond 1 percenter patch is “more likely than not.”
Gotro asked him about the Bandidos “Expect No Mercy” patch. He said he heard it means the wearer has committed an act of violence for the gang.
Gotro asked if the patch couldn’t mean that the group expects no mercy from a society that judges bikers by their appearance and assumes they are criminals. Kozlowski said bikers who know their vests will be viewed by police often come up with alternative meanings for the patches.
Viewing a slide listing motorcycle gang protocols and behaviors, Kozlowski agreed with Gotro that many of the characteristics also could be applied to other groups, including law enforcement agencies.
Kozlowski said he has seen gangs call police to let them know they are riding into town. Gotro asked if gangs commit crimes as he has testified, “it seems nonsensical to call law enforcement and let them know you are coming into town to commit a crime, doesn’t it?”