For more than two months, an FBI-led team of investigators conducted surveillance and gathered intel on members of the Bandido outlaw motorcycle gang who were bent on revenge after losing two of their members in a Memorial Day shootout in Red River.
On Thursday morning, FBI and New Mexico State Police SWAT teams launched early morning raids in towns across New Mexico, searching the homes of the 25 Bandido members identified as having made “imminent threats” to kill or hurt rivals involved in the fatal shootings in May.
Evidence seized included more than 150 firearms, and three men were arrested on state charges as the investigation into possible racketeering and other crimes continues.
New Mexico’s top law enforcement officials who announced the takedown at a press conference later in the day had a message for the estimated 75 or so Bandido members in New Mexico whose properties weren’t searched.
“The motorcycle is a symbol of freedom, of individualism, and the open road,” said U.S. Attorney for New Mexico Alexander Uballez. “But today, a selfish few are trying to tell us who gets to enjoy our roads, what clothes they are required to wear, and with whom they can ride. The people of New Mexico have no more patience for violent bullies. Working together, the law enforcement agencies of New Mexico return the open road to the public who owns it.”
Raul Bujanda, FBI Special Agent in Charge for New Mexico, said the continuing investigation will include tracing the firearms seized to determine whether they have been involved in any unsolved homicides in the state.
Looking out at an audience of state, federal, county sheriff and city law enforcement officers who helped conduct the searches, Bujanda on Thursday said the violence that erupted at the annual motorcycle rally in Red River was “kind of a wake up call for everyone here.”
The events, which drew tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts, turned violent May 27 when members of the Bandidos surrounded members of the much smaller New Mexico based motorcycle club, the Water Dogs. Gunfire broke out, and three people were fatally shot, one member of the Water Dogs, and two Bandidos. A total of eight people were shot, all members of the biker clubs.
Prosecutors in Taos County dismissed murder charges — at least temporarily — against the lone man, a Water Dog member, who had been arrested after the shootings. The Water Dog member reportedly claimed self-defense.
The violence at the rally was linked in part to photos taken at a wedding that showed the president of the Water Dogs standing with at least one member of the Mongols Motorcycle Club. The Mongols have been trying to increase the club’s presence in New Mexico. Historically, the Bandidos have considered the state their territory/
According to a 145-page search warrant affidavit, some of confidential informants have reported that Bandidos leadership is “concerned the (Bandidos) look weak for having failed to avenge the shooting deaths of two (Bandidos) members during the…weekend rally in Red River, N.M.”
“Based on my investigation, I believe members of the BMC (Bandido Motorcycle Club) are preparing to attack members of the MMC (Mongols) and Water Dogs MC,” wrote FBI Special Agent Bryan Acee in the affidavit. He stated that the 25 Bandidos targeted in Thursday’s searches “have been the most aggressive proponents of violent conflict.”
“Coupled with the fact those same Target Subjects are believed to be actively conducting reconnaissance on their rivals; acquiring and trafficking in firearms, encouraging others to join them in assaulting and killing rivals; and in possession of firearms, ammunition, and ballistic vests; I believe the requested search warrants will mitigate the current threat and result in the seizure of valuable evidence,” wrote Acee.
Acee’s affidavit described that to prepare for an attack some Bandido members have been following Mongols members from their homes or work to ascertain their habits and where they live. They have been practicing shooting
The searches occurred in Albuquerque, Alamogordo, Farmington, Hobbs, Gallup, Capitan, Ruidoso, Rio Rancho, Los Lunas and several smaller communities.
Bujanda said the law enforcement intervention on Thursday won’t likely extinguish the bad blood between the Bandidos and their rivals.
“It’s a turf war and they think this is their turf. Obviously it’s not.”