The Undercover Lawman Who Went Hog Wild
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
LOS ANGELES -- It is fair to say that outlaw biker Donald "Red Dog" Jarvis is freaking the squares at his neighborhood Denny's, the moms and pops with their kids sitting at the nearby tables, suddenly just staring at their waffles and trying very hard to avoid eye contact with Jarvis as he explains why it would have been wrong to whack Billy Queen.
"We're not stupid people. We have rules, you know, we have . . ." -- Jarvis searches for the word -- "we have policies."
About killing? "Especially," Jarvis says.
Jarvis is built like a gladiator, straight out of C-Block, his arms crawling with tattoos, his eyebrow and lip pierced. He just doesn't seem like the kind of person you ask to lower his voice, especially when the former sergeant-at-arms of the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the Mongols, the notorious motorcycle gang, is talking about Queen, a subject that still seems to agitate him. "I was suspecting him of being a cop from the very beginning," Jarvis says. "I just knew it."
And as it turns out, Red Dog was right. William Queen was an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). For two years, he burrowed in, almost as deep as you could go, becoming, as Queen puts it, "as bad as the baddest of the bad."
The lawman grew a castaway's beard, neglected his personal hygiene, rode stolen Harleys, got bombed in biker bars and brawled with Mongols named Lucifer and Bucket Head by his side. He not only hung with the Mongols, he also formally joined the club, first as a "prospect" (akin to a pledge in a fraternity from Hell) and then as a "full-patched" member, eventually rising through the ranks to be named his chapter's vice president.
The undercover operation, billed by ATF as its most successful penetration of a motorcycle gang, resulted in dozens of successful prosecutions of Mongol members -- for dealing drugs, stealing motorcycles and carrying firearms -- including Jarvis. He pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a gun and spent 30 months at a federal correctional institution, "the last 90 days," he offers, "in the hole," also known as administrative isolation. (No big deal, Jarvis says. "They'd pegged me as a shot-caller.")
It would not be unusual for an outlaw biker such as Red Dog (even one who now says he is reformed, has kicked his heroin habit, dates an accountant, listens to Air America talk radio and makes a middle-class living driving his own 18-wheeler) to dislike the cop who nailed him, especially an undercover agent and one whom many Mongols considered a blood brother -- until the day they were taken down, on May 19, 2000, in scores of raids in four states by more than 675 sheriff's deputies and ATF agents.
But this is L.A., babe, and so naturally this story just gets weirder.
While his former Mongol associates were still in prison, Queen retired from the ATF and published a book about his adventures called "Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang." It reached bestseller lists this summer.
The book describes the Mongols as the worst of the worst -- beer-breathed, meth-snorting, misogynist marauders who lived by a code of fierce loyalty to their brothers -- and to hell with the rest. Their motto: "Respect few, fear none." In the book, Queen's chief antagonist is none other than Red Dog.
Guess what? The Mongols dug the book, or at least parts of it. "I hear they were overjoyed," Queen says. "The more violent and hard and mean you call them, the happier they are." The subjects themselves are a bit less effusive. "The book was okay," concedes Richard "Rancid" Clayton, a talented tattoo artist and a Mongol who went down on gun charges. "But a lot of it was embellished or switched around or wrong." (Like him never showering, Rancid says: "We all took showers. They called me Rancid because I had a dirty mouth. He didn't know that.")