The Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club has had a stranglehold on the Kansas City area since the 1950s. The club enforced a "100-mile rule" here. No other outlaw gang - 1-percenters, as they like to call themselves - could operate within 100 miles of the metro.
But the Goose's grip on KC has begun to slacken as its closed membership ranks have either aged or fallen to federal drug convictions. Since the mid-2000s, the Goose's 100-mile force field has been breached. Now, several outlaw clubs are moving in to stake their own turfs.
"The Bandidos and the Sons [of Silence] have claimed this area," a Kansas City Police Department source tells The Pitch.
Independence police detective Steve Cook says the Bandidos and the Sons aren't alone. Five of what are known to law enforcement around the country as the "big eight" motorcycle clubs are located here. Cook estimates - "conservatively," he says - that 100 patch-wearing members of various motorcycle clubs are in the KC area.
"We have Mongols," says Cook, the president of the Midwest Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association. "We have Vagos. We have Bandidos. We have Outlaws. We have the Sons of Silence. We have a majority of the major gangs, with the exception of the Hells Angels." And that legendary outfit isn't going to stay away much longer. "That's forthcoming," Cook says. "It's gonna occur."
With the clubs, Cook says, comes criminal activity: bike thefts, drugs, prostitution, burglaries, assaults, homicides. The police officer, who wears his silver mustache and hair neatly trimmed, his badge on a chain around his neck and a tie around his button-down collar, could fit easily onto the set of Law & Order.
"These guys aren't Jax Teller," he says, referencing the biker with a heart from the cable series Sons of Anarchy. "Some of them are pretty dangerous."
Cook would know. He's not just an expert on motorcycle clubs but also someone who should have his own IMDb page, for his cable-documentary credits. He has been featured on the History channel's Gangland ("Biker Wars," "Bandido Army," "Beware the Goose") and Book of Secrets (on the Hells Angels), on Biography's Gangsters: America's Most Evil and Gang World ("One Percenters"), and in a French documentary titled Hells Angels vs. Bandidos.
While some of the incoming clubs have beefs with one another, they all share one thing in common: "They hate the Hells Angels," Cooks says.
By extension, they also hate the Hells Angels' longtime Missouri allies, the Galloping Goose.
The Pitch's KCPD source says the Bandidos established a KC chapter in June, and the Sons crossed the state line in October 2012. (In February, authorities served a search warrant at a Northland home and arrested three Sons after seizing guns, marijuana and meth.)
Cook calls the metro "ground zero for motorcycle gang activity." But why here?
"This is obviously a pipeline," Cook says of the Interstate 35 and Interstate 70 corridors. "It's good drug territory. It's not something that you want to give up."
The Goose, formed in California by World War II veterans in 1943, lost hold of the area after going down in federal court for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Members of the Goose and a brother club, El Forastero, pleaded guilty in 2009. (El Forastero's Kansas City chapter was founded in 1965, and it shared a clubhouse with the Goose on Guinotte Avenue.)
"We ended up locking up the entirety of the El Forasteros in Kansas City, and to this day they're gone," Cook says. "There are no patch-wearing El Forastero members on the streets. They're done. We locked up the majority of the Galloping Goose.
"The problem we're seeing now is, these guys are panicked because they are losing a foothold that they've had since the '50s," Cook adds. "And now we're seeing some of these guys getting out of prison and trying to get the club [up and running]. So they're recruiting hard. ... But they're trying to go back to their old stomping grounds, but they're not their stomping grounds anymore."
The KCPD source confirms that the Goose is rebuilding its ranks.
"They have almost a full chapter," the source says. "They're still here. They haven't left. They have prospects in their club, and they're continuing to add to their numbers."
The arrival of the Mongols, the Vagos and the Outlaws could make a volatile situation even worse for the outnumbered Goose.
"They [the Goose] exist at these other groups' leisure right now," Cook says. "If the Goose bow up to these other groups, it'd be nothing for, say, the Outlaws to come in and wipe them off the map."
Cook adds: "All the Goose can really do is hold on and wait for reinforcements."
Reinforcements as in the Hells Angels.
"There was never a need for a permanent presence because it was locked down," Cook says. "Now it's not. It's not a matter of if but when. The Hells Angels are coming. They're going to set up here because everyone else is."
"We don't have anything saying the Hells Angels are coming here," the KCPD source counters. "That's been a rumor that's gone on for 20 years. Until they establish, then they're not here."
Tensions are already high. A few months ago, Independence police were called to a 20-person bar brawl on 23rd Street. When cops arrived, Cook says, they found a supporter of the Goose "dazed and confused."
"You can tell something happened, but nobody's telling us anything," he recalls.
Within a few minutes of police being on the scene, other Goose members rolled in.
Cook says he has heard of Sons of Silence members hunting Goose members and affiliates in bars on the Kansas side.
"Johnson County, Kansas, which has historically been a bedroom community over there, they've got all kinds of problems," Cook says. "I've heard of several area bars, not just in Jackson County but in Clay County and places like that, that their businesses are suffering miserably because these guys are frequenting their establishments, and they're running the legitimate patrons off."
The KCPD source tells The Pitch that there haven't been any reported "problems or violence" in the city between the incoming clubs and the Goose. "But we foresee that could be a problem because the Galloping Goose are aligned with the Hells Angels," the source says.
Cook keeps a high profile. He'll roll into biker swap meets, park his car and walk around.
"They know I'm there," he says. "I'll have a radio in my back pocket and a gun on my hip. I'm not hiding from them. I'd much rather they see me there and know this isn't the time or the place to do it.
"The best way to find something out is to go and ask the source. ... Why play games?"
In 2001, Cook and his partner went undercover and formed their own outlaw motorcycle gang called the Outsiders. They tried to infiltrate the Goose but couldn't break through.
Cook knows that most of the outlaw bikers he tracks don't like him.
"That's no secret," he says. "But I think there's a respect there at least. I try to deal with them professionally. I'm not a cop that's going to plant dope on you or try to jam you up illegally. They know if I've got them, I'll get 'em. If I don't, I'll try to get them another time. Typically, I'll try to talk to them to work things out. I did it with the Goose. I told them to clean up their act. They chose not to and they got what they got.
"I don't hate bikers," Cook adds. "I ride a bike. I've got a Harley. I like motorcycles. I like bikers. It's business, plain and simple."
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the Galloping Goose as the oldest motorcycle club in the United States. There are older clubs, including the Outlaws (formed in 1935).