Former firefighter Bill Dudley’s bid to win reinstatement to the Waco Fire Department after what he claims was unjust termination four years ago raises issues all too familiar to a community by now weary of legal wrangling over the Bandidos Outlaw Motorcycle Club, including whether it’s an innocent motorcycle club or a criminal street gang. The latter is how the Texas Department of Public Safety sees it. By Dudley’s account, he was a member of a mere support group for the Bandidos and only contemplated starting a regional Bandidos chapter.
He acknowledges being considered a Bandidos recruit for several months, though he reportedly left the rolls after being injured in a 2014 shootout involving Bandidos in a Fort Worth bar. A rival biker was killed in the incident.
Plus there’s Dudley’s arrest during a traffic stop in Tarrant County where he was charged on a weapons violation. That’s when police ran a check on him and found the Texas DPS had flagged him as a Bandidos member. This was five days before the infamous Twin Peaks shootout between members of the Bandidos and rival Cossacks motorcycle group in Waco that left nine dead. Some 200 bikers were jailed on identical charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. Now Dudley claims that the Twin Peaks incident was unjustly considered by superiors against him.
Proper or not, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Twin Peaks incident colored city officials’ view of Dudley’s judgment, particularly given the strident attacks that biker supporters leveled at Waco police in the wake of Twin Peaks and Dudley’s flirtations with the Bandidos notwithstanding the DPS certification of the Bandidos as a criminal gang. Many of our fellow residents remain angered that rival motorcycle groups including the Bandidos allowed deadly violence to erupt in a local shopping center restaurant parking lot, clearly endangering others.
And context matters. On the third anniversary of the Waco melee, a jury in San Antonio convicted national Bandidos leadership of organized-crime charges involving murder, assault, extortion and drug trafficking. “What this verdict shows more than anything is that the Department of Justice is fully capable of stripping away a veneer of legitimate activity to expose and punish underlying criminal conduct,” U.S. Attorney John Bash said at the time. “Others should take note.”
Little of this may be strictly relevant in Dudley’s appeal, given Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Vranich was unable to verify if Dudley ever became an active Bandidos member. And Dudley’s record as a firefighter rates all due consideration, though former Fire Chief John Johnston says he found cause to fire Dudley for violating city policy, department policy and civil service regulations. This much we know: Waco residents will require a full accounting from the third-party arbitrator if Dudley is reinstated, given Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to place an anti-gang center in Waco to battle dubious outfits including the Bandidos — part of his message to “criminals and gang members that any attempts to compromise the safety of our communities will not be tolerated.”