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Deadwood’s Biker Jailer

Based on actual events in 1982

By Keith "Bandit" Ball with AI illustrations by Wayfarer

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Deadwood, a town of outlaws, grit, gold, mile-deep mines, gambling and whores wrestled annually with South Dakota weather. It’s a bustling town of 1,200 dealing with an onslaught of three million drunken, gambling visitors a year.

About 1982 a scruffy biker named Rusty, with a full beard mowed lawns and his wife worked at Family Dollar a couple of blocks away on the cobblestone street, while the Homestake mine endured another strike. Wasn’t much going on when the Sheriff asked Rusty if he would ride along on a prisoner transfer to Sioux Falls for 100 bucks. He smiled and took the job.

Wasn’t much to it and he continued to fulfill the city position as a transport guard until busses came along and the Sheriff said, “I don’t want to lose you.”

“I’m not going down that mine shaft,” Rusty said and his eyes brightened. He watched a gold mine indoctrination film depicting a lift crammed full of unhappy miners wearing heavily stained overalls with lanterns riveted to safety helmets bump and grind down the dark narrow one-mile shaft or 528 floors if it was a building. “No fucking way,” Rusty said.
Here's an original from the Jailer's days in the basement jail.
Here's an original from the Jailer's days in the basement jail.

His new uniformed gig included running the jail, but he spent much of his time talking to the prisoners, helping them with bail connections and limited legal advice. He discovered something strange. The murder suspects were creative sorts and could cobble together impressive pencil art or sculptures made from clay and shoe polish.

The small jail, located securely in the basement under the city parking garage was made up of a handful of stone walled and steel bar sections including the maximum security group of four cells and eight sprung metal beds. Minimum security at the other end of the narrow polished linoleum floor hall contained just three cells, with two wire bunks per cell. The drunk tank, like all drunk tanks was lined with benches and a toilet encased with blocks walls and thick layers of lead-based enamel paint.

A kitchen and staff bathroom set in the center alongside the large work-release cell boarded with bunks and a large wooden table took center stage. Throughout the industrial lighting glowed bright and smells of piss, vomit and bleach filled the single centered hall.

On payday, Deadwood became a drunken, violent home to bikers, miners, cowboys and oil workers many of which drank themselves into a competitive rage to show Deadwood in the Black Hills universe who’s boss whether it was -9 degrees on a winter Saturday night or 90 in the summer. When the whiskey level reached the red-line, the slightest darting sliver of a red-eye started a brawl and all hell tore at the brick, sand stone and log built bars and saloons.

One such monster of a man took off his oilfield worker boot and beat cops senseless. He fought, kicking and screaming into Rusty’s Deadwood Jail sans his boot. It was held for evidence. The clean shaven monster at 6’3” and 275 pounds with the scarred face woke up in the drunk tank only to hear his wife had come to bail him out.

A tiny, miniature human being, blonde bombshell with cold darting blue eyes came to the lock-up door. “Where’s your boot, you bastard,” she snarled.

The giant of the man succumbed to her gaze. His big dark brown eyes shifted to the concrete deck and his shoulders drooped in absolute sullen obedience to her angry mood. He was in serious trouble, plus faced multiple assault-with-a-deadly-weapon charges.

But one murderous crime haunted Rusty to this day. It involved a young Devils MC hang-around, paranoia and too much crystal meth. The kid mistakenly witnessed an older member Ricky Red murder a drug dealer in a dark, slippery alley on the west coast.

One too many sparkling lines of meth or the puff from the wrong joint and a plot hatched by the high-as-a-kite leadership to take the clean-shaven hang-around on a one-way ride to South Dakota. Eight members including some officers from a Los Angeles based chapter roared into the black hills and made camp at a KOA campground off highway 14 on the edge of the town of Spearfish.

Behind too many shots of Horse Soldier Whiskey, the leaders hatched a notorious plan to pick a fight with the local Bandidos Chapter, then off the purported snitch, because snitches are a dying breed.

They met with the local members of the Bandidos in Gunner’s Lounge in Sturgis and briefly went to blows. With the alibi and motive in place they returned to their muddy campsite and coerced the hang-around to cross the road to the streambed on the other side of the asphalt highway.

Only two hitmen members Lep and Oaky accompanied the young naïve wannabe down the rocky, shrubbery strewn ledge on the side of highway down to the water’s edge to take a leak and smoke a joint laced with animal tranquillizer.

