Las Vegas Sun

June 24, 2024

THIS PLACE:

Biker’s legacy: Outlaws in church

Riders of all stripes mourn gang member turned evangelist

0327Random1

Sam Morris

Jesse James Corrao, 23, gets a hug from Keith “Cannonball” Armstrong at the funeral Saturday for his father, James “Wolf” Corrao, who was killed in a hit-and-run the previous weekend by a drunken-driving suspect. Formerly an outlaw, the elder Corrao quit his gang six years ago and gave his life to God.

James "Wolf" Corrao

James "Wolf" Corrao

Rival bikers come together for fallen friend

Bikers and their motorcycles fill the parking lot of Hope Baptist Church before a funeral for James Launch slideshow »

The air smelled of exhaust and cigarettes and rumbled with the thunder of Harley pipes.

Some of the hundreds of bikers wore tattoos of devils, skulls and raised middle fingers. Mottos on jackets and bikes said “Trust no one” and “We give what we get.”

Disputes among the Bandidos, Hells Angels, Vagos and other outlaw motorcycle groups can erupt into brawls, stabbings and gunfire.

But on this day they’re gathering at Hope Baptist Church. With tears in their eyes.

It’s Wolf’s funeral.

James Corrao, a 53-year-old biker, was killed in a hit-and-run the previous Saturday by a suspected drunken driver.

And some 600 people, mostly Christian bikers with tattoos and patches that proclaimed love for God, have filled the church today. They’re here with motorcycle gang members who on most days have little use for one another.

Until six years ago Wolf had been one of those outlaws, a “one-percenter,” a member of the biker gangs notorious for intimidation and mayhem. In his own words, which were read at the service, he was an outlaw among outlaws — an enforcer, bouncer and bodyguard. He had written the story of his faith a few days before his death, intending to share it at a Bible study that had been scheduled for this day.

Wolf was covered in tattoos from his toes to his nose and so fearsome in his outlaw days that a gang gave him a full patch without the usual initiation period — a legendary sign of respect in the biker world. His life was characterized by violence. And misery.

“I was mean and angry and I put (my wife) Debbie and my family through hell,” Wolf wrote. “But Debbie told me that one day the good man in me would come out.”

Wolf’s life hit bottom after the death of a brother and the loss of his job. He was beyond angry. He was empty.

“I’m tired. I’m done. I don’t wanna be this man no more,” a friend recalled him saying.

It was about then Wolf turned to the Soldiers for Jesus motorcycle club — former outlaw bikers, drug addicts and alcoholics turned evangelists — and they led him to a relationship with God.

“God has changed my life a lot and still is. The anger and violence — God has taken it away,” Wolf wrote after his conversion.

“Most of us are no-good losers somehow, someway,” said Keith “Cannonball” Armstrong, president of the Soldiers for Jesus Las Vegas chapter and one of Wolf’s closest friends. “But through the grace of God we have turned over a new leaf and God has found favor in our lives and picked us up and started us over.”

The Soldiers still hang out at outlaw parties — but now they pray with other bikers. They’re in the outlaw world but not of it.

And today, at Wolf’s funeral, it’s a turnabout. The outlaws have joined the Soldiers in church. Hope Baptist had never seen so much leather.

They are filling the seats and standing in a ring around the sanctuary and crowded in the back. Wolf’s body, clad in his black leather vest, lies in an open casket flanked on each side by a Christian biker.

Wolf’s 23-year-old son, Jesse James Corrao, a tattoo artist in Las Vegas, told the gathering, “I got to see my dad go from someone who was the worst person anyone could imagine to a man who changed more lives in six years than most people could in their lifetime.”

One member of the Vagos, Tommy Mac, said outside the service that Wolf always showed everyone respect. When Wolf said that he loved you, “you felt it,” he said.

“A lot of tough guys are here in this parking lot with tears in their eyes, myself included,” Mac said.

The driver who killed Wolf tried to flee the scene. After he was caught, Mac said he begged the police to throw him in jail with the driver so he could “take him out.” He wanted to kill the guy. Not anymore.

“Wolf wouldn’t want that,” Mac said. “Wolf already forgave that man. It’s not up to us to judge him.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy