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Apr
15

Motorcycle Massacre

Written by Brandon Lunsford

“Motorcycle Massacre”
By : Brandon Lunsford

Motorcycle MassacreYou probably wouldn’t even glance twice at the Western Waterproofing building that stands at 2500 Allen Road South off of Graham Street; it’s just one of several innocuous structures on a road that is lined with similar industrial construction and warehouses that don’t exactly capture one’s architectural imagination. Located north of downtown Charlotte, the Derita neighborhood where you find this rather dull street is an ethnically diverse area with a wide variety of older and more modern homes as well as a wealth of churches, businesses, parks and schools --- it’s a community of hard working people, and by all accounts it’s a great place in the city to settle down to live and raise a family. On the morning of July 4th, 1979 however, there was a small two room green shingled house at 2500 Allen Road South, and it was the scene of the bloodiest unsolved mass murder in the Queen City’s history.

Located between a grocery store and a trucking terminal, the house had long served as a gathering place for a Charlotte faction of the Outlaws, a one-percenter motorcycle club established in Chicago in 1935 that had spread across the United States in the 1970’s.  A gentleman known as William “Water Head” Allen, 22, was discovered shot to death on the front porch of the house, and four more bodies were discovered inside; they had all been shot multiple times, and one of the corpses had reportedly been mutilated. There was no sign of a struggle, and the four victims inside were found face down and had been shot execution-style.  One of the dead was 17 year old Bridgette “Midget” Benfield, a teenaged “old lady” in training in biker parlance; the other three killed were Outlaw members Leonard “Terrible Terry” Henderson, 29, William “Mouse” Dronenberg, and Randall Feazell, 28.  Allen had been a prospective member of the club, and it was assumed that he had been on guard duty outside of the house that morning since his own shotgun was found near his body.  William “Chains” Flamont, president of the Charlotte Outlaws chapter, found the gruesome scene early that morning, and it likely happened between 2 am and 5 am.  Police believed that two suspects wielding a 9mm and a .223 semi-automatic may have been known to Allen and that their attack caught him by surprise, and they quickly went inside to kill the other occupants of the house that had probably been asleep.  The suspects fired approximately 40 shots, and the entire bloody massacre probably took less than 15 seconds total. 

From the beginning the case proved hard to solve, as witnesses disappeared or refused to talk, intimidated by biker culture and its penalties for betrayal.  The Outlaw motto, for example, is “God Forgives, Outlaws don’t,” and if anyone had heard the shots or knew who the perpetrators were, no one was telling the cops.  Whispered reports blamed the local wing of the Hell’s Angels, sworn enemies of the Outlaws.  Charlotte chapters of the two gangs had been struggling for control of the city’s massage parlors and methamphetamine traffic, but violence had escalated between them lately rooted in Canada, where a lot of the local Outlaws had recently become involved in various ventures.  Some believed this was the Angels’ retribution for Outlaw involvement in the ongoing war up north; in 1978, some Outlaws had shot six Angels and associates at a Montreal bar, killing three and badly injuring two.  In the early 1970s, national Hell’s Angels and Outlaw groups absorbed clubs of independent bandit bikers in the Charlotte area, fueled by drugs, prostitution, and violence; there were about 50 Hell’s Angels and close to 20 Outlaws operating in the Charlotte area at the time of the murders.  Police tied several killings in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties to the Outlaws and the Angels in the ‘70s, but could not show conclusive evidence of a local gang war between the two factions. 

Yves Lavigne, a self-styled North American "expert" on motorcycle gangs, proposes that the Charlotte killings were only one of four locations targeted nationwide around that time by a rival motorcycle club that he did not name. There was also a theory about the killings being done by disgruntled Outlaw associates, or by prospective members who were denied membership and came back for retaliation. This second theory was put forth based on the lack of a visible struggle, as if the killers were known to the victims; some even blamed Flamont himself along with the club treasurer for the bloody power play. 

The Outlaws have remained active in NC since the infamous “July 4th Massacre” on a much smaller scale;   The FBI sent about 13 members and associates of the North Carolina branch of the Outlaws to federal prison in the late 1990s, breaking up the gang’s stranglehold on methamphetamine trafficking in the state .  In 2010, a federal grand jury indicted 27 members of the Outlaws, including 10 from North Carolina, on charges ranging from attempted murder to drug distribution.  Agents raided the Newton chapter of the biker gang, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police SWAT officers assisted with the arrests in Mecklenburg County.  The indictment linked the gang to planning assaults on rival gangs, one of them being a chapter of the Hells Angels in York County, S.C.  Largely forgotten by many, the July 4th massacre remains one of Charlotte’s most notorious unsolved crimes during a bloody chapter in the city’s history.  Some Outlaws actually still carry a mark with the date 7-4-79 on their jackets to commemorate it, and no one may ever know what actually happened in the house on Allen Road early that morning.  So, if you’re ever off of Graham Street one day and you think how absolutely boring it is and that nothing exciting could possibly happen there, know that it was a very different story 35 years ago.  Also if anyone ever laughs at the notion that Charlotte was ever a rough and bloody town… you can remind them of this gruesome little tale. 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY GRANT BALDWIN

Brandon Lunsford   Brandon Lunsford
Visit Author Page | brandon.lunsford@mycitymagazine.net

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