Picturing motorcycle clubs often conjures images of the iconic leather jacket, the roaring engines of impressive bikes, and the ominous undertones associated with these outlaw gangs. At times, the individuals dedicating their lives to these clubs prove more intriguing than the clubs themselves, a trend gaining momentum in recent times. While outlaw motorcyclists played a pivotal role in the American underworld, their mystique has been amplified in popular culture through Hunter S. Thompson’s book “Hell’s Angels” and the gripping television series “Sons of Anarchy”.
Born in 1966 in Niwot, Colorado, the Sons of Silence have carved out a niche as one of the most perilous and clandestine motorcycle clubs in the United States, leaving an indelible mark across multiple states. Founded by Bruce Gale “The Dude” Richardson, this club’s national headquarters later found its home in Colorado Springs. Leonard Lloyd “JR” Reed, Jr., another crucial figure with a military background, assumed the role of national president in 1977 and held the position for an impressive 22 years.
In collaboration with Richard Lester, an attorney and passionate motorcyclist, Reed established the Colorado Confederation of Clubs in the 1990s, fostering improved communication and conflict resolution among the state’s diverse motorcycle clubs.
Expanding beyond Colorado in 1968, the Sons of Silence planted their first chapter in Iowa, solidifying an alliance with the notorious Hell’s Angels for accelerated growth. Presently, local chapters are scattered across various U.S. states, and the club has even left an international footprint with chapters in Germany.
Distinguished by their circular logo featuring the letters SOS and a patch portraying a skull adorned with a German military helmet, the Sons of Silence uphold a stringent code of conduct centered on loyalty, honor, and respect. However, their journey has been marred by violent incidents, notably the 2002 shootout at Harrah’s Casino in Laughlin, Nevada — a perilous clash with the Hell’s Angels resulting in three fatalities and numerous injuries.
Despite vehemently refuting allegations of engaging in illegal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking, the Sons of Silence have faced convictions of high-ranking members. In 1984, co-founder Bruce Gail Richardson received a six-year prison term for orchestrating the kidnapping of Dr. Michael Roark. Another significant incident unfolded in 1999, where 39 alleged club members were apprehended in raids investigating the narcotics trade.
The Sons of Silence’s involvement in criminal activities extends to suspected murder cases, exemplified by the perplexing disappearance of Jack Sjol in 2013. Ryan Lee Stensaker faced conviction, while in 2019, enforcer Billy Joe Herman pleaded guilty to a Spirit Lake reservation murder.
Tensions between the Sons of Silence and Hell’s Angels were implicated in a 2019 house fire in Fargo, with connections to “Operation Saw Mill“, a federal investigation targeting Hell’s Angels in the mid-2000s. This operation resulted in the apprehension of both Hell’s Angels and Sons of Silence members.
Despite maintaining a relatively modest membership, of approximately 200 individuals, the Sons of Silence, predominantly composed of white males, foster a robust sense of loyalty and community. Actively participating in charitable activities and fundraisers, the club enforces stringent rules against drug use and criminal activity. Nevertheless, it continues to weather criticism and scrutiny, retaining a commanding presence in the perilous realm of motorcycle clubs, and attracting new members enticed by its unique sense of community and brotherhood.