The Texas-based president of the international Bandidos biker club says he was as "shocked as anybody else" by the deaths of eight of his members last weekend in Ontario and denied his organization had anything to do with the slaying.
"The only people that really know what happened are the eight people killed and maybe the people in jail," Jeff Pike said in an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail from his home outside Houston. "Whatever happened . . . what a mess!"
Mr. Pike took over the leadership of the 2,400-strong biker gang -- second only to the Hells Angels worldwide -- when the long-serving Bandido chieftain, George Wegers, was arrested last June along with 19 other bikers and charged, under tough U.S. anti-racketeering laws, with conspiracies to commit murder, kidnapping, extortion and methamphetamine distribution .
"We're no stranger to funerals," said the new leader of the biker gang known for its ferocity. "But this was a shock. I really feel sorry for their families. It was a horrible thing, no matter how you look at it."
Mr. Pike angrily dismissed as a "stupid story" reports in some newspapers of a hit squad being sent from Chicago to deal with troublesome Canadian members. "We don't do that kind of stuff."
The biker leader's denials got an unusual endorsement from Detective Gary Georgia of the Albuquerque police special investigations department, which has been tracking the Bandidos since 1985.
"That story makes no sense," he said, noting that the Bandidos do not have a presence in Chicago or anywhere else in the Midwest or eastern United States.
Det. Georgia, though no fan of the Bandidos, said Mr. Pike is seen as a "capable and respected" biker leader. "Sometimes he's a straight shooter," he said.
He confirmed there have been tensions between the Texas-based gang and their poor-performing Canadian franchise, which has not held its own against the Hells Angels' monopoly of the outlaw biker scene in Canada.
Mr. Pike himself admitted he was "disappointed" so many Bandidos in Canada in recent years have switched allegiances and joined their hated rivals, the Hells Angels. "If someone could so easily change, it shows their heart is not in the right place in the first place."
But Mr. Pike vehemently denied the Bandidos made any deals with the Hells Angels to cede any territory or drug turf in Canada. "We don't buy and sell people," he said.
He said the Ontario killings -- which wiped out the only official chapter the Bandidos had left in Canada -- meant "there's going to be a hard road back" to rebuilding the club here.
"It would take years," he said. "A Bandidos patch is earned. It's not something you buy on eBay."
But the Bandidos leader felt in the long term the massacre would have little impact on the growth of his organization, which has 170 chapters in 14 countries.
"The Hells Angels damn near did the same thing," he said, referring to the massacre of five Hells Angels in Lennoxville, Que., in 1985, which did not stop the club from expanding. "I don't think it will effect us."
Mr. Pike -- who at the age of 50 has carried the Bandidos patch for 27 years -- echoed the oft-repeated refrain that his gang was not engaged in any illegal activity.
"We don't condone it and we damn sure don't require it," he said. "What a member does for himself is his own business."
Asked about the Bandidos' reputation for law-breaking, Mr. Pike replied: "We get speeding tickets all the time."
Det. Georgia said police statistics show that between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of Bandidos members have criminal records for drugs, weapons or other violent offences.
Perhaps because police wiretaps played such a big role in the mass arrest of Bandidos in Washington State last June, the greeting message on Mr. Pike's voicemail says: "This phone is bugged. Don't say nothing."
Mr. Pike said he is used to police criticism and negative media coverage and expressed confidence his biker gang would ride out the storm generated by the largest mass murder in Ontario history.
"If I worried what others thought," said the American Bandido, "I would have joined the Boy Scouts."