Behind Waco Bloodbath: a Piece of Cloth
Bandidos-Cossacks rivalry goes back to '60s
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2015 6:07 AM CDT
Updated May 19, 2015 7:15 AM CDT
A McLennan County deputy stands guard near a group of bikers in the parking lot of a Twin Peaks restaurant Sunday, May 17, 2015, in Waco, Texas.    (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)
camera-icon View 1 more image

(Newser) – The Waco shootout that left nine men dead, 18 injured, and 170 behind bars had its roots in a decades-long rivalry and a dispute over a small piece of cloth, insiders say. The Bandidos and the Cossacks have been rivals since both gangs were formed in Texas in the '60s, and former Bandidos leader Edward Winterhalder tells the LA Times that the latest dispute started in 2013, when the Cossacks offended the Bandidos by adding the word "Texas" to their colors. He says the Bandidos—by far the bigger of the two clubs—saw the move as an attempt to claim territory and ordered the Cossacks to remove the "territory-claiming patch" from their jackets but they refused, sparking escalating violence between the outfits before yesterday's shootout.

The Bandidos see Texas as their state, the vice president of the International Association of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators tells the New York Times. "They are the big dogs of Texas, and then this other, smaller club—the Cossacks—comes along in 1969 or so, and they decide that they are not going to bow down," he says. The reason the public violence was so shocking, a former undercover ATF agent tells the AP, is that large numbers of harmless bikers have adopted a similar look to the outlaw clubs. "I think, as a society, and to a large extent even in law enforcement, we fall into the sense that these guys are these big, rough-looking teddy bears that do blood drives and toy runs," he says. "These are people that have used the motorcycle culture as camouflage."