Kathy Sweeney Investigates: The Gangs of Cape County
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Outlaw motorcycle gangs are considered criminal organizations by federal, state, and local law enforcement. Members are often tied to violent crimes.
And at least one outlaw motorcycle gang is looking for new blood, right here in the Heartland.
"We're starting to see what we would consider outlaw motorcycle gangs showing up right here, downtown Jackson, downtown Cape," said Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan
"When you see them and see that little diamond patch on there (front of jacket or vest) and it says one-percenter, typically they're bad news," Jordan said. "A one-percenter basically is saying, I'm tied to a group that's above the rule of law. And for that reason, I don't like them around."
On the backs of those jackets and vests, a patch representing allegiance to a single motorcycle club, the Galloping Goose.
To learn more about the Goose, I met Missouri State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Sid Conklin, patrol expert on outlaw motorcycle gangs.
"Geographically in Southeast Missouri, we're seeing the Galloping Goose, which is an old one-percenter club expand into that area that had formerly been held by the Pharaohs back during the late 80's and into the 90's," Conklin said. "And the Goose have moved into that area and established a clubhouse."
Conklin's referring to a non-descript bar building out on Highway 177. Once marked by a motorcycle club called the Midwest Drifters, Conklin tells me the Goose painted over the sign when they took over the building, and took control of the Drifters.
"The Galloping Goose is a one-percenter, a bad guy club. The Midwest Drifters is there to support whatever the Goose wants them to do, whether it's to be a fundraiser, a money source, to run errands for them," Conklin explained.
If you haven't heard of the Galloping Goose before it's because historically, Conklin says, most of the attention has been paid to four big biker gangs across the country: the Hells Angels founded and based in California, the Bandidos founded and based in Texas, the Outlaws formed in Chicago and now based in Detroit, and the Pagans formed in Maryland and stretching down the East Coast.
"But in the last 30 years you've seen other clubs emerge and now we're probably at a big 6", Conklin said.
The Big Six adds the Mongols, also out of California, and the Sons of Silence from Colorado. Here in Missouri, two smaller, one-percenter clubs operate; the El Forastero and the Galloping Goose. Conklin calls both "Hells Angels friendly".
"When the Hells Angels show up down at the Lake of the Ozarks or at Branson, wherever they come for their USA run, the Galloping Goose and the El Forestaros always show up. They show their respect to the Hells Angels," Conklin said.
Cape Girardeau County authorities are seeing a similar relationship grow between the Goose and the Drifters. Lieutenant David James handles much of his department's intelligence work on the two clubs.
"I've seen Galloping Goose members wearing one-percenter patches in Cape County," James told me as he showed me some of the pictures he's both seen and taken himself.
"Does it surprise you at all that some of these members are making their membership very public in photographs, in websites, in whatever?" I asked James.
"No, it doesn't surprise me at all," he replied. "In this day and age of technology that's gonna happen."
And, as both James and Sheriff Jordan look through these photos, they see a lot of familiar faces.
"I personally know some of these guys in this local club, and they're OK," Sheriff Jordan said. "They're good guys. I don't think they know what they're getting themselves into."
Sheriff Jordan worries local men openly wearing the colors of the Galloping Goose may be called on to pay some form of penance to the motorcycle club.
"And some of these guys, I don't think they are going to be prepared to do that. And they may be getting themselves or their families in harm's way," said Jordan, who feels it's not a matter of if they'll commit a crime, but when.
"And a reason being, when you're connected to a one percent motorcycle gang, you're going to be called upon sometime or another," he explained. "It may not be in your home turf. You're going to be called upon to do something for that club, or you aren't going to get to wear that one-percent patch."
To get a handle on what kind of crimes they should be watching for, local law enforcement looks to the past.
"So many times, and I'm going by past history with these organizations, that's what they get involved in. The distribution and the importation of drugs into an area," said Sergeant Kevin Glaser.
Glaser heads up the SEMO Drug Task Force. He says there's a lot of methamphetamine users in southeast Missouri who can't make their drug of choice anymore, because of new restrictions at local pharmacies.
"So, the market is there and I think looking down the road a little bit, in a manner of speaking these organizations are businesses and they look to the future just like any other business does," Glaser explained.
Lieutenant Conklin agrees with Glaser's assessment that these aren't just tough guys riding bikes.
"They are very sophisticated in their makeup and the fact that they have by-laws and charters or organizations. They have officers and rules of behavior," Conklin explained.
Those rules of behavior often include violent acts, like an image I saw of two reported Goose members torching a foreign-made motorcycle using back-pack flame throwers at a recent gathering. These and other pictures are posted online for anyone to see. But, there's one thing local law enforcement has not seen from the members of these outlaw clubs.
"Have you seen any connection between the Galloping Goose, Midwest Drifters, any of these guys and your investigations involving meth or any other drugs in southeast MO?" I asked Glaser.
"Not successfully, and we do have some ongoing investigations that I can't comment on," he responded. "We just don't want to get caught short-handed and basically blind sided by all of a sudden here they are, they're established, and we're sitting back saying what happened?"
Far outside of Cape Girardeau County, a local man told me he knows the Galloping Goose can be violent.
"I tell you this, I'm probably gonna die anyway, so I'm not the least bit afraid," said 52-year-old Rick Franklin. Franklin's an admitted former meth user and petty criminal who was waging a losing battle with bone cancer when I talked to him at his Lake Wappapello home back in June.
A few weeks earlier, he says members the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang planned a trip to southeast Missouri to throw him a fundraiser. He had a banner made welcoming their arrival that was displayed at a local bar. That's when things started to happen, he says.
"I've been threatened. I've had a bullet proof vest put on my door. I don't know what kind of message that was," Franklin said.
"Who's threatening you?" I asked.
"Bikers," he responded. "Galloping Goose and I don't care who knows it, telling me exactly I need to tell my people, meaning Mongols, they better not come in this state, that they run this state."
I told Franklin's story to Lieutenant Sid Conklin, the Missouri State Highway Patrol's expert on biker gangs. Conklin tells me Franklin's account makes sense, given the Goose's friendly relationship with the Hells Angel and the Angels long-standing feud with the Mongols.
"And to invite another big club into this state, a welcome, I can see that would be a territorial issue," Conklin explained. "And, I'll use kind of an analogy of it's kind of like a male dog mentality that this is my area and I don't want anyone coming in and marking my trees. And that's kind of the mindset that we see within these clubs, once an established area has been formed."
Back in Cape Girardeau County, Lieutenant David James continues his intelligence work on the Goose and Drifters.
"People that proclaim to be potential outlaws, we want to know who they are," said James.
With James' help, I texted the new president of the Galloping Goose to request an interview and got this message in return, "OUR CLUB AS A WHOLE DOESN'T DO INTERVIEWS".
Lieutenant.James did share a conversation he had with the same man about the club's intentions in Cape County.
"I have talked to a local member of the club and he told me it's a brotherhood thing," James said. "They just like to ride bikes and go on rides and have a good time. He told me they won't be breaking any laws and we told them we would expect them not to be breaking any laws."
"We're not going to harass them," Sheriff John Jordan said. "We're not going to violate their constitutional rights by illegal stops or anything like that. But make no mistake, they come through here, they're on my turf. And they need to be obeying the law when they come through because we're going to find out who they are if they break the law."
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