Men are saved by motorcycle clubs as they are saved by religion. Many men who have ridden with clubs will understand the comparison.
For some men a patch is the first thing they have ever won in their lives and the experience of putting that symbol on their backs is transformative. Those who were weak become strong. Those who were lost belong. The meek become bold, the reckless responsible. The older the prospect the greater the accomplishment.
Former ATF Undercover Agent William Queen danced when he won his Mongols patch. He was only pretending to be a Mongol but his joy at patching was genuine. The dramatic conclusion of the often told tale of Undercover Agent Jay Dobyns is always the moment a Hells Angel invites Dobyns to wear his patch until Dobyns can get a patch of his own.
Napoleon cynically noticed that men will kill and die for “a bit of colored ribbon” so it should not surprise anybody, 200 years later, that men will do the same things for a name brand patch. That is exactly what happened in rural Elgin County, Ontario in the early morning hours of April 8, 2008. Eight members of the Toronto chapter of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club, the “No Surrender Crew,” were killed for their patches.
The Bandidos Massacre
The massacre was arguably the largest mass murder in Ontario since the French and Indian War. The crime was woven of delusion, pride, madness and utter, gross, astounding stupidity. The sensational trial of the six murderers lingered seven months. It ended last October 29th.
And, Peter Edwards’ 474 page The Bandido Massacre was in bookstores the very next day. An admirer named David Newland called the book “a gripping and eye-opening account of the rise and fall of the Bandidos in Canada.” Others claim the book offers “a rare glimpse into the often insular biker realm” and takes “readers inside the crumbling brotherhood bent on betrayal and self obliteration.” Edwards’ mother, wife and children, his favorite high school teacher and his agent call him a “story-teller supreme” and claim that his style is “fast-paced and engrossing.”
Maybe if you pay extra you can get a copy of the book those people read. The prose in my copy of The Bandido Massacre is flat and bloated.
Still Making A New Enemy
Edwards has been gainfully employed by the same paper that gave Ernest Hemingway his start, the Toronto Star, for the last 23 years and he has published ten books so it is probably just me. But I think Peter Edwards reads like one of those thoroughly professional reporters who are constantly on guard lest irony, curiosity, skepticism, personality, intelligence or style might somehow creep into their holy, journalistic work. Edwards has done a fine job of collecting facts. His “best explanation…for the carnage that came to light in Shedden comes from the writings of cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker.”
In the very first sentence of this book Edwards quotes a terrific reporter named Jane Sims. Sims covered the case for the London (Ontario) Free Press and during the trial Edwards heard her say that the Canadian Bandidos “sounded like the He-Man Woman Haters Club from the old Little Rascals television series.”
The Bandido Massacre would have been better if Sims had quoted Edwards in the first sentence because that would have made her the author instead of him. The worst thing about this book is that Edwards wrote it. Sims didn’t. But the best thing about this book is that not even a bad writer can ruin a great story. And the Shedden massacre, as it is usually called in Canada after the town nearest to where the bodies were found, is a great story.
A Brief History Of Canada
Almost from its beginning the No Surrender Crew was essentially the only Bandidos chapter in Canada. The history of motorcycle clubs in Canada is tangled. It can be told many ways and most of the ways it can be told would offend somebody who is reading this.
Let it go that the Outlaws and the Hells Angels both had a presence in Canada after 1977. A group of freelance entrepreneurs in Quebec coalesced into a club called the Rock Machine. The Rock Machine was the original postmodern motorcycle club. They did not wear patches. They wore rings. Some of them rode Japanese bikes. There were troubles, as Ireland had troubles. Some faction of the Rock Machine patched over to the Bandidos. A former Bandidos national officer named Edward Winterhalder has written a book about that patch over called The Assimilation. Chapter 12 of that book is titled “Painting Canada Red and White From Coast to Coast.”
The Toronto Chapter of the Bandidos, according to Peter Edwards, started when about a dozen members of the Loners Motorcycle Club in Ontario became Bandidos late in 2001. At around the same time a larger number of Loners was patching over to the Hells Angels. Edwards explanation, which rings true, is that most of the new Bandidos had already been rejected by the Angels and the Outlaws. Some faction of Bandidos was eager for warm bodies and these former Loners volunteered. The new chapter seemed to have more support from Bandidos in Europe than from their club brothers in the United States. But the Toronto chapter was supposed to report to the big club in the States.
