It wasn’t even 10 p.m. when the Texas biker bar had to shutter.
Gators Jam Inn was hosting members of the Winos, Cossacks, and the Ghost Riders—all simpatico motorcycle clubs, at least on this night—tippling inside the bar. Then the door slammed open and in came a wrecking crew of armed maniacs. As many as a dozen rivals from the now-infamous Bandidos motorcycle club “busted into the bar and started to fight and shoot at everyone,” Fort Worth cops reported.
By the time the ambush was over, a 41-year-old Ghost Rider named Geoffrey Brady had been shot and killed. And the war between rival Texas biker gangs had risen to a deadly new level.
One law enforcement source who has been tracking the biker feud in Texas told The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity: “The Gator [bar] incident was one of many and it all has to do with colors [the gangs’ emblems]. They want to make sure the Bandidos go down.”
The biker battle between the Bandidos and Cossacks became an object of international interest on Sunday, with a bloodbath that sent nine men to an early grave and racked up a rogues’ gallery of 172 mostly silver-bearded brutes posing for mugshots. But Waco may have been part of an ongoing beef between rival factions, The Daily Beast has learned.
Take the night of Dec. 12, 2014. The scene wasn’t Waco but Fort Worth, Texas, home of Gators Jam Inn.
And the adversaries knew each other well.
The gun-toting Bandidos were quickly identified by their rivals, police reports say. They were “Drifter” and “Dobber” and a “big white male with dreadlocks” named “Zombie” allegedly jumping anybody who wasn’t a Bandido.
One woman in the bar saw Dobber “point a silver handgun at [the victim Geoffrey Brady’s] head.” But she didn’t see him squeeze off any rounds.
She told police she was rattled after hearing the crackle of gunshots. As she neared the front of the bar, she saw Brady’s lifeless body.
Responding cops cased the scene and managed to sort out the main murder suspects.
Howard Wayne Baker (aka Dobber), 59, and Robert Stover (aka Drifter), 47, were both positively identified quickly, according to their arrest warrants. And soon enough the cops managed to figure out who Zombie was.
The massive, dreadlocked 33-year-old goon waving a gun around was named Nicholas Povendo. And he was no ordinary biker.
Before storming into watering holes and menacing motorcycle club rivals, Povendo was once a promising college athlete who earned notable marks while lettering as an offensive lineman for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.
It turns out that his Bandido buddy Dobber may have given up his bro when he was quizzed by cops. “Howard Baker admitted that he and ‘Zombie’ were both in the Bandido motorcycle gang,” the arrest warrants say. Dobber also gave investigators his pal’s cellphone number.
All three accused murderers are out on bail as they await trial. It may not begin until next year, officials say.
Attempts to reach lawyers for the three men were unsuccessful.
Povendo’s father refused to comment. And when The Daily Beast reached Zombie at his lawnmower business, he referred a request for comment to his lawyer.
It’s unclear whether the deadly brawl in Fort Worth directly led to Sunday’s bloody battle outside the Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, Texas—or whether the two incidents were just loosely connected in a longer gang war.
Waco was supposed to be a scheduled motorcycle coalition meeting, gathering members from the state’s skidmark set. It went south fast.
Various motorcycle clubs arrived on their bikes at the Twin Peaks bar, perhaps letting the fight simmer while the restaurant’s buxom waitresses served as eye candy.
But any sort of temporary ceasefire or détente ended in a fusillade of bullets, staining the parking lot red.
Blood was everywhere and cops, already on the scene and watching inside their marked patrol cars, managed to fell four trigger-happy motorcycle bandits.
After 172 roughneck bikers were processed and slapped with bonds of $1 million, save for the three bikers who stole away after they had been bailed out erroneously for $50,000 and were later nabbed. The names of the jailed men, all Cossacks and Bandidos motorcycle club members, were made public.
None of the relatives The Daily Beast reached on the phone Tuesday was willing to say anything.
According to Waco Police Sergeant W. Patrick Swanton, a number of injured bikers are still being treated at hospitals. When asked if they might face arrest, he acknowledged before reporters that was a good possibility.
Meantime, the Waco brawl that ended in a hail of bullets is believed to have been not directly over a parking space or a bathroom stall spat, as had been reported early on. The new theory is that an accident may have kickstarted the melee.
“Somebody had their foot run over and started the disturbance in the parking lot,” Sergeant Swanton said.
There was also an interloper at the coalition meeting. “We know an additional biker gang that was not invited to this meeting showed up,” he said. “Hence, what we were calling somewhat of a turf war, if you will.”
And while most of the motorcycle club members are keeping their mouths shut, it’s been open season on the Bandidos for a long time, law enforcement sources tell The Daily Beast. The altercation in Waco is unlikely to quell the bloodlust.
What makes the beef between Texas’s rival biker gangs so explosive is that nobody is willing to give up any ground. That’s if they will even talk.
“Talk to the Bandidos: The Ghost Riders started it,” the law enforcement source said. “Talk to the Ghost Riders: The Bandidos started it. And nobody’s talking about it. I mean nobody,” the source said.
As juvenile as it sounds, the controversy can sometimes come back to the gangs’ emblems—their so-called colors.
The Ghost Riders claim the right to two colors that are distinctly theirs. “The Ghost Riders don’t want anybody to wear red and gold,” the source said. “But those are also the same colors of the Bandidos.”
The Cossacks had caught some flak for adopting a Texas-themed bottom rocker to the back of their biker vest.
But a Bandidos member from the Fort Worth, Texas, chapter dismissed the idea that anybody is warring over colors. “Everybody’s been wearing Texas rockers for years,” the biker, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Beast.
Still, it’s a rare thing to affront the almighty Bandidos.
That’s what Anthony Benesh III allegedly tried to do before he was assassinated on March 18, 2006.
The 44-year-old was felled by a single sniper’s bullet as he stepped out of Saccone’s Pizza in an upscale swath of Austin, Texas, with his family in tow.
Benesh for months had been attempting perhaps the unthinkable: starting a Hells Angels chapter in the Lone Star State. Nobody dared try. And Benesh had already been told there would be repercussions.
“It was a very open assassination,” a former Austin-based detective told The Daily Beast. “This happened in a public parking lot and it wasn’t in the middle of the night.”
While nobody was ever brought to justice for the hit, the former lawman has no doubts the Bandidos were behind the hit. “They were the No. 1 suspects that I tried eliminating and couldn’t eliminate,” he said.
While the Bandidos appear to be the obvious culprits, according to the former detective, the method wasn’t their style. “You might get a good thumping, but they wouldn’t snuff you, and they certainly wouldn’t snuff you in front of the world or your kids,” a source told The Austin Chronicle.
But the former detective has never doubted that the Bandidos did Benesh in. “What stands out to me is that in seemingly trying to appear they’re a powerful force to be reckoned with…they have this macho style but when they do something like this it shows how cowardly they are,” he said.