A Whitfield County man with a “known affiliation” to the Renegades motorcycle club was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga Thursday morning after a bomb in his truck nearly took his life, officials said.

On June 24, James Wayne Brock Jr., 27, of 146 George Brock Road, took part in what Forest Park police said was a shootout with a rival motorcycle gang, the Outlaws, in the parking lot of a Clayton County strip club, the Crazy Horse Saloon.

Speculation on Thursday was that the bomb that severely injured Brock was planted by the Outlaws in retaliation for the death of Frank Rego Vital, 44, a member of the Outlaws from Roberta, who was killed during the gunplay.

Brock was found lying in his driveway on the passenger side of the truck. He was apparently on his way to work at a local carpet mill, Capt. Rick Swiney with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office said. Swiney said Brock’s two sons were waiting for the school bus and witnessed the explosion.

“It’s very unusual and nerve-wracking (to hear of a car bomb in Whitfield County),” Swiney said. “We expect to be at the scene all afternoon gathering evidence and feel by that time we’ll have some answers.”

Brock’s father, James Wayne Brock Sr., has been denied bond and has been in the Clayton County jail since the June shootout said Maj. Chris Matson with the Forest Park Police Department. He is charged with aggravated assault.

Thursday morning, Kathrine Hope said she and her husband Jason were awakened at about 6:30 by a tremendous eruption and explosion near their home on George Brock Road in south Whitfield County, thinking it might be a natural gas explosion.

After they heard sirens driving past their home toward a neighbor’s around the corner, they noticed white smoke rising and drove there, where they saw a red, late-model Dodge truck with its windows shattered.

“The top of the truck had pieces blown out. It was trashed. Neighbors were outside, standing all around,” said Kathrine Hope, whose husband, a Dalton State College nursing student and carpet industry employee, has previous military experience.

“He knew right away it was not a gunshot. A bomb was his guess as soon as he saw the truck,” she said. “He’s been to war, and it reminded him of what he saw in Iraq.”

Swiney said the truck bomb was different from the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) so familiar in war-torn Iraq only in that this bomb seemed to be targeted toward a specific individual.

“The explosion was heard as far as a mile away,” Swiney said. “The ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), FBI and GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) are reconstructing the crime scene. It will just take some time.”

Sarah Gentry lives at 432-A Old Dixie Highway near the scene and said the explosion sounded like a sonic boom. She said her cousin, Darlene Allen, who lives across the street from the Brocks, took Brock’s sons to school.

“The bus drove by at 7:30, but the police made it turn around and go the other way,” Gentry said. “One of his sons asked me, ‘Did you see what happened? My daddy got blew up.’ I just kissed him on the head and told him it would be all right.”

Mark Mathis, an electrician who lives nearby at 217 Muse Drive, said he was off work because of a broken hand and was awakened by the big boom.

“It rattled the windows and shook the house. I knew more than a transformer blew. Our son came by and had heard about it from a friend who lives across the street and was told to evacuate,” Mathis said. “I knew (the Brocks) rode bikes, and there was always somebody sitting there on that porch. It’s scary to know somebody can do that (plant a bomb) and nobody see.”

Avanell Brock, a widow who lives on South Dixie Highway, said she is no relation to Brock but heard the blast while she was eating breakfast before going to work at the Country Kitchen.

“I heard a hard bump, like a wreck,” she said. “You know it’s getting close to home when something like that happens across the road.”

James Brock Sr. had been previously arrested in January in Dalton. According to a police report, Brock Sr. allegedly fired a shot into the celling of Tipsy’s Bar on Walnut Avenue after an altercation with a member of another motorcycle gang. A bullet fragment hit a man in the leg, according to the report, causing minor injuries.

The biker lifestyle and related gang activity was probably most glamorized in the 1969 movie “Easy Rider.” But since that time, biker gangs have become one of the most sophisticated types of organized crime, according to the Web site of the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association.

“Once considered nothing more than rowdy toughs on two-wheelers, motorcycle gangs have evolved into crime units that are sufficiently well-oiled and well-organized to rival the Mafia,” wrote Sgt. Steve Tretheway with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Lt. Terry Katz with the Maryland State Police Criminal Intelligence Division. “At least six motorcycle gangs in the United States now have chapters outside the country’s borders. The Bandidos, Hell’s Angels and Outlaws are three of the larger gangs.”

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