Bandidos bring bikes and raise eyebrows in Grain Valley

08/28/2014 12:06 PM

08/29/2014 9:44 AM

A woman eating in a Grain Valley cafe said she didn’t understand all the fuss about a bunch called the Bandidos coming to town this weekend.

She’d never heard of them. So she asked her daughter who they were.

“Mom,” the daughter told her. “Just stay home.”

On Thursday, the Bandidos exited Interstate 70 and roared down Grain Valley’s main drag. Law enforcement certainly knew who they were. Each group of motorcycles tended to have a police SUV or patrol car following along through the old downtown, past the antique shops, Old Paths Baptist Church and the Grain Valley Historical Society.

The Bandidos Motorcycle Club, which is holding a holiday weekend rally in the eastern Jackson County city, is what authorities refer to as an OMG — outlaw motorcycle gang. The group even says of itself: “We’re the ones your parents warned you about.”

An estimated 2,000 of so members and affiliates are expected to congregate in Grain Valley at Thunder Valley Sand Drags, a racing facility adjacent to Valley Speedway, an oval dirt track. The road leading to the gathering buzzed with police vehicles Thursday.

The Bandidos are not big on media relations, but Jeremiah Britt, who identified himself as president of a local chapter, told The Star on Thursday at the site that police and locals were overreacting.

“We’re getting together to visit, tell stories and catch up,” Britt said. “It’s like a family reunion.”

He then said of police, “They have a job to do. I just think their perception is off.”

The FBI’s perception is that some members of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club are involved in drug trafficking, guns and violent crime. From the bureau’s website: “In the 1980s, organized criminal enterprises like the Bandidos motorcycle gang became targets of FBI operations. The Little Rock Division was a central participant in a nationwide investigation that led to the arrest of more than 80 gang members in 1985.”

An Internet search quickly turns up many recent arrests of members all over the country.

Britt shrugged at that.

“You can make any group look bad with a few stories about a few members,” he said. “Look at the NFL.”

But the Bandidos’ own website calls them a “1 percent club” — a reference to the adage that 99 percent of motorcycle riders are good, law-abiding citizens.

Authorities in Grain Valley are not taking chances. Sgt. Collin Stosberg of the Missouri Highway Patrol said Grain Valley police would be assisted this weekend by troopers, Jackson County sheriff’s deputies and Blue Springs police.

Also, the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision put out a plea to probation and parole officers across the country, asking them to restrict travel to the Kansas City area this weekend.

“The Bandidos OMG motorcycle gang has scheduled a rally and are expecting members to arrive from at least 18 different states,” the memo said.

Link Mills, who helps his wife run JJ’s Bar & Grill in Grain Valley, said some businesses, bars mainly, planned on closing this weekend.

“They’re scared,” he said. “People here are scared of this bunch. A lot of people don’t want them here.”

JJ’s will be open.

“We got bills to pay,” Mills said. “We’ll take their (Bandidos) business, you betcha.”

Britt pushed the rally’s economic impact.

“Say 2,000 people spend a hundred dollars,” he said. “That’s $200,000 to the businesses around here. They can use that, don’t you think?”

He added that any leftover food and aluminum cans would be donated to charities.

Mayor Mike Todd of Grain Valley said he is hearing from both sides.

“I have people who are upset it’s happening,” Todd said. “I try to explain it’s on private property. It’s a private event. They can do it without us doing anything. On the other side, I’m hearing from people who are happy they’re coming and who think we’re overreacting by bringing in extra law enforcement.”

Todd wanted to dispel a rumor that the owner of the speedway, Dennis Shrout, invited the Bandidos because of a long-running feud with the city. Todd said he has known since late June that the Bandidos were coming, weeks before the city revoked Shrout’s permit to operate the speedway.

For years, Shrout fought complaints that his track generated too much noise. In July, about 100 people jammed City Hall in support of the track only hours before the city’s Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to revoke the permit, effective Oct. 1.

This month, Shrout filed suit against the aldermen.

Jeffrey M. Sieg of Independence actually owns the Sand Drags adjacent to the speedway. On Thursday, he told The Star that Shrout suggested to him the idea for the Bandidos rally.

Sieg said he didn’t know much about the Bandidos.

“Really, the only thing I’ve heard is that towns are horrified when they arrive and then want them to come back after they leave.”

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to dbradley@kcstar.com.

To reach Eric Adler, call 816-234-4431 or send email to eadler@kcstar.com.

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