The Aryan Warriors

Profile of the Nevada Prison Gang

Jail, dark atmosphere.

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The Aryan Warriors is a criminal gang that operates inside the Nevada prison system and in certain communities in Nevada. They offer protection to white inmates if they join the gang.


The Aryan Warriors began in 1973 in the Nevada State prison system. The gang, designed after the California gang the Aryan Brotherhood, claimed to be intended to protect whites against attacks from Black prisoners. After seeking a charter membership from the AB and being turned down, the AW gang was on its own.

About a year into its creation the gang, who up to now was unable to organize, was taken over by an older inmate doing a life sentence named The Pope. Familiar with the way the AB gang worked, The Pope began to organize and structure the Aryan Warriors.

He established rules for all gang members to follow and a hierarchy of leadership. Building up the physical strength of the AW became a priority. Focusing on its enemy, primarily Black inmates, became its target. Building the gang's reputation for violence and selecting future members based on their strength and violent backgrounds became its mission.

Gang Structure

The Pope designed a structure of leadership for all to follow. To this day members adhere to a written manifesto that establishes positions or ranks within the gang, such as horn holders (leaders), bolt holders (full members), prospects (potential members), and associates (non-members who are affiliated with the organization.)

In order to become a full member, a prospect is required to perform a violent act as dictated by the horn blowers. Once they do it they become "bolt holders" and are tattooed (or branded) with lightning bolts on the inside of their left biceps.

To rise to the next level, "horn holders," they must perform a more serious violent act, which often includes murder. Once completed they are given a tattoo with a Viking helmet with the letters AW, which is put on their left upper chest.

Horn-blowers, under the direction of the top leader, are in charge of running all gang activities.

Black Gangs Rise to the Threat

Not willing to succumb to the Aryan Warriors, the Black inmates organized the Black Warriors and duplicated much of the AW symbols, like the helmet with a horn. Power struggles began to go on in the prison yard, a place the Black inmates had long controlled and a war between the two gangs became imminent.

The Aryan Warriors Prepare for War

The Aryan Warriors had been manufacturing weapons inside prison and with the impending war with the Black Warriors close at hand, production sped up. They also met with Native American inmates who had also been in conflict with the BWs, and the two groups made a pact to fight on the same side to bring down the BWs.

The showdown occurred in the prison cafeteria and the Blacks, many unarmed and taken by surprise by the AWs and Native attackers, lost the battle. The whites and the Natives now had full control of the prison yard.

The Thirst for More Power

Now in control, the Aryan Warriors sought more power and began going after those who they were supposed to be protecting - white inmates. Intimidation and threats were used to extort money from white inmates and their families. Those who refused would be beaten and sold as prison yard prostitutes. Instead of focusing on protection, the AW was now focused on drug distribution, extortion, and weaponry.

Aryan Warriors or Aryan Witnesses?

On November 5, 1980, a group of AWs murdered an inmate, Danny Lee Jackson, who they suspected to be a snitch. They then bragged about it in the prison yard. The murder and the boasting turned out to be a fatal mistake for the gang.

Robert Manly was a young prison deputy with an eye on the future. His door to the future opened when given the responsibility to find out who murdered the inmate.

The AW, who had spent years extorting inmates, had many enemies willing to talk to Manly. This gave the deputy enough information to corner AW gang members, many of who rolled over and became state witnesses. In return, several received early releases.

No longer having any hope of charter membership into the AB and with many of its members gone, the AW had lost most of its power. Its leader, The Pope, died in 1997, which proved to devastate the gang's power even more.

Aryan Warriors Today

Prison officials say that today the AW, now numbering about 100 members, still asserts control over other prisoners by using violence, including murder and attempted murder, assaults and extortion. They also corrupt guards, extort money and favors from prisoners and their families, distribute illegal drugs, and run extensive illegal gambling operations.

The Aryan Warriors also operate a "street program" in Las Vegas, Reno, and Pahrump, in which members, associates, and girlfriends distribute drugs, steal or fraudulently obtain identification and credit cards, commit other crimes, and smuggle drugs into the prisons.

Members use the money earned in the "street program" to support other criminal activities of the gang and to financially support incarcerated Aryan Warrior leaders.

On July 10, 2007, 14 Aryan Warrior gang members were indicted and charged with murder, attempted murder, extortion, operating an illegal gambling business, identity theft and fraud, and drug trafficking. Michael Kennedy, an admitted leader of the Aryan Warriors pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy in a related case.

Seven of the 14 pleaded guilty to various charges and on July 9, 2009, five were found guilty.

With the leader and other top gang members out of commission the future of the Aryan Warriors is questionable, however, some prison officials feel that this type of attention could actually strengthen the AW with other members moving into the now-vacant positions of leadership.

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "The Aryan Warriors." ThoughtCo, Jan. 30, 2021, Montaldo, Charles. (2021, January 30). The Aryan Warriors. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "The Aryan Warriors." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 12, 2021).