The tragedy of the No Surrender Crew is that they wore Bandidos patches and were very devoted and loyal Bandidos but they never quite integrated into Bandidos Nation. In the background of all of this a gentleman named George Wegers became Presidente of the Bandidos and moved the club headquarters from Texas to Washington. Wegers, the ATF eventually claimed, knew about a patch pulling party in Montana which got him accused of conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, witness tampering, extortion and violent crime in aid of racketeering. Wegers was arrested in June 2005 and released from custody in October 2006. The Shedden massacre occurred while Wegers was locked up.
One of the Loners who patched over to the Bandidos in 2001 was a likable former prize fighter named Giovanni “John” “Boxer” Muscedere. Another Loner patch over was a petty criminal and homicidal fruit loop named Wayne “Weiner” Kellestine. The men were close friends and by mutual agreement Kellestine was always the louder and more important of the two.
Muscedere And Kellestine
Muscedere was a thug with a heart of gold. He was never a criminal except in the broadest possible use of that word. He was a first generation Canadian. His parents were Italian. He held the same blue collar job for 20 years. He was brave and loyal to his friends. After he became a Bandido he found the love of his life. He liked to call her his “Proud Bandido Old Lady.” They had a child. And Muscedere was apparently dumber than dirt.
Nevertheless, despite being a dunce, Muscedere became el Presidente of all the Canadian Bandidos in June 2002. Edwards never brings it up but it is hardly a secret that George Wegers was an enthusiastic proponent of Bandidos expansion. So Muscedere became leader of all the Bandidos in Canada because somebody had to hold down the job. At the time there might have been as many as 20 Bandidos in Canada. And Weiner Kellestine probably would have been a candidate for the job of el Presidente too, except at the time Kellestine was in prison.
When Kellestine was released in August 2004 Muscedere named him national Sargento de Armas. Rather than feeling grateful Kellestine was disappointed to find himself so far down the totem pole. That summer was also about the time that Muscedere decided to expand his club into Western Canada.
Which is how the third moron entered this tragedy. Muscedere miraculously managed to establish a probationary chapter in Winnipeg. The President of the Winnipeg chapter was a grandiose and deluded former cop named Michael “Taz” Sandham. Like many of the characters in this story, Sandham became a Bandido because no other club would have him. In one of his few successful attempts at wit, Edwards remarks that Sandham should have refused to become a member of any club that would allow him to join.
Meantime, back in Toronto, Muscedere was busy running one of the sorriest motorcycle club chapters of all time farther and farther into the ground. It was not that Muscedere was a bad guy because he was not. The problem was he became President because he had fast hands not a fast head. He was just one of those guys who couldn’t get laid in a whorehouse with a fist full of hundreds.
The patch holders and prospects were not bad guys either even though half of them never seem to have had motorcycles. They just all sincerely wanted to be Bandidos. Some of them, like a guy named James “Ripper” Fullager were bikers’ bikers but he was dying of cancer. So month after month the chapter never went anywhere. The Winnipeg chapter never got off probationary status so Taz Sandham never really got patched. Weiner Kellestine dreamed of starting his own London, Ontario chapter and that never got off the ground.
We Have A Problem Here
Because Muscedere was never very good at collecting dues, or sending letters, or emails or at spelling or grammar or arithmetic, because of all that, the rest of Bandidos Nation had no idea whatsoever what was going on in Canada. A man in Texas named Bill Sartelle, the Secretario of Bandidos World, and apparently a very decent, patient and capable man, tried to find out but he could hardly get a straight answer out of Muscedere or anybody else in the No Surrender Crew.
“Seems like we have a problem here” Sartelle emailed in November, 2004. “You can’t come here, we can’t come there, but you do not want to answer any questions. There are issues that need to be resolved. I have made attempts to get these answers, but you have not.”
Canadian members started going behind each other’s backs. The big club was surprised to learn that Muscedere had established a Winnipeg chapter. When the big club threatened to shut the Canadians down the No Surrender Crew replied with a chorus of protest that they loved being Bandidos. They could never imagine not being Bandidos. They lived to be Bandidos. Another element of the tragedy is that every word of those protests was undoubtedly true.
You Talkin’ To Me
In October 2005 Sartelle wrote, “Well there is no easy way to put this, but I have been instructed to contact someone in Canada and find out why we have been getting no contact. Canada has not been meeting the requirements of belonging to this club, under the United States. I want to know how this can be remedied immediately. If I am wrong then explain. There are many criteria involved with Club Membership. One is monthly contact and mail sent to USA National Chapter.”
