No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other.

Matthew, 6:24 

The Mongols

The Mongols are an outlaw motorcycle gang spawned in California. Their colors are black and white, and their three-piece patch features a Genghis Khan-type Mongol warrior riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in the center. The top rocker reads "Mongols," but it is the third piece, the bottom rocker, that first caused the gang a problem. The Mongols have a California bottom rocker and this fact was highly offensive to the Hells Angels outlaw motorcycle gang. The HA claimed dominion over California, its home state, and exclusive rights to the California bottom rocker. So they went to war.

Outnumbered by the HA from the very beginning, the Mongols formed alliances with the Hells Angels' enemies. The big "bad to the bone" Hells Angels attempted to form a national association decades ago and to place all other outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs) under their control. The OMGs that resisted this HA take-over formed loose alliances. The Outlaws motorcycle gang and the Vagos motorcycle gang were part of this resistance in California and eventually in the South Western U.S.

These outlaw gangs are not known for their adherence to truces and coalitions. When you deal with the Devil you can't expect honesty and fair play. The Mongols had already let the Devil into the deal in the early 1970s. The Hells Angels were racist and did not allow African Americans in their organization and many also disdained Asians and Mexican Americans. But the Mongols were more tolerant and had accepted Hispanic and other members of color.

When I worked the LASD East Los Angeles station in 1974, Ernest "Rabbit" Salas was an officer in the San Gabriel Chapter of the Mongols. His brother Robert "Robot" Salas was a notorious leader in the Mexican Mafia prison gang. These "Mexican Mongols" proved themselves in the wars with the Hells Angels and on the road in biker runs. The Mongols began bringing more and more of these Hispanics into the club.

Black and White vs. Red and White

Because they needed more soldiers for the war against the "big red machine," by the 1990s Mongols were recruiting former street gang members from both Northern and Southern California as prospects. However, many new recruits did not own a bike or even know how to ride one. The Mongol Constitution insists on Harley-Davidson ownership before a prospect can become a member. But like our own military, in a war of attrition with the Hells Angels the Mongols lowered their standards and enlisted numerous lowrider cholo street gang veterans.

Some of these ELA "vatos locos" even became part of the Mongols' special enforcer squad, and they often wear a black & white "ELA Enforcer" patch on the front of their cuts. However, many of them had been Southern California Hispanic Street gang members or "Sureños" who had sworn allegiance to the Mexican Mafia prison gang, and that means a "Blood In Blood Out" commitment.

Mongol or Sureño?

In January of 2004, a group of Mongols met with a group of members of the Bassett Grande street gang at a motel room in the city of Arcadia, northeast of Los Angeles. The Mongols were there to buy methamphetamine wholesale to sell retail. After the deal, the Bassett gang members invited the Mongols to party with them in the motel room they had used for the deal. The five to six Mongols were acting as security for the deal and first accompanied the drugs and their buyer back to a Mongol safe house nearby. But four of them returned to the Bassett party.

One of the Mongols' security team was a former member of LA's largest street gang, 18th Street. However, members of the Bassett gang soon recognized this Mongol as a former Sureño who was on the Mexican Mafia's "Green Light" list. He had been placed on this hit list for breaking the Sureño code of conduct and that "Green Light" list is circulated throughout Southern California and especially committed to memory in every county jail and state prison. The Sureños were required by the Mexican Mafia to kill anyone on the list, if they could.

When confronted by the Bassett gang members the Mongol went to the bathroom and came out wearing a pistol in plain view in his waistband. As a Mongol he was expected to "represent" the Mongols and stand up to these gang members. He refused to leave the party, counting on his fellow Mongols to back him up. Eventually the Bassett gang members rushed him in force. In the struggle the 18th Street Mongol was killed and another Mongol who stayed to fight was badly injured. Two other Mongols ran away. The Mongols would later hold court for cowards and punish the two who ran.

One Week Later

On January 10, 2004, in the city of Rosemead in the San Gabriel Valley, members of the Sangra Sureño gang had set up a methamphetamine lab in a Motel room and started doing business. During that same week there was a Mongol motorcycle run going on and several Mongols had checked into the same motel. One Mongol from the San Jose (Norteño) area walked past the open meth lab room and started asking questions. Over the next hour or so several verbal confrontations occurred between the Mongol Norteño and the Sangra Sureños. The Sangra gang members became aware of the presence of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff's patrol units in the area and broke down the meth lab quickly and began loading the drugs and equipment into cars. Unconcerned by the Sangra gangs warnings; the Mongol confronted the gang members again in the parking lot claiming not only to be a Mongol but a Norteño as well. The Sangra gang members shot and killed him. Responding Deputies caught the fleeing suspect and seized much of the meth and equipment.

In March of 2004, the Mexican Mafia shot callers held meetings with the local Sureño gangs and sent word to the Mongols that they felt disrespected and that the Sureños had sustained over $20,000 damage in loss of drug revenue and personal damages. The Mafia said that they would consider the Mongols as just another LA street gang. They ordered the Mongols to pay for the lost revenue. The Mexican Mafia (La Eme) warned that if they didn't the Mongols would be on the "Green Light" list and all its members would be targeted for murder by the Sureños in and out of custody.

In April of 2004, the Mongols let it be known that they refused to pay extortion to the Eme. They even made a few threats of their own. A biker stopped next to a Mexican Mafia representative while he was driving his car stopped at a traffic light with family members as passengers. The biker leaned over and said to the driver through the passenger window, "See how easy it would be to hurt you or your family?" He then sped away.

A Few Weeks Later

Very near to the LASD Sheriff's Academy in the city of La Mirada, a man dressed in a black leather jacket and black helmet and visor parked his "Rice Rocket" (Japanese motorcycle) in the parking lot of a Mongol tattoo shop just before closing. He walked in and drew a pistol and began firing at the people in the Tattoo shop killing the owner. The Tattoo shop patrons scrambled to return fire but the shooter had already escaped on his rice rocket.

Dozens of Mongol members turned in their cuts and abandoned their Mongol membership. The "Green Light" was on the Mongols and every Sureño was under orders to kill them on sight. All this was covered by my good friend Los Angeles FOX 11 News reporter Chris Blatchford. When he featured an unidentified Mongol shot caller interviewed in silhouette on the FOX Undercover news program, the station was contacted by a Mexican Mafia representative who asked Blatchford to arrange a meeting between the two parties. This meeting was eventually made and a full-scale war was averted.

The Eme rice rocket hitman was later identified and arrested. But the Mexican Mafia suspected that the hitman might cooperate with law enforcement. He was also "Green Lighted" by the Eme. The Sureños staged a full fledged riot in the LA County Jail exercise yard as a distraction while they attempted to murder him. Dep. Javier Clift and several other deputies entered the riot fray to protect the victim from the Sureño assassins. The "Green Lighted" Sureño was injured but not killed.

Relations between the Mongols and the Mexican Mafia and its army of Sureños have remained volatile. The Mafia is said to have made this request of the Mongols: "Kill 'Doc' (the current Mongol president) and all will be forgiven." The Mongol president was already very unpopular with many Mongols because "Doc" was largely responsible for the recruitment of so many Sureño gang members into the Mongols and because of his failure to protect the then President Roger Pinney at the infamous Laughlin Nevada Harrah's Casino shootout with the Hells Angels in 2002. It remains to be seen how all of this will play out.

Author

Richard Valdemar
Richard Valdemar

Sergeant (Ret.)

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

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Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.

View Bio
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