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Ex-Wildcats’ exposé

Citizen Staff Writer



Jay Dobyns stood above the body, gazing at the motorcycle rider’s twisted torso. The man’s wrists and ankles were taped and blood spilled from his head into the sand.

The hoax had begun.

Faking a murder such as this, setting up drug deals and taking part in pretended gun runs became an everyday occurrence for the former University of Arizona wide receiver.

He was trying to catch criminals as an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in his biggest case since joining the ATF in 1987.

Welcome to operation “Black Biscuit,” an ATF mission to infiltrate the Hells Angels motorcycle club from 2001-2003 throughout Arizona, California and Nevada.

Tucsonan Dobyns went undercover as “Jaybird” – his Hells Angels nickname – decorating himself with tattoos, shaving his head and riding a Harley-Davidson.

“I was present and witness to crimes. There was gun trafficking, drug trafficking, violence, intimidation,” said Dobyns, 47. “I didn’t put any drugs in anybody’s hands and I didn’t put guns in anybody’s hands. I never forced anybody into confessing their bad acts. Did I trick them into it? Absolutely, I did.”

His 21-month undercover operation is detailed in a new book, “No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels,” which was released Tuesday.

The book, co-authored by Nils Johnson-Shelton, is a no-nonsense read on how Dobyns went from football star to being shot during his first week as an ATF agent, and from biker dude to family man.

Dobyns went so far undercover for “Black Biscuit,” he had to fake the previously mentioned “murder” of a rival Mongols rider.The Mongol was really a federal agent covered with cow’s blood. Dobyns would buy guns and drugs from other undercover agents as part of the sting.

“We orchestrated street theater,” Dobyns said. “Every time I could, I would pull a punch, sell drugs, do a drug deal, extortion, intimidate somebody. I would create my own opportunity to show them that I was a nasty dude.”

Before undercover work

Dobyns, a Sahuaro High School grad who played for the late Larry Smith at UA, was prepared to start his pro career when he left the Wildcats for the NFL combine testing in 1985.

After catching 50 passes as a junior in 1983 and 42 passes in 1984 while building a reputation for sure hands and clutch receptions, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound Dobyns expected to play in the NFL.

But his combine group before the draft consisted of future NFL all-time career receptions leader Jerry Rice, and noted future pros Andre Reed, Jay Novacheck, Al Toon and UA’s Vance Johnson.

“I went in there thinking I was a big thing; that if I could do it in the Pac-10 I could do it anywhere,” said Dobyns, who led UA in receiving with 694 yards in 1983. “It was an eye-opening experience. That combine was life-changing.”

Dobyns was not drafted.

No Sonny Crockett

The television show “Miami Vice” was entertainment for some, inspiring to Dobyns. Actor Don Johnson made life as an undercover agent look appealing.

“I thought I could be the next Sonny Crockett,” Dobyns said. “The world that Hollywood and television creates for us is very different from the reality of it. It’s not a glamorous business.

“I didn’t drive a Lambo and wear silk suits or pull up to a mansion and have strippers bring me martinis and negotiate multikilo deals with big kingpins.

“I was driving an ’82 Malibu where the windows didn’t work. I had a floor-mounted radio that I had to throw a towel over to go meet with people in the undercover world. Instead of pulling into mansions, you’re pulling into a trailer park. Instead of super models handing you martinis, it’s a women – if she has a full head of teeth, you’re lucky – with a stale Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.”


“I loved it,” Dobyns said. “Being shot at or having the dog-snot beat out of me in undercover deals and holding homemade garage bombs and having guns pushed in your face is something I don’t regret or would change.”

Shot the first week

Only a week into his duties with ATF, Dobyns was wounded on Nov. 19, 1987, while trying to serve a warrant.

Chasing a suspect through the desert by Tucson International Airport should have been easy for somebody who clocked in at the NFL combine in 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. It wasn’t.

“My teammates (fellow ATF agents) were busting my (chops) and saying no wonder I was not playing in the NFL, you just got outrun by a 140-pound junkie in motorcycle boots,” Dobyns said. “They were giving me the business.”

The chase wasn’t over. A witness pointed out where the man had fled. But Dobyns was ambushed by the man, who pointed a gun at his head and threw Dobyns into a car and told him to drive. Dobyns made a regrettable move and tried to get out.

Bang. The man shot him.

“It was a pretty wicked experience. Blood was squirting out of my chest like you had your thumb on a garden hose,” Dobyns said. “I remember leaning against the car thinking, ‘I’ve been on the job a week and I’m going to die in this dirty trailer park.’ ”

Dobyns recovered and resumed his undercover work.

“I got the mentality that I was almost invincible after that; that I was bulletproof,” Dobyns said.

Infiltrating Hells Angels

His “Black Biscuit” assignment came after Dobyns had participated in several hundred undercover operations. The mission: “To see what the Hells Angels were all about, to befriend them, to see what they were doing,” Dobyns said.

According to Dobyns, there was a shooting during a fight between the Hells Angels and Mongols at the Harrah’s Casino in Laughlin, Nev., drug busts and gun smuggling.

In his book, Dobyns alleges that the Hells Angels asked him to prove himself by killing some “banditos” near the Nevada border.

“They weren’t kidding,” Dobyns said. “They weren’t messing around. They said they were going to be watching and when these guys show up, if you don’t kill them, then we’re going to shoot you.”

The confrontation was stopped just in time, but it proved to be the final straw, Dobyns said.

Finally, in July 2003, after a 21-month investigation, more than 500 federal and Arizona law enforcement officers arrested nearly 55 alleged members of the Hells Angels. The arrests allegedly produced 1,600 pieces of evidence, the seizure of 650 guns, more than 100 explosives and 30,000 rounds of ammunition, according to the “America’s Most Wanted” Web site.

The arrests were synchronized with raids in Nevada, California, Alaska and Washington state netting scores of additional suspects.

But Dobyns felt let down by the aftermath of the operation.

“Sadly, disputes over evidence and tensions between ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s killed our case,” Dobyns wrote. “Most of the serious charges were dismissed in early 2006, and as a result, hardly any of the guys were charged with RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization) violations saw the inside of a courtroom.”

Dobyns final thoughts: “I view it as a defeat.”

Home burns down

During his Hells Angels’ work, Dobyns tried to go back and forth from Nevada to Tucson to coach his son’s T-ball games.

The double life of being a dad and an undercover agent took its toll, and Dobyns retired from the ATF.

He now owns and operates the Jay Dobyns Group LLC, a motivational speaking/consulting business. He gives presentations to private industry and business leaders.

“I became so tunnel-visioned that I abandoned my family,” Dobyns said. “I’m not proud that I put everything I loved and cared about on the back burner. The true heroes are the families. They take the battle damage.”

That proved true when the Dobyns’ Tucson house burned down in August 2008, with his wife, Gwen; daughter, Dale, and son, Jack, getting out in time.

Dobyns, an outcast by the ATF for being outspoken about the case and the prosecutions of it, said his former department even tried to link him to the fire.

“When our house burned down, my family is looking at me like, ‘This is never going to leave us. This is going to continue to haunt us forever,’ ” Dobyns said.

To put the past behind him once and for all, Dobyns decided to write the book and tell his side of the story. He does not fear the wrath of his former ATF bosses or the Hells Angels.

“I’m not running any more,” he said.


Publisher: Crown

Pages: 352

Price: $25.95 hardback

Available: Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com

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