Oaky, the big clean-cut Vietnam veteran didn’t touch the shit. Still mentally hammered by his jungle war terror in Vietnam he slept with his eyes open. Lep used Oaky to distract the kid while he pulled his hefty 44 magnum loaded with hollow points and fired one close-range round into the side of the kids head, demolishing his skull and blowing chunks of brains and bone into the shimmering stream along with quarts of blood.

Oaky, immediately shocked by the abrupt carnage turned away and scrambled up the slippery embankment to escape the carnage. Lep holstered his weapon pulled on his long mustache and followed.

The brothers in the camp awaited the outcome and packed their shit to escape. Standing in the camp staring at one-another, still high they looked around and turned to their new prospect, or prospective member, who heard the shot reverberate from the stream, across highway 14 like cannon fire from the large, short-barreled revolver.

He was told over and over what a family organization the Devils reported to be. It was all fun and riding customized Harleys in the wind. His young mind rapidly recoiled with the visuals of one violent fight and drug-induced assault after another.

The members turned to him and ordered that he go clean up the mess, “And make it quick, we need to cut a dusty trail,” the chapter president ordered.

With no equipment or crime scene expertise he scrambled across the two-lane highway, down the embankment to the slippery blood splattered streambed below. Even in the dark with only a Zippo lighter to illuminate the flowing stream he came face to face with the twisted body lying in the amongst shallow granite stones with over half of his head blown asunder and brain matter stuck to the surrounding rocks.

He looked over his shoulder, closed his lighter and scrambled north along the streambed until he reached Colorado Boulevard in town and the first cop he could find.

The president of the chapter sensed a problem and sent another member to check on progress. When they discovered the prospect gone, they quickly mounted their choppers, searched the stream bed heading into town and then peeled out of Spearfish West toward Wyoming.

Several screaming, siren’s blaring, Highway Patrol units surrounded the small pack of motorcycles and for the first time Rusty encountered the members in the Deadwood Jail. One officer approached the chapter president, “Are you missing anyone?” He asked.

The president, a cagey sort with long scruffy salt and pepper hair, but a round belly pondered his options. He didn’t like the notion of throwing the local Bandidos under the bus, besides, “Snitches are a dying breed.” He held his mud and waited to make a call.

One member, Lep was placed in a maximum security cell, whereas they moved Oaky to a minimum security enclosure where intense questioning began. The young prospect faced probing questioning for details and then authorities whisked him quickly into a witness protection unit.

Shit happened fast at first. Devils attorneys got the majority out and back to the coast. Investigators studied the evidence and questioned the two assailants separately. Finally, Oaky rolled on the Lep, “He pulled the trigger.”

At first the two made sign-language signals during brief meetings. Whispered phone calls were made to the coast and rumors started to fly. An undercover FBI agent in Los Angeles picked up the notion of a jail break with 600 thundering members screaming out of the Southbay and heading for South Dakota almost smack dab in the center of the country, about 1400 miles.

Local agents knew the Devil’s president. He encountered the small Western jail and the egress and ingress possibilities, plus the small staff of two jailers, one being Rusty. They feared for the worst.

Martha, the short-haired over-worked Sheriff screamed on the phone, “There’s no way they are getting into my jail.” She called the feds, state agencies, county sheriffs, highway patrol and area cops from Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Sturgis, Spearfish, and of course Deadwood officers went into high alert. Heavy artillery jammed into the 1800s town of Deadwood by the truck load.

This wasn’t the only occurrence of an outlaw onslaught on the Black Hills. The Outlaws and the Hells Angels war boiled over as the two gangs roared through Nebraska for a clash in the Badlands but were halted at the border and never reached their chosen battlefield in South Dakota.

Rusty carefully prepared to usher the two defendants down a long double-brick built hall and across an exterior concrete corridor to the courthouse for the arraignment.

The stout sheriff, who wouldn’t allow anyone from the public, who wasn’t under arrest into her coveted jail snapped. “What’s happening?” she shouted.

Rusty and the other jailer shouted back anxiously, “Are they coming?”

On the west coast, the International president of the growing Devils organization slammed his fist against the barroom table and demanded members from every chapter ride to a staging area in the desert near Barstow. Shit happened fast. Brothers rode in from Arizona, Oregon, Nevada and New Mexico.

Snitches and informants spying on the various chapters reported to the FBI as the cabal of tattooed and weaponized bikers gathered, loaded up with ammo and artillery and awaited instructions.

Martha, half out of her mind collected evidence and made trenches of sand bags on city and government building rooftops. She ordered rocket launchers, 50 caliber machineguns, grenade launchers, bullet proof vests, supreme LED lighting equipment capable of burning holes in the 150-year old streets. Every day a new enforcement agency recruited troops, who moved into various casinos and prepared for the onslaught of devilish bikers to make mincemeat out of the small town in an effort to break-out their members.

