By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
On a starlit Wednesday night in November of last year, about three dozen members of the Dirty Dozen Motorcycle Club are gathered at a dusty truck yard on North 27th Avenue. It is the weekly meeting of the club's Cave Creek chapter, although members from the Phoenix and Mesa chapters are also present.
Assembled is the virtual brain trust of what police routinely describe as "Arizona's most powerful and violent biker gang." Among those pressing into the smoky, one-room clubhouse are Norton, Glaze, Skitz, Hoover, Pisshead, Bumper, Deadeye, Jamaica Rick, Dale, Warlord Joey, and Sleepy.
These hard-breathing, shaggy men with myriad tattoos are thugs of nearly mythic proportions, according to police descriptions and daily-newspaper reports. Cunning and intimidation are their means, debauchery their end.
"They think about nothing but crime from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night," says Lieutenant David Gonzales of the state Department of Public Safety's organized crime division. "When you get all of these people together, it's just a time bomb."
On this night at the truck yard, the master criminals find themselves in a vexing situation. Because the state's most violent biker gang conducts its meetings by Robert's Rules of Order--albeit with less formality than the average garden club or legislature--its efforts to uphold decorum can become more comic than criminal.
Tonight, members have already covered old business (the Halloween party in Tucson was a success, although it would have been nice if attendance had been better).
They have also covered new business (there will be a swap meet at the truck yard in three weeks to raise legal defense funds, and members have been given fliers to pass out promoting the event).
Now the brethren are eager to adjourn to a topless bar, but confusion has erupted. No one can remember for sure who has the floor, or whether a motion to adjourn was made properly--if one was made at all.
"Are we fucking adjourned, or what?" one member queries. Others clamor that they have new business to bring up, if it is still appropriate.
Chapter president Glaze, seeking rescue from the parliamentary quagmire, turns to Warlord Joey for help. The club's vice president, Hoover, stands to the side, looking perplexed, as he often does.
Through sheer voice power, Warlord Joey quiets the club and wrests back control. He defers to Glaze, who decides a new motion is the safest route to propriety, and calls for one.
"I motion we end this fucking thing," a member says.
"All right," the presiding officer replies, with some relief. "Motion has been made. Let's go look at some naked chicks."
Calm returns. In a few minutes, the Harley-Davidsons are pulling out of the truck yard, making a racket that sounds like a gaggle of tap-dancing drunks. But only a handful of bikes falls in for the ride to the Boots N' Brims bar on the west side of I-17.
Other members quietly follow behind in their cars and trucks.
It is a bit humiliating, members admit when they reach the bar, but on this night, most of the motorcycle club is without motorcycles. About five weeks earlier, in a massive series of raids involving more than 400 law enforcement officers, many of the club members' bikes were seized as potential evidence in an ongoing investigation of the club.
The raids have hit the Dozen hard.
"My heart is fucking broke. I'm not shitting you," gripes Bumper, a 45-year-old lithographer. "Hey, I got a 65-fucking-thousand-a-year job. I can't believe how I'm being fucked over here."
Club members are barely settling in with their first beers to watch the dancers when someone runs into the bar and announces that the cops are outside. That is not an unusual occurrence when the Dirty Dozen gathers.
Club members spill onto the sidewalk and find themselves facing a parking lot ringed with Phoenix police cars.
A helicopter hovers overhead and a paddy wagon sits nearby.
One officer tells club members that police were merely responding to a silent alarm at a pawnshop that abuts the topless bar. As long as they're here, the police look over the short line of bikes and check a few IDs. After some brief, hot words, the police find nothing to justify any arrests and pull out.
The Dirty Dozen members know what has just happened. Police, they note, do not routinely send a half-dozen cars and a helicopter every time a silent alarm goes off at a pawnshop.
The truth, members say, is that the cops want desperately to put every Dirty Dozen member they can in jail. They will pull out all the stops--and roll whatever manpower they can summon--to do so.
The cops say that is absolutely correct.
@body:Lieutenant David Gonzales sits across a table at the First Watch restaurant, clean-cut and friendly, eating a bagel. "In our viewpoint, this is a criminal organization," he says. "This is not a social club, like they say. The Dirty Dozen club is based on violence and intimidation. Our theory is that they're involved in a multitude of crimes."