Biker Gang Member’s New Mission
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Harleys, drugs, girls and violence -- life in one of Virginia’s most feared biker gangs.
"If you weren't a Renegade, you weren't nothin’,” Tank explains. “I was like untouchable. I was above everybody and everything.”
Keith “Tank” was a high school sophomore when he got his first taste of being in a biker gang.
“They didn't care. And they were partyin’ and havin’ a good time and they stayed out, they had girls hangin’ around ‘em,” Tank remembers. “I just felt like they had a freedom, they just didn't care and I said, "you know, that's – yeah, I like that.”
But for Tank, it was more than that. Like them, he saw himself as an outcast, someone who needed a place to belong.
“Because of the kids didn’t really accept me, I was always a fat, ugly kid -- that's the way I perceived myself,” he admits. “They used to like to call me ‘Lumpy,’ so you know those aren't really words of acceptance, you know. You try to play it off, but it hurt.”
Tank was raised in the church and even asked Jesus to come into his life at 15. But wanting friendship, he fell in with the party crowd. Then he met the Renegades, and a place to belong.
“If you needed a help - a helping hand, you pick up the phone, they were there. And that’s what it was about. It was a brotherhood.”
By the time Tank was 21, he was working as a bouncer, and selling and using drugs. It was then he became an official member of the Renegades. Now his intimidating size was an advantage.
“When it was battle time, it was battle time, I mean... We ran this area, this was our area, and we didn't want other clubs coming in and stuff like that," he says.
Tank would spend the coming years climbing the ranks of the renegades where guns, violence, and drug dealing earned him four years behind bars. But that changed nothing. In fact, his drug use escalated to meth, which fueled his ego and violent outbursts.
“Never got sober. I stayed high. I'd go out sometimes just to look for a fight. You know, almost begging people to hit me just so we could - you know I could take my frustration out. I felt like I had self-respect because –I mean my self-esteem was big.”
Eventually, Tank married and had a son. But when they divorced after four years, Tank finally began to see how far his life had veered off course.
“You know, wasn't seeing my son like I wanted to, ‘cause my ex, she’s livin’ with her dad,” Tank recalls. “I was really tired of it. I was trying to get away from the drugs. And so I started doing more cocaine, thinking I could get away from the meth. I was not happy with myself at all, it just – cause everything I loved was going down the tubes.”
Then, in 1999, tank – along with thirty of his Renegade brothers -- was indicted on meth distribution and weapons charges.
“Like everything was just, I mean, I didn't have anything left.”
Tank was in jail awaiting trial, when a prison chaplain brought him a bible. With nothing to lose, he started reading.
“And I'd reached rock bottom. I'm done, I didn't know what else to do. And I'm saying, ‘God, you know, I know you're real and I know I've been such an idiot. You know, Lord, you’ve never turned your back on me.’ I said, ‘I know you're right here for me.’ I said, ‘I'm yours. I'm done.’ And that’s all I had to do was turn and trust in him, and that’s what I did. And if it was the rest of my life in prison, I said 'okay God, use me here, you know. But
Lord, I'm saying now, take me, use me, I surrender all to you."
Tank pled guilty to the charges and facing life in prison, threw himself on the mercy of the court
“I said, ‘I'm sure you hear it all the time, but the lord's changed my life.’ I said, Tthis ain't a Jesus thing to get out of jail or anything, but he's just totally changed me and I've learned my lesson.’"
The judge reduced the sentence to 16 years, time Tank used to study the bible, and draw close to God. His anger, hurt and ego slipped away, as he saw himself - and others - through God's eyes.
“He just made me bubble,” says Tank. “I mean, I knew I was accepted, I knew I was loved by him. I started looking from a Christian perspective. I started seeing people as lost. Well, I'd sit there and talk to them about the Lord. And I just continued telling people about Christ."
Tank walked out of prison in 2012 with a renewed mind and spirit. He quickly found a good church, where he met his wife, Caroline.
“I’m totally blessed, I've got a super wife that loves me, encourages me, prays for me. God's just so good,” Tank effuses.
Now, this former Renegade has a new brother– and sisterhood: the "Faith Riders" – a group of Christian bikers who tell the outcasts of this world about a loving God.
“I mean, when you get it, you get it,” he says. “And now I know I have it. And I just - I can't turn back. I mean, God's just awesome."
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