What Really Happened After This Hells Angel Flipped On The Club

It's not easy to escape the Hells Angels, let alone when you were a member as high-ranking as Dave Atwell. But per Vice, that's exactly what Atwell, a former sergeant-at-arms who is now in the Witness Protection Program, did in order to exit the Toronto chapter of the organization.

The Hells Angels are a sprawling gang of bikers, easily recognizable by their leather jackets that feature the iconic "death's head" logo and the letters HAMC, according to Time. Founded in 1948 near San Bernardino, California, it took its name from a nickname given to World War II bomber crews, per Britannica. Always notorious for aggression and associated with danger, the Hells Angels later became tied to the drug trade, per Hotcars. Despite their association with lawlessness, members have to follow strict rules, such as supporting fellow members no matter what and never, ever being a rat.

Dave Atwell, of course, would break those last two rules, changing everything about his life and putting him in grave danger for the rest of his days.

Dave Atwell's journey into Hells Angels

Dave Atwell began his career as a security guard in Toronto, but his love of motorcycles quickly led him toward a different world. He joined a motorcycle club called the Para-Dice Riders, but in 1999, the club "patched over," or chose to become part of the Hells Angels, according to Maclean's.

Atwell was quickly swept up in the Hells Angel lifestyle of perpetual fear and unconditional loyalty. "You wake up every day and worry about two things: how not to get caught and how to stay a Hells Angel," he said in an interview with Maclean's. "Within two years of the patch-over, it wasn't about riding your motorcycle and partying anymore. It was about being a cog in a money-making wheel."

He rose through the ranks during his seven years in the Hells Angels, ultimately becoming a sergeant-at-arms in the downtown Toronto chapter of the Angels.

In 2002, Atwell was arrested for selling weed and Percocet to a woman who turned out to be a police informant. He soon lost his job due to his association with the gang, and had to turn to selling drugs to continue making a living as a full-time Angel.

Eventually, faced with few ways to escape the gang, he chose to become a police informant in order to safely leave. "I was trapped, not by bars, but by the limitations the club had put on me and my life," he wrote in his memoir, "The Hard Way Out," per Vice

Dave Atwell becomes a police informant and leaves the Angels — but scars remain

During his time as an informant, Atwell was paid $1,800 per week in cash so he could continue living as a Hells Angel, though, according to the Toronto Star, the money wasn't behind his decision to rat out on the gang; his desire to leave the organization safely was the reason behind what he did.

Ultimately, the information Atwell gave the police led to a seizure of $3 million in drugs and to the arrest of 31 people, per Vice. Following the bust, Atwell had to face his former gang brothers in numerous trials, looking them in the eyes and testifying against them.

Following the trial, Atwell was placed in the Witness Protection Program, but the experience hasn't exactly been easy for him. "It would drive me absolutely nuts to think that they're looking for me every time I walk out of my apartment. But I'd have to be nuts to think they're not," he said to Maclean's. Still, he struggles with the isolation.

"It's a solitary life," he added. "You can't get to know anyone because they want to get to know you and they ask all these questions. I'll never ride a bike again. I'll never own a home or work anything other than a [blue collar job] because you can't get those things without a backstory. It's not a glamorous life, but I'm not a predator on society anymore. As long as you're doing good things instead of bad things, it's easier to close your eyes at night."