After an arrest and staying of his charges, Dave Atwell began seeing the biker lifestyle in a new light.
When the OPP made him an offer, he was ready to take the leap.
Dave Atwell had a promising career in personal security before getting involved with the Para-Dice Riders, later becoming a “full-patch” member of Toronto’s downtown chapter of the Hells Angels.
An arrest during a 2007 police sweep — the charges against him were eventually stayed — led him to start seeing things in a new light. In this excerpt from The Hard Way Out: My Life with the Hells Angels and Why I Turned Against Them, Atwell describes his biggest risk.
I was free, but I wasn’t really. After the arrest, I began to see the club in an entirely different perspective. The guys weren’t Hells Angels because they wanted to ride bikes and have a good time together; they were all in it for themselves. TC’s insatiable greed had gotten us all in big trouble, and when it did, every guy just seemed to want to take the easiest way out, no matter who got hurt.
And as soon as the charges against me were stayed, I was expected to go back to work for the club — after all, they had essentially ruined my ability to work for anyone else — and pay a huge bill even before I got back to my job. I was trapped, not by bars, but by the limitations the club had put on me and my life.
Just a few years ago, I was happy in my security career and loved making a few bucks on the side with the clubs. Riding and partying with the Para-Dice Riders, the Vagabonds and Satan’s Choice made it even better.
But, after the patch-over, after I became a Hells Angel, that all changed. I had no career — unless you count being a criminal — I had been behind bars, I had disrupted the lives of everyone I cared about and I had to break up with a woman I really cared about because my being in the club had endangered her career. I had become a bum surrounded by bums. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t rich. I had had enough.
I wanted out. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I couldn’t just quit. Then I would just be an ex-Hells Angel whose name had been in every newspaper. In the media, I was convicted. It didn’t matter that the charges were stayed. That might make looking for a job tough. I had no skills other than security, and nobody would hire me for that because of my affiliation with the club.
(One day) a guy I knew and trusted from my security days introduced me to a pair of Mounties, and we set up a meeting. They told me they wanted me to inform for them. You know, tell them exactly how the club operated, who was selling dope, that kind of thing. I was surprised that they didn’t offer me a big cash reward, just a few hundred bucks here and there.
They also pointed out that if I was arrested, they would not acknowledge any relationship with me, meaning that I was totally on my own. If the club found out I was telling the feds what they were up to, there would be nobody to come to my rescue. It was essentially a death sentence.
It wasn’t much of an offer, but I decided to explore it further anyway, in large part because I was interested to see how these kinds of things worked. So they gave me a test to see how well I could follow instructions. They sent me to a phone booth and instructed me to wait for a call. The caller told me to dial another phone number, and that person would give me further instructions. I was then instructed to get on the Yonge subway line, get out at College St., buy a newspaper, get back on the subway headed in the opposite direction, then go eastbound, then westbound, then back downtown to Dundas St. and then Queen St.
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