After the short but heavily guarded arraignment in the stoic historic building where Seth Bullock dragged criminals for hasty trials and hangings on the edge of town during the 1800s. Rusty and his partner carefully returned Lep and Oaky to their cells. The brothers weren’t happy. Oaky broke the most sacred snitch code, turning on his brother for a lighter sentence. Lep, short, stocky and violent, with long dark hair and a Fu Manchu mustache, spit on the deck as they were separated and sneered at the bigger man. If he could have reached out, he would have attempted to murder the rat.

The massive pack of Devils mustered and prepared to roll east and north toward the center of the country. Rumors, news and gossip filled the airways. In Deadwood the numbers of law enforcement officers and equipment increased. It rapidly turned into a costly armored enclave of weaponry and man-power. Hotels, casinos, and motels were filled to the brim with government agents, who planned and strategized during the day and partied at night, gambling, womanizing and drinking.

Martha stormed into her office pacing the buffed linoleum floor while listening to reports of the growing number of biker maniacs powering up and rolling north out of Barstow. The bikers knew they faced tremendous surveillance efforts and technology on I-15 heading toward Vegas.

The gang footage on the news held a terrifying sight as a monstrous pack to thieving, drug-soaked, armed maniacs screamed down the freeway. A snarky CNN reporter approached Trech, the boss at a gas stop. “What are you doing?” she said and shook like a leaf in the hot desert wind surrounded by grubby, dirty, nasty bikers hell bent for leather.

Trech glared and knew the roll he played and how to play it. His eyes like metal darts behind dark narrow menacing shades stepped close to her finally made up features in over 100 degree heat and spat, “We’re going after our brother and no one is going to stop us.”

She stammered and tried to back away, but the brothers pushed in. “Unless you want some action?” The menacing Trech said an one eyebrow lifted and he smirked.

Nearly losing it, she clamored to escaped and Trech motioned for the brothers to let her leave but not with fondling hands reaching for her shapely body. The 6-mile long pack pulled away from the stations in Baker a sunbaked berg halfway to Vegas, but they didn’t enter the freeway onramp, but slid out of the back of town on a narrow highway into north to Shoshone.

Surveillance and the California Highway patrol thought for sure they could cordon off the pack in the desert on 1-15 before they reached the Nevada Border. Suddenly the government entrapment option faded.

Martha and the Sheriff’s department went ballistic. FBI and surrounding law enforcement were called to their stations surrounding the Jail, onto the roof tops and Deadwood city buildings. Staff sent home were told not to return until notified. Over 600 armed chopper riders screamed through the interior of California and Nevada on their way to free just one brother. The other turned snitch. He could rot forever in his own piss.

“Cover every highway leading into Deadwood,” Martha screamed to the leader of the Highway Patrol. “I want 385 from Rapid City blocked, and Highway 14 from Sturgis, Spearfish Canyon from Cheyenne Crossing, plus Highway 85 from Wyoming and 85 from I-90.” Terrified she called for the city to be locked down, tourists and casino staff sent home. “Don’t forget Crook Road out of Whitewood,” she stammered. “No one is breaking into my jail!”

An hour and a half or maybe three hours later after a couple of breakdowns, the screaming miles-long pack rumbled across the Nevada border into the town of Pahrump. The notorious leader of the pack signaled to the chapter presidents. He hadn’t been the International President for over 20 for nothing. Beyond all the bad shit he kept the growing motorcycle tribe out of major entanglements with the law and away from major wars with other national outlaw organizations. He signaled and each one split off in various directions.

The Southbay chapter cut a dusty trail in the direction of Sheri’s Ranch the largest whorehouse in Nevada, maybe the country. Santa Fe brothers rolled to the Chicken Ranch. The Orange County group turned toward the other end of town and the Alien Cat House. Trech and his Northern California chapter leaned toward the dry hills and the Sage Brush Ranch.

The party started and lasted all weekend.

Voted out of office at the next Deadwood Election, Martha spent the last decade of her career as a security guard at the Cadillac Jack’s Casino.

Both of the brothers in the Deadwood Jail were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Out of the 600 members in Pahrump, two contracted the clap, three fell in love and one got married. The rest had the time of their lives and will never forget their terrifying blood-thirsty run out of Los Angeles to rescue a brother…

Quick, join up. Just click and go.
Quick, join up. Just click and go.

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Reader Comments

Good article with an unexpected ending.

Bruce E Wiswell
McKinney, TX
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Editor Response Thanks, crazy story. Another Sturgis story coming about a hill climb champ.

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