Two months later Muscedere sent out a mass email to his club brothers around the world.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEWYEAR TOO THE BANDIDO NATION AND TOO THE NO SURRENDER CREW WHO LOVES YA BABY FROM BOXER PBOL NINA AND ANGELINA LOVE LOYALTY RESPECT IT JUST DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER.”
“For the past year or more,” Sartelle replied, “we, BMC USA, have attempted to make connections with Canada…. Up until now there has been no visit from the proper person. It has been decided that due to lack of participation, Canada’s Charter is being pulled. Effective immediately: Return all Bandido patches and property….”
“I’m sitting here feeling confused, dejected, emotionally drained,” a Toronto chapter patch holder named Bam Bam Salerno wrote back to Sartelle. “You see Bill, I’ve been with this GREAT NATION since its inception in Ontario…. We have been decimated with betrayal, defection to other clubs, law enforcement, but We stood tall and wear our colors proud…. Bill, being a Bandido in good standing is my world. Quite frankly I resent having to go through this. I have always done the nation proud.”
Boxer Muscedere was even more offended by Sartelle’s demand. “MY NAME IS BANDIDO-BOXER,” he wrote. ‘I SPEAK FOR THE NO SURRENDER CREW CANADA BANDIDOS MY PHONE NUMBER IS…REVERSE CHARGES I WILL PAY FOR IT MY ENEMY HAVE TREATED ALL OF US WITH RESPECT YOU’RE A PEACE OF WORK.”
Under New Management
The big club in Texas obviously did everything possible to try to treat whoever the Canadian Bandidos were decently. At one point Bandidos USA told the Canadians they could all remain Bandidos, including the chapter in Winnipeg, if only a patch holder named George “Crash” Kriarakis would take over the club. But all of that evaporated and good hearted, brave as a lion, totally incompetent Boxer Muscedere kept running things.
Eventually Kellestine and Sandham decided to take over the Canadian club. Those two set up a meeting in Peace Arch Park which straddles British Columbia and Washington. A Bandidos national officer named Peter “Mongo” Price sat on one side of the border and the two Canadians sat on the other. Kellestine and Sandham proclaimed their devotion to the big club and in return, Edwards thinks, Price told them they could stay and the Winnipeg chapter could stay and a London chapter could be established but the embarrassingly dysfunctional Toronto chapter had to go. All the Toronto Bandidos but Kellestine were to have their patches pulled.
Sandham drove members of his chapter from Winnipeg to Ontario to help with the patch pulling. Edwards seems to think the No Surrender Crew died because Sandham got antsy and shot one of the Toronto Bandidos. And he and Kellestine had decided in advance that if they killed one they would have to kill them all.
The No Surrender Crew never had a clubhouse. So eight of them went to the Friday night church meeting at Kellestine’s barn in the country near London and they all died there. It might have taken as long as five hours to kill eight men. The source for most of the details of what happened that night is a former Winnipeg prospect who has only been identified as MH.
Boxer Muscedere laughed as he died and Edwards seems not to have a clue about whether that was out of bravado or an appreciation for the ridiculousness of being murdered by his best friend. None of the victims seemed able to comprehend that their club brothers were killing them. Not the dreaded Hells Angels or the police or some gangster but their club brothers were killing them.
According to MH’s testimony, none of them ever seemed to be able to comprehend what was happening. They all seemed to think that they were being asked to die for their club so they did. Some of them apologized before they died. Some of them wanted to shake hands with their killers. Some of them wanted their murderers to make sure their families were comforted.
This was a Coen brothers’ movie. Hour after hour this went on. They all seemed convinced they were taking one for the club. If you understand how important a club can become to one’s identity it is even possible to understand Kellestine and Sandham. The Bandidos was their only chance. No other club wanted them. They killed most of the club in order to save it.
And, if you have ever been in a club you probably know exactly what these men died thinking. They died thinking they were going to get a club funeral. They all died thinking of a long line of bikes, ridden by fierce and loyal men, bullying and growling their way through the streets and making the ground shake all the way to the cemetery. But none of them got a club funeral. All of them died out bad.
The old biker in the crew, Ripper Fullager who had started riding with The Wild Ones in the 60s before patching with the Black Diamond Riders and the Loners, only missed church that Friday night because he was too sick to attend. He died a few days after the murders. No Bandidos attended his funeral. Out of respect for him and who he was and who he had been, two Canadian Hells Angels paid their respects.
The story of the Shedden massacre has been largely ignored in the United States. Peter Edwards book is only available in Canada. So you have to buy it from Amazon’s Canadian site.