An interview with William
Billy Queen is a man of true character, one of the
most courageous men Ive ever met well
actually, I only spoke with him on the phone, for
security reasons that will shortly become
Starting in 1998, ATF Special Agent Billy Queen
worked a deep undercover investigation for two and
a half years inside the San Fernando Chapter of the
Mongols the most dangerous motorcycle gang
in Southern California (or America). He assumed the
identity of Billy St. John, a bad-ass,
beer-guzzling, long-haired, gang brother who became
a fully patched-in member, eventually
rising through their ranks to the office of
After successfully putting 54 of the 350 gang
members behind bars for offenses ranging from
narcotics and gun violations to rape and murder,
Queen is still in hiding from those men who would
like to see the veteran law-enforcement officer
In order to infiltrate the gang, the ATF (Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) created a false
criminal history for Billy St. John
along with a bona fide police record from the High
Point Police Department (a couple counties over
from where I live) in North Carolina.
Queen once served as a police officer in the
city of High Point. Before that, he was in Vietnam
as part of a Special Forces intelligence unit in
1971 where he earned a Silver Star. He then became
a U.S. Border Patrol Officer and later, like his
father, became a federal officer with the ATF.
Discovering that he had a talent for undercover
work combined with his experience with military
weapons, Queen conducted undercover operations in
the Klu Klux Klan and in the Skinhead
His biggest ordeal came when officials in the
U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles told him of
an opportunity to be introduced to members of the
fierce Hispanic motorcycle gang the Mongols.
He wrote a book about his experience, entitled
Under and Alone The true story of the
undercover agent who infiltrated Americas
most violent outlaw motorcycle gang. Warner
Brothers and Mel Gibson are slated to do the movie
The book was a page-turner for me. It was an
adrenaline rush. At any moment Billy St.
John could have been discovered and killed on
the spot by his gang brothers. Although they
treated him like a brother, if theyd found
out who he really was they would not have hesitated
to put a bullet in his skull.
It is unprecedented for someone to go alone
undercover for so long. It had to have been an
emotionally draining experience for Queen. As I
read the book, over and over again, I asked myself
how this man could hold the tension of the cop and
the criminal how he handled the double life
and the inner turmoil. Its not easy to
explain such things.
Early on, a Mongol member named Red Dog accused
him of being an undercover agent. Queen pursued the
investigation with that obvious suspicion, and
believed many times his identity had been blown.
There were also occasions when Queen hoped the
police officer would not have to show
himself in the event of a violent crime like a rape
or a murder. Somehow, Queen walked the straight
line while his darker alter ego became accepted by
the group. He drank and fought with the best of
them. There were genuine good times he shared with
these hard-riding motorcycle buddies. Queen, a
motorcycle aficionado since his youth, had his own
big Harley Davidson he rode.
In 1999, Queens mother died. His
colleagues at the ATF barely acknowledged his loss.
The Mongols, conversely, expressed their deep love
and concern for him during that difficult time.
What a paradox it was for the law enforcement
officer to feel the love and support of these
criminals while he was in their midst gathering
evidence to prosecute them.
Hey, brother, he said, grabbing me
with the traditional Mongol handshake and hug.
There was such genuine affection in Rockys
embrace, making this another one of those
disorienting moments for me; there was no doubt in
my mind that Rocky really loved Billy St. John. -
from Under and Alone
Mostly what Queen experienced with the Mongols,
however, was fear fear he would be found
out. He was in constant danger.
In order to become a full member of the gang,
Bill St. John had to endure the
gangs relentless physical and emotional
abuse. It was a common type of dark initiation that
occurs in most gangs. I asked the author about the
word initiation that many of us in mens work
are familiar with in a good way.
I think its all too true that many
men like the idea of being initiated into a
club, he said. Unfortunately, in most
of these gang cases, its a matter of a
chip off the old block. Most gang
membership is generational one generation of
gang bangers to the next. When you get to areas
like South Central LA, they start off gang
bangin- then they have children that grow up
gang bangin - its a vicious
Initiations could be brutal, degrading, and
downright filthy. You might be required to take
hard drugs and participate in sexual acts with
women. Back in the 1960s prospects were
beaten and covered in human feces before gaining
that coveted top rocker. - from Under and Alone
Local neighborhood crime is different from
motorcycle gang activity, he noted.
A lot of these motorcycle people meet each
other at events, or in prison
different than just hangin out next door in
the neighborhood with the brother or
Throughout the interview I repeatedly asked
Queen how he maintained his integrity with such
conflicting forces working around him for so long.
I was in awe of this guy.
Its something inside, he said,
taking a minute to let the answer come to him.
