What really motivates biker gangs

Story highlights

  • Nine bikers were killed after gunfire erupted outside a restaurant in Waco on Sunday
  • Charles Falco: Killing is a passion for many gang members

Charles Falco is a biker gang expert who has infiltrated gangs for U.S. law enforcement agencies. The writer's real name is not used for his safety. The views expressed are his own.

(CNN)Even after spending five years as a private government informant infiltrating three of America's deadliest biker gangs -- the Vagos, Mongols and Outlaws -- I remained perplexed by members' single-minded motivation for warring with rival gangs to acquire turf. What was it that made them want to extend their reach to a new town, city or state? Or try to expand nationally and globally, form new chapters and ultimately just try to protect the almighty "Patch"?

But then one Outlaw offered a simple explanation: "We are men of war," he said. "This is what we like, so this is what we do."
Suddenly, the biker gangs' rationale for methodically plotting war with rivals over and over made sense. Killing was more than a basic instinct -- it was a passion, a blood sport. The allure of biker gangs was not the so-called "freedom" the lifestyle promised, not the illusion of disorder and reckless abandon it glamorized, but the outlet for bloodshed it offered. Indeed, the reality is that many prospective members for these gangs would join because they were actually attracted to the idea of carrying out the act of murder. And perhaps this is the most chilling fact of all -- that these groups essentially exist to recruit, train and create opportunities for war.
    The Waco shooting over the weekend, in which nine bikers were killed, reflects the gangs' passion for killing. It mattered nothing that the fighting occurred in broad daylight, inside a family-run restaurant with law enforcement parked and armed outside and ready to open fire. Indeed, reports suggest that the gangs turned on each other with little if any obvious provocation, like wild dogs almost enjoying the bullet spray, the casualties and the damage to property and psyche. It didn't seem to matter to them who they killed, only that they left plenty dead.
    The bikers met habitually like most organized motorcycle gangs do -- in a restaurant, in public -- to discuss battle plans, share intelligence on rival members, regroup, report and plan surveillance. Yet my experience of these gangs is that their sole reason for belonging, prospecting and earning their coveted "Patch" was so that they could take a life with purpose.
    Still, despite having seen this kind of violence up close for years after working under cover with these gangs, the news reports of the Waco slaughter left me struggling to make sense of the violence. And I also worried -- and still do -- that the battle was not over, and never would be. Because rivals will retaliate. And they don't need a complicated reason. They don't need justification. And they won't be interested in "perfect timing." They only need things to be "right" with whatever perverse moral code they have fabricated.
    I keep getting asked for my point of view, what I think of the bloodshed in Waco. But although the scene is reminiscent of other bold acts of violence between rival biker gangs, it also somehow seems different, exposed and present.
    It's also a danger that cannot be ignored. Waco is not unique, and so we should all be a little worried. Experts have debated the reason why such bloodshed occurred, and why Texas and acquiring new territory was so vitally important to these gangs. Was it just so that these rivals could advance their criminal enterprise, expand their drug trade and form new chapters? Or was Waco, after all, simply a bloody brawl over a parking space?
    Unfortunately, despite all the talk, logic dictates only one answer to these questions: the gangs are men of war, and killing is what they do.