Albuquerque could be ground zero for a violent clash between outlaw motorcycle gangs, according to an FBI intelligence report obtained by the Journal.
Such a conflict, the report says, would be spillover from a couple of incidents, including the Sunday shootout at a North Valley motorcycle club in Albuquerque that left a sergeant-at-arms of the Vagos motorcycle gang dead.
The other incident involved a violent exchange between a Bandidos gang member and two Vagos members in April that included gunfire but no injuries.
“Current intelligence reporting from multiple sources indicates that the (Bandidos Motorcycle Club) national leadership has directed out of state (Bandidos) to proceed to Albuquerque … within the next 24 hours … in response to the August 4, 2013 confrontation,” says an FBI “situational information report” dated Tuesday. “Additionally, (Vagos Motorcycle Club) members from neighboring states may already be in Albuquerque awaiting orders from their national leadership.”
According to the FBI report, recently gathered law enforcement intelligence points to “an escalation in violence and pending confrontation” between the Bandidos and the Vagos.
However, the report also includes a caution that the intelligence is raw and hasn’t been fully analyzed or evaluated against other information.
The U.S. Department of Justice designates both clubs as outlaw motorcycle gangs and warns they “constitute a growing criminal threat to U.S. law enforcement.” The Bandidos club has between 2,000 and 2,500 members, according to the DOJ, and the Vagos have around 300 members in the U.S. and Mexico.
The clubs are involved in moving drugs and other crimes, including extortion, insurance fraud, money laundering and murder, according to the Justice Department.
The FBI report urges police who encounter “outlaw motorcycle club” members to use extreme caution.
“Members of the biker gangs wear bullet proof vests, carry guns in tactical holsters and “have demonstrated … proficiency in a live fire situation,” the report said.
A man who answered the telephone at a 24-hour FBI switchboard whose number was listed in the report transferred a reporter to the bureau’s local spokesman, who had no comment.
The report lists a handful of recipients of the report including: the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and the Homeland Security Information Network.
BCSO Sgt. Aaron Williamson confirmed his agency received the report.
“Obviously we know there are some issues going on with the outlaw motorcycle gangs because of Sunday’s shootout,” Williamson said. “Our gang guys and our field guys will talk about it in briefings and exercise some heightened awareness, but it won’t change the way we do business. A lot of times when you have multiple sources saying: ‘It’s going to happen,’ well, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.”
He said the threat described in the report is specific to the Bandidos and Vagos gangs and that Albuquerque residents don’t necessarily need to be afraid of violence in the streets.
“As far as citizens doing anything different,” Williamson said, “I don’t think there’s any extra danger for them.”
There is no indication the Sunday shootout involved the Bandidos.
Seventy-two shots were fired outside Eppie’s Motorcycle Services, 2701 Fourth Street NW, during a fundraiser that was sponsored by the Black Berets Motorcycle Club, according to the FBI report and APD.
Japheth Seaman, the sergeant-at-arms for the Vagos gang, was shot in the head and later died of his injuries, according to the bureau and APD. On Monday, APD said it wasn’t clear who fired the shot that killed Seaman because there were several people shooting. No arrests have been made.
An APD spokeswoman said Japheth Seaman’s brother, Malachi Seaman, 37, pulled out a collapsible baton and hit one of the fundraiser attendees in the face. Japheth Seaman and the third man, who hasn’t been identified, pulled out handguns and began firing at the crowd. Several people in the crowd began firing back.
Malachi Seaman was arrested and booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He posted property against $25,000 bail and was released Monday, according to jail records.
According to the FBI report, the chaos outside Eppie’s resulted from Vagos members attacking members of the Black Berets.
The FBI report also mentions an incident on April 20 as a possible beginning for the most recent spate of biker gang tensions in Albuquerque.
On that day, a Bandidos member, who was driving a pickup truck, encountered two Vagos members on motorcycles, the FBI report says. The Bandido rammed one of the rival gang members and drove over his motorcycle.
In response, the other Vagos member opened fire on the Bandido, according to the report.
“Although no injuries or fatalities occurred in this instance, the incident was purportedly elevated to the national leadership” of both gangs, the report says. “Subsequent intelligence reporting indicated that the national leadership of the (Vagos) had declared war against the (Bandidos) in response to the April … incident. According to this body of reporting, (Vagos) chapters were assembling a wrecking crew to strike in several western states to include New Mexico.”
Journal staff writer Patrick Lohmann and Digital Editor Robert Browman contributed research for this story.