I dont think doing whats right
was something I had to work on I grew up
that way. Ive always had my own line in
the sand. Doing what I did for more than two
years was unusual
doesnt like its agents going deep undercover
by themselves the way I did. I knew the gang was
extremely violent, and I would have to be just like
them. They expected that. They looked for it in
their members. I had to tell myself I would do
these things, but not others
no rape or
murder or beating people within an inch of their
Queen did gain his first real acceptance from
the gang when he protected the Mongols
president, Domingo, after a drunk had been glaring
"When Domingo demanded to know 'What the F---
are you looking at?' the drunk started to swing,
and bam, I decked him," Queen said.
I pressed Queen on the issue of what kind of
personal character it took for him to be true to
his sworn oath as an officer of the law. He
didnt explain himself in complicated terms:
All the rest of it is who you are. Its
ingrained in a person and hopefully youre not
going to slip. I admit I got close to the other
side running with these guys.
Queen said he saw the bad elements in the
Mongols, along with redeeming
What makes gangs attractive is that sense
of belonging to something, to an organization or
I think they offer that, but
its not just something they throw out there
to entice recruits - its real. The love and
loyalty they have for each other rivals any other
organization Ive been in, including military
or police organizations. When youre out on a
limb and your life depends on a brother, or a
solider, or a police officer
you get close
to them. My life depended on others. I quite
possibly could have been dead if not for my ganster
brothers. I know those gang brothers would have
died for me, just like a law enforcement officer
The psychological contrasts here are juicy for
me when I consider the symbology of Jungs
black-hat man coming in with the answers the
white-hat man doesnt have.
I pressed on. Whats the answer to gang
violence, particularly in the inner cities?
Societys become more tolerant of
that stuff, he responded, with a hint of
hopelessness. Weve gotten away from
basic traditions that held us together. Not long
ago our country was much more religious and the
upbringing of children was not necessarily more
strict but the morals were much greater. Its
not the same today. The respect for individuals is
not the same as it used to be
nor is there
the same respect for our country. Gang problems go
much deeper than the gang itself - its our
entire society thats contributing to it. I
dont necessarily think that people are
getting meaner, but the gang activity is certainly
getting more violent.
I was always studying these guys for the most
subtle changes in their demeanor, any little tic
that would indicate some change in their attitude
toward me. - from Under and Alone
Again, I wanted to know what built the character
of this new hero of mine.
When I was kid, my Aunt raised us kids.
She dragged me to church from the earliest moments
of my life, going to Sunday School, and listening
to her talk about God and right and wrong and the
way it should be
thats my background.
I graduated from high school and I thought I could
save the world. It didnt take me long to
discover that the only thing I was going to save
was my own ass, but I still tried. I thought I
could do a lot of good so I went to college and got
a degree in Administration of Justice Studies, and
then studied psychology and got a Masters
degree. Ive tried to understand why people do
what they do, and apply that as a police officer.
But after years of trying to understand the bad
Id see the same ones right back
out there doing the same bad stuff. Finally, I
thought, Ill just put as many in jail as I
I admitted I did not understand the criminal
In gangs you have those who simply succumb
to the loyalty of those who are more criminally
minded. There are bad people in the general
population, but when you have bad people in a gang
I mean theyre really bad people
cold blooded people who will murder for a little
bit of money, or a patch. These gang guys are
willing to do outrageous things and then the other
people find themselves in the middle of following
them. They may all be ready to fight at the drop of
a hat, but many wouldnt initiate a fight.
Most are just there drinkin beer and
intimidating people. Unfortunately, in the gang
arena, the really bad guys drag everybody into
stuff that creates war with other gangs, and with
the police. Its the psychopaths that drag
everybody into the bad stuff.
Marlon Brandos The Wild One gang is so
tame as to be romanticized now. Its not what
modern gangs are about.
Gangs need to be recognized for what they
are bad organizations, Queen argued.
Theyre so unpredictable and prone to
If the Mongols demonstrated unhealthy
aggression, was there a place for a kind of good
fierce masculinity in our culture?
I see that masculinity manifested in
football, baseball, car racing
to channel it. I just bought my own race
Billy Queen said he doesnt adhere to
political correctness, and yet hes got an
enormous empathy for cultural struggles because of
being a white man in a predominantly Chicano
It was that much tougher for me, not
because of the Latinos, but one of the white guys
Red Dog who thought he had to prove
his mettle. I also got to see what it was like
living the life of a ganster and the wrath I
suffered from police. I know why theres a
cultural gap between law enforcement and bad guys.
I was out there with a strapped on patch. The
officers treated me like just another ganster. I
got to be concerned of being jammed by the cops. I
felt oh, shit! Im gonna get my knuckles
crushed together, or have shotguns to the head, or
my feet kicked out from underneath me, or getting
tickets and chicken shit stuff like that.
