Members of the Gypsy Joker Motorcycle Club call each other brothers. Once a Joker, always a Joker, “till the day you die,” members say.
But when Robert Huggins died last July—his mutilated body identified by his Gypsy Joker tattoos—it was at the hands of his so-called brothers, police claim.
In a July 11, 2016 hearing, prosecutors described Huggins’s death as torture, alleged punishment after a rare excommunication from the Gypsy Jokers. Someone had driven nails through the 56-year-old biker’s boots. His skull, one leg, and a rib were fractured. His face and back bore multiple slash wounds.
Charged with Huggins’s murder are four high-ranking Gypsy Jokers, whose testimony could offer a rare glimpse inside Oregon’s secretive, white supremacist motorcycle club.
The Portland, Oregon-based Gypsy Jokers call themselves a “One Percent” bike club. The title has nothing to do with their tax bracket. Instead it references an old motorcyclist maxim that “99 percent” of bikers abide by the law, while the other 1 percent are outlaws. Stitching “1%” patches on their jackets or tattooing the sign on their bodies, Gypsy Jokers revel in the outlaw title.
Until his relationship with the Gypsy Jokers went bad in 2014, Robert Huggins, aka “Bagger Bobby,” was the group’s treasurer and “enforcer,” Portland Police Bureau Homicide Detective James Lawrence testified during a Monday bail hearing.
Huggins lived in Portland, Oregon, where the Gypsy Jokers’ United States branch is headquartered. The group keeps a notorious clubhouse on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. But the club’s address is the closest the group will come to diversity; Gypsy Joker membership is whites-only.
“Members must be male, 21, and own an American-made bike - cops, gays, needle users and African Americans need not apply,” the Oregonian wrote of the group in 2008.
White supremacist sentiment runs high in the group. The Jokers’ biker gang community “has had a long history of dealing with the fringes of the white supremacist world,” Randy Blazak a Portland State University professor studying hate groups, told the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2014—after multiple Gypsy Joker associates were arrested in an investigation into drug- and weapons-trafficking among white supremacists. When Gypsy Joker member Joshua Cavett was convicted of murdering his wife in front of her children in 2013, his mugshot revealed a Nazi “SS” tattoo under his left eye.
Huggins was white. But his issues with the Gypsy Jokers apparently began when he violated that second-to-last membership clause: no needle users. Huggins was a heroin user, police say. That was his first strike. His second strike was allegedly stealing from the Gypsy Jokers’ coffers, using his treasurer role to fund his drug habit. The club kicked him out with a non-fatal beating in 2014, investigators say.
“They were absolutely done,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Glen Banfield testified during the Monday bail hearing.
The Gypsy Jokers appointed a new enforcer, who was quickly arrested on felony weapons charges after posing with a gun on Facebook. But Huggins was not ready to forgive the group for banishing him. In June 2015, he decided to give the Gypsy Jokers a taste of their own outlaw justice, police say. With revenge on his mind, Huggins broke into the home of Mark Dencklau, the club’s regional president. Once inside, Huggins allegedly tied up Dencklau’s girlfriend, threatened her at gunpoint, and robbed the house.
The insult was too great for the Gypsy Jokers to ignore, prosecutors say.
Early on July 1, 2015, a Chevrolet Suburban parked outside the home where Huggins was staying. “Somebody help me!” a woman staying at the house heard Huggins shouting. It was the last anyone heard of him. Shortly before 6 a.m., loggers found him lying dead in a rural field.
A surveillance camera mounted on a neighboring home provides some clues as to what happened in the hours in between, police testified. The footage shows the Suburban parking outside Huggins’s house. A number of men—apparently difficult to identify in the distant footage—exit the car and return, beating and dragging another figure, presumably Huggins. They drive off. Police later recovered the Suburban at a car detailing shop, with Huggins’s blood unsuccessfully scrubbed from the interior.
Portland police have a bad history with raids on the Gypsy Jokers clubhouse. In 2008 they used a tank and explosives to clear the area before entering the compound on a drugs bust. In 2007, the Gypsy Jokers successfully sued the department for $50,000, claiming damages from a similar raid on the clubhouse.
“The club had to take a stand,” Dencklau wrote upon winning the suit. “We needed to tell the police that we won’t be treated as second-class citizens. We won’t sit by and be their target anymore.”
But when police raided the Gypsy Joker clubhouse in late April 2016, nearly nine months after Huggins’s death, Dencklau was placed under arrest for the murder alongside fellow club members Earl Fisher, Tiler Pribbernow, and Malachi Watkins.
According to investigator testimony on Monday, the killing was never intended to reach its gory end. Some of the suspects’ girlfriends allegedly told police that Pribbernow had told them the beatdown went too far, and that he had ordered the other suspects to burn their clothes to destroy evidence.
Pribbernow is still friends with the long-dead Huggins on Facebook. He and the other Gypsy Joker suspects are expected to go to trial in 2017.
“It was a brutal extraction from the club,” Banfield, the deputy district attorney testified. “They might have gotten away with it.”