The Web site maintains the group’s veil of secrecy, saying, “Do not write us asking how to join! Find an Outlaw and ask him!” Motorcycle Club bills itself as “75 years of biking and brotherhood,” but some members of law enforcement say such clubs can be criminal organizations.
Fifteen members of the Outlaws club in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn., face the possibility of life in federal prison after being arrested on charges of conspiring to sell cocaine, crack cocaine and illegally possessing firearms. Most were arrested at the club’s houses in Chattanooga on Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
“Suffice it to say the Outlaws are a subculture that does not conform to mainstream culture. That’s a nice way to say they are a criminal organization,” said Special Agent Darryl Hill with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Agent Hill said the Outlaws rank among the top motorcycle gangs in the United States along with the Hell’s Angels, Pagans and Banditos.Based on the club’s own Web site and U.S. Department of Justice data, the Outlaws range across the East Coast and South with an estimated 500 or more members among more than 90 clubs.It was not clear whether attorneys had been hired or assigned to the members arrested Thursday. Attempts to reach members of the club were unsuccessful, and there are no numbers or e-mail addresses on the Outlaws’ Web site.
Mike Hall, director of the Tennessee 10th Judicial Drug Task Force, encounters a variety of criminal organizations in the Bradley, Polk and McMinn counties covered by his group. Along with other local law enforcement, including Chattanooga police and sheriff’s offices in Hamilton and Bradley counties, the task force assisted in the recent arrests of Outlaw members.“Motorcycle gangs are like any type of gang. It’s organized crime,” Mr. Hall said.Russ Dedrick, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said overall criminal activity among motorcycle gangs is down in the district.“The Outlaws is just one organization,” he said, and many motorcycle clubs operate within the law.But motorcycle gangs involved in crime are not to be compared with small-time street-level drug dealers, authorities said. With their wide distribution and hierarchy, they operate “on a national level.”The secretive nature of these types of groups — which often have probationary periods and strict rules for membership — make it more difficult for police to infiltrate, he said.
“It’s a strong-knit community; they consider each other family,” Mr. Hall said. “They would die for each other, and they would kill for each other.”Sixteen Outlaws club members in the Detroit area were indicted in federal court last August on charges including violent crime in the aid of racketeering, illegal drug distribution and gun violations, according to the Justice Department.Following those indictments, the Justice Department announced that “the Outlaws Motorcycle Club has been identified as an international criminal organization whose members and associates engage in acts of violence including murder, attempted murder, assault, narcotics distribution and firearms and gambling offenses.”“The Outlaws have a long-standing violent history with the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, including assaults/batteries, shootings and fatalities,” according to the Justice Department.
That long-standing history of violence with the Hells Angels hit locally when, in August 2007, James Wayne Brock Jr. was hospitalized and later lost his hand in a car bomb blast in Whitfield County, Ga., according Chattanooga to Times Free Press archives.Authorities believe the bomb was retaliation for a shooting in which Mr. Brock’s father, James Wayne Brock Sr., shot a member of the Outlaws at a strip club in Forest Park, Ga., the archives state. Both the senior and junior Brock were members of the Renegades, a motorcycle club that aligns with and supports the Outlaws.Following that shooting, more local agencies began assisting federal agents with investigations on the Outlaws, said Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble.
The evening prior to the raid at the Cleveland clubhouse, two undercover police were threatened by Outlaws member Danny Decker, and the officers had to draw their weapons, Sheriff Gobble said. Mr. Decker was arrested on state charges related to the threats, the sheriff said.
Sheriff’s deputies raided an Outlaws club in Knox County on New Year’s Eve 2009, arresting two members for allegedly threatening an undercover officer and charging them with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping.