Working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) is not always an easy job; just ask Jay Dobyns. He spent two years working undercover in Mesa, Arizona from 2001-2003 as a pledging member of the infamous Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. Despite his heavy tattoos and leather “cuts,” Dobyns was really a federal agent looking to infiltrate the dangerous group and bring down some of its top criminal members. But to score such a major bust, he would have to put his own life on the line in unimaginable ways. Hailed as one of the top cops in his profession, Dobyns was very successful; however, he never expected to be betrayed by the very agency he proudly served.
Known to his buddies as “Jaybird,” Dobyns was born in 1961 and grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where he played high school football and dreamed of someday becoming a cop. After college and a stint in the pros, his dream came true when he joined the ATF in 1987.
Dobyns started his career off with a bang—literally—when he found himself in a sticky situation just one week into the job. While serving an arrest warrant for a convicted felon in the Tucson desert, he was held at gunpoint behind the driver’s seat of a car by a perpetrator who continually screamed at Dobyns to drive him out of the area and away from the scores of ATF agents ready to take him in. Rather than follow the advice that might save his life, Dobyns intentionally removed the keys from the ignition and dropped them on the floor of the car, an act of defiance that earned him a .38 caliber bullet in his lung.
The felon was quickly killed by surrounding ATF agents while Dobyns, who was critically injured, was rushed to the closest hospital for surgery. Given the amount of blood loss, the doctor on duty was doubtful he would make it; however, Dobyns managed to pull through and make a full recovery.
Despite his serious injuries, Dobyns refused disability retirement and returned to active duty with the ATF just months of the shooting. He became something of a sensation in the workplace, always assigned to the most high-profile cases including the Rodney King riots, the Waco standoff, Columbine, and plenty more. He was a risk-taker and a badass who conducted over 500 undercover operations in his time, becoming an expert on narcotics trafficking, gang activity, murder-for-hire, and the general underbelly of society.
Dobyns didn’t realize it, but one of the most challenging moments in his career was still ahead. It was 2002 and tensions had been flaring between two major motorcycle gangs in the area—the Mongols and the Hells Angels. It finally blew up one night at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada when the Angels and Mongols tussled over a disagreement. In the middle of a casino filled with innocent bystanders, one Mongol was stabbed to death and two Angels shot. ATF had enough—they wanted to get a handle on the situation and Dobyns was the perfect man for the job.
Posing as a gunrunner and member of a “solo” outlaw motorcycle club, Dobyns cozied up to the Angels and expressed interest in joining their gang. To earn his “patch” and establish his credibility with the brotherhood, Dobyns staged a fake murder of a Mongol enemy. A law enforcement officer posed as the dead biker and was splattered with lamb’s blood and brains and photographed in a shallow grave. Dobyns returned to the Angels with the bloody Mongols cut and showed them the details of his “killing.” The Angels were impressed and awarded him the club’s prized leather vest.
Although throttling down the highway at 100 mph was certainly a rush, there were some sides of the job like partying with meth-fueled “old ladies” and wearing a wire every day, sometimes for 24 hours at a time, that were stressful, to say the least. Dobyns also became intimately acquainted with the “Filthy Few,” an elite section of the club known for committing the most heinous crimes for the betterment of the gang.
After many smoky nights behind closed doors, chatting it up at parties protected by armed guards, Dobyns finally came to meet the godfather of the Angels, Sonny Barger, who was the founder of the Oakland, California chapter. He managed to befriend Sonny and learned a great deal about the dealings of the club. At this point, he had reached the top and the only place left to go was out… but Dobyns was deeply entrenched with the highly organized, well-mobilized sociopaths, and making an exit was going to be challenging. Although he knew they were the target of his investigation, he couldn’t help but admire their flagrant disregard for well, basically anything but cash—they represented the only true form of organized crime in America.
Dobyns’s double life nearly cost him everything—his wife, his children, his sanity, even his life. Working undercover became his entire reality, and the danger he faced soon became similar to an addiction. Although Dobyns was the one infiltrating the Angels, he soon began to feel they had, in effect, also infiltrated him, and he needed to get out before he lost himself completely. Once Black Biscuit ended, the investigation was deemed “successful” and numerous indictments were brought against the gang for murder and racketeering. However, many in the government disagreed and felt it really only led to reduced charges and even some dismissals.
Predictably, the Angels were none too happy to discover Dobyns’s real identity and promised to seek revenge for his traitorous ways. About one year after the end of the case, Dobyns began receiving very credible threats against him and his family, including plans to inject him with the AIDS virus, kidnap and torture his young daughter, and abduct his wife who they would videotape being gang raped.
Shockingly, ATF did little to protect Dobyns and when his house was burned down, almost killing his family, they tried to blame him for the event. The ATF also learned contracts had been taken out through the Aryan Brotherhood to kill Dobyns, yet they did nothing to help him. After a few years in court, Dobyns proved his case against the ATF and received a sizable settlement. Today, he has retired to the speaking circuit where he shares the harrowing details of his life with the Angels.
And the rest is history.