Another Look at a Good Book

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By Christopher Zoukis

Genghis Khan established a vast empire during the 13th Century.  The Mongol Empire extended from the Dnepr River to the Pacific.  There’s another more contemporary group of Mongols.  It’s an outlaw motorcycle club that originated in December 1969, in a small town called Montebello, which is in Southern California.  According to Donald Charles Davis, outlaw motorcycle clubs are “closed, masculine tribes … they cling to a set of ideas and ideals that, increasingly, modern men must abandon as part of growing up.” 

These ‘frontier outlaws’ – primarily the Mongols and the Hells Angels – are the focus of Davis’ book, Out Bad, which sets out to establish the circumstances surrounding the murder of Manuel Vincent Martin, aka Hitman.  Hitman, a member of the Mongols, was murdered October 8, 2008.  The question was who did it?  Davis concludes that ATF “agents either killed Martin or provoked Toonerville Rifa 13 into doing it for them.” 

The Toonerville 13 gang — also known as Toonerville Rifa and TVR — has been in existence since the 1950s. The gang took their name from a television show called the Toonerville Trolleys, which was based around a trolley that traveled through the center of town.

Since train tracks went through the center of their Varrio and the sound of trains were frequently heard in the area, the name seemed fitting to the young founders.

Although the gang is multi-generational and has more than 400 members, Toonerville has always been considered relatively small and insignificant in the grand scheme of Los Angeles County Sureno gangs.

Unlike a few who have representation from coast to coast — with membership reaching the tens of thousands by some accounts — Toonerville is generally found only in Northeastern Los Angeles, the neighboring city of Glendale, and a few nearby municipalities.

While Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street were gaining nationwide recognition with law enforcement and the media, Toonerville was not. They seemed to be confined to their neighborhoods and out of the public eye

While presenting his evidence, Davis provides an interesting history of outlaw motorcycle clubs, describing the colorful personalities and exploits of the honchos of the Mongols and the Hells Angels, while at the same time relating the ATF’s ongoing war against outlaw motorcycle clubs, which, from the ATF’s perspective, are nothing more than gangs involved in organized crime.  Davis portrays the Mongols as fun-loving, brash scalawags, who sometimes get carried away and do foolish things, like ride their motorcycles too fast and get in fights.  But boys will be boys.  On the other hand, the ATF agents are portrayed as conniving liars, who believe the end justifies the means, and who perform all types of dastardly deeds for three reasons:  because they can, for money, and because they like to see their names in the newspapers and make the rounds of television talk shows. 

In short, the ATF agents have an agenda, which, basically, is to persecute the Mongols.  Out Bad vilifies a number of ATF agents:  John Ciccone, William Queen, Darrin Kozlowski, and Jay Dobyns.  Davis points out that “ATF undercovers tend to be self-involved, theatrical men.”  In other words, they are wannabe movie actors playing a role in their own little film.  Two of the covert agents – Dobyns and Queen – went on to write bestselling books.  According to Davis, the books are “stitched together with a thousand little lies and distortions and obvious fabrications that make the story sound cogent and that one cannot correct without seeming petty.”

Out Bad is a very good book.  Whether or not it is based on factual evidence is another question.  Anyone who reads the book certainly has the right to ask this question:  does Davis have an agenda?   

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