I wouldnt go through what Billy Queen did
even if Mel Gibson wanted to do a movie of it
later. By the way, what did attract Mel to your
I think what intrigued Mel was that I was
actually able to pull it off for more than two
years, the author said. The fact that
this criminal organization is such a violent
organization and to have a cop inside it was a
pretty amazing thing for him. When I showed him
some of the under cover footage, he just
couldnt hardly believe that it was all a
So tell me again, how you did it?
I was trained as a special agent with the
government. Im the kind of person that could
do it, and thats what the ATF people
expected. I didnt have to do it. It turned
out to be much more than I expected it to be
it got deeper and more dangerous than we all
thought it would get. We didnt know I would
get in and become an officer in the club. With this
particular group, you were lucky to get next to
them and buy dope and motorcycles.
I saw my work as part of a tradition of service
to this country, and as I fastened my black bandana
around my neck, that sense of tradition began to
overwhelm the thought of Red Dog or C.J. shooting
me. Yes, Id hang in there, and Id beat
Red Dog and the rest of the Mongols. - from Under
Queen became like a member of a tight-knit
family, sharing almost every moment of his time
with these new brothers these Mongols that
could intimidate even the Hells Angels. I thought I
perceived a slight sense of pride that Billy Queen
could run with the wolves.
But the reality of today is that he still gets
death threats coming across the net or from ATF
The ATF will call me and say theyre
talkin about ya
it would be a coup
d'état if any one of those motorcycle gangs
could put a bullet in my head. Not just the Mongols
theyre buddy buddy with The Outlaws
(another Latino motorcycle gang) and others.
Its something I have to live with now. I wish
that I didnt. If I had it to do all over
again, I wouldnt. I wish I could live a
normal life like everybody else.
A strong wave of compassion flowed over me. I
thanked the man for his years of service.
Well, at least the government knows now
how bad these guys can be, he said.
And still, it doesnt compensate for the
fact that Queen has limited connections with his
two sons, and with his current wife because of the
fallout from this one assignment.
That connection with my family was another
thing I ended up losing on
at the end of the
investigation. I thought that life would go back to
Ill be a dad and have my old
job back. It didnt happen that way.
Billy Queen lives by himself. I asked him what
he did with his time.
I go around to other police organizations
out there around the country, and in other parts of
the world. They want me to speak about under cover
work and motorcycle gangs. I do a lot more of that
than I should. But I get to share this learning
experience. I can tell people going under cover
what they can expect what theyre
I dont usually get so personal, but I told
my new friend that I held a prayer in my heart that
God would bless him for the risks he took to
serve and protect.
I did what I had to do, he answered
back. There are so many real good people who
do the same thing I did in different
I asked him who he was close to who he
talked to about the life he lived and the
loneliness of his present circumstances.
I tried the psychologist thing with a
person the ATF provided, but it didnt help
that much. Its other people who have
been there done that that I talk to.
Over the years, testifying against my former
Mongol brothers became a kind of personal
purgatory. I came to dread those court dates almost
as much as I dreaded my time as a Mongol prospect.
I hated the anticipation of making eye
contact with the Mongols I had come to know well in
my years undercover. My mind would play tricks on
me as I sat in my Texas house, playing with
Winchester, my golden retriever, and reviewing my
tape transcripts before each court date. I was
their friend. I was their brother. I drank with
them. I partied with them. I rode with them and
fought for them. I knew their kids names and
they told me they loved me. Jesus, I had no doubt
that guys like Domingo, Rocky, and Evel would have
died for me. - from Under and Alone
Theres an anguish I experienced as I heard
this mans story. How many men have lived
double lives and felt alone in some way? How many
of us have a good guy vs bad guy running
simultaneously within us? It was painful for me to
listen, and yet Billy Queen was not a man looking
for pity. Hes the toughest son-of-a-bitch
Ive ever spoken with.
It is a lonely life, he said.
Recently Ive been want to do something
about my situation. Im not going to run and
hide, but Im also not going to be stupid. I
want to return to a normal life. I want to start
going out again and doing things I used to do and
not worry about it.
I asked the retired ATF officer what he would
think if there was an organization that initiated
men in a good way and provided a place where they
could hang out and help each other actually become
better men men of integrity and
Youd have your work cut out for
you, he quipped.
I told him about the ManKind Project and that I
hoped some day he could join in a circle of men
that is safe, a circle that can hold all the gold
and shadows of a mans life.
© 2006, Reid Baer
Related Issue: YouTube
commercial for this column. Also see Reid's poetry
Reid Baer, an
award-winning playwright for A Lyons
Tale is also a newspaper journalist, a poet
with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide,
and a novelist with his first book released this
month entitled Kill
The Story. Baer has been
a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and
currently edits The New Warrior Journal for
The ManKind Project www.mkp.org
He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife
Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.
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