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Archive for the ‘Vagos’ Category

I’m talking about the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe who are the native people of Death Valley.

Death Valley

Destination: Death Valley

With multiple weeks of nice weather, our posse departed Portland, Oregon early morning on September 17th with a cold front and threat of rain and the occasional spit of rain drops in the face. We haplessly listened to the V-Twin’s drone on as we traveled east on Interstate 84 for 426 miles.

Long delay due to overturned semi on I-84

Long delay caused by an overturned Concrete semi on I-84

We arrived in Boise late afternoon which was hosting Oktoberfest in the Basque Block part of the vibrant downtown!  We enjoyed some island fare and refreshments on the rooftop tiki patio at The Reef.  Crowds gathered in the closed off streets for authentic German biers, food and of course the occasional chicken dance.  And in what has to be one of the best Idaho cover bands — Pilot Error — rocked the crowd most of the evening.  Here is a video of the band doing a Def Leppard cover with Derek Roy as lead vocal and the awesome Roger Witt – on lead guitar.

As the evening wore on it seemed filled with young college kids who were trying hard to “be” the club scene.  Like those videos produced by I’m Shmacked.

Idaho Basin

Snake River and Great Basin area

The next morning was a continuation east on the mind-numbing straight road of Interstate 84. However, we really clicked off the miles to Twin Falls doing the freeway speed limit which is now set at 80 mph!  We rolled along and were surprised by how many 18-wheelers tried to pass us.

As a side bar, you might recall that in the mid-1970s, Congress established a national maximum speed limit by withholding highway funds from states that maintained speed limits greater than 55 mph. Do you remember the “I can’t drive 55” days?  The requirement was loosened for rural interstates in 1987 and completely repealed in 1995. As of today, 41 states have speed limits of 70 mph or higher. Oregon state legislators who seem to know more than the average citizen about how to protect us from ourselves just recently increased some rural interstate speeds to 70 mph.  Texas is the fastest at 85 mph.

Idaho

In route to Ely, NV

But I’ve digressed.  This part of our arid motorcycle journey took us on the Thousand Springs Scenic Byway which runs through the Snake River Canyon. We rode through bright green irrigated fields, crossed the Snake River, saw a waterfall spilling from the top of a high bluff, and watched windmills turning in the stiff wind.  As we headed further south on U.S. Route 93 we split the Great Basin that covers most of Nevada and part of Utah. There were mountains to the East and West, and the traffic thinned to an occasional tractor-trailer hauling freight or cattle.

Our ride ended that day in Ely, Nevada, which was founded as a stagecoach stop along the Pony Express, and later became a booming copper mining town.

We parked the bikes and enjoyed a nice dinner at the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant.

On the Lonliest Road

On Nevada’s Loneliest Road

The following day we were up early and continued our ride south on one of Nevada’s loneliest roads.  I’m not sure about you, but I find the Nevada desert to be immensely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Even though most of the roads are flat and straight, the scenery is grand and I always enjoy the ride.

Just a few miles south of Ely is a turnoff for the Ward Charcoal ovens.  We didn’t travel down the eight miles of gravel road, but there are beehive-shaped stone kilns built by Mormons around 1876 to produce fuel for the silver and lead smelters serving the mines on Ward Mountain.  As you look across the valley at the Big Basin National Park, there is the 13,000 foot Wheeler Peak standing off in the distant.

More Lonely Road...

More Lonely Road…

We traveled the mostly straight 240+ miles and finally rolled into North Las Vegas and could see the skyline of the famous Las Vegas strip.  Speaking of the city that never sleeps, our posse picked up a lot of traffic at the U.S. 93/I-15 interchange and were immediately greeted with a dude on a sport bike weaving in and out of lanes.  Then adding to the traffic drama he started to split lanes at full on freeway speeds.

I must have missed that part of the training about how motorcyclists should always make sudden moves in heavy traffic!  Most people who’ve had any experience driving in and around Vegas know that it can be a bit treacherous. Cages with locals that always seem to be in a hurry and cabbies are out in force all day and night driving fast and cutting across multiple lanes.  Add to that the tourists trying to navigate a new city on the freeways and it’s a perfect storm of distracted drivers.

After all the traffic hustle and bustle I was looking forward to parking the bike for awhile and relaxing around the pool for a day.  That evening we took on the “clickers” (i.e. porn panderers) who stand on every corner of the Strip and aggressively try to shove advertisements for adult entertainment in your face.

Selfie

Departing Las Vegas

Don’t take me wrong, Las Vegas has world-class restaurants, cool bars, amazing entertainment and great weather, but after a couple of days of breathing air freshener the casinos pump into their ventilation systems to mask the reeking of camels, cigarillos, cigars and those slot machines going ding-ding-ding… I’m ready for some fresh air and wind in the face!

We did have an opportunity to walk through the sprawling Harley-Davidson dealer across from the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign.  We checked out the new Milwaukee Eight touring bikes and spent some time chatting with a knowledgeable sales person about the 2017 differences.


It wasn’t too long (about 48 hours) and Las Vegas was in our mirrors as we rode out into the desert on Hwy 160.  We departed the city early so that we could tour through Death Valley before it got too hot.  It was still in the high-70 degree range as we departed.  We increased altitude going through Red Rock Canyon National Park toward Pahrump as the desert landscape morphs from sandy, rocky terrain dotted with low brush and creosote bushes.  Big stratified rock formations and hills define the valleys in the distance, closing in on the road periodically before opening up to a wide expanse of flat desert floor. It’s a wonderland of muted color.
Rearward pic

Looking back on Hwy 190

We fueled up in Pahrump which is an interesting town.  Like in the rest of Nevada, gambling is legal in Pahrump, and there are several casinos to take advantage of that fact. But, unlike Las Vegas, the casinos in Pahrump are present but not dominant. They’re smaller and a little less intimidating.  There might be some wisdom in staying overnight in Pahrump instead of the hectic scene in Vegas. Certainly the traffic situation would be a lot less stressful.

At the Death Valley junction we turned west on Hwy 190 and headed for Furnace Creek where the Native American tribe known as the Death Valley Timbisha Shoshone Band of California are located.

Initially it was was quite comfortable, but as we descended into the valley it felt like someone was turning up an oven.  It was still early and the temps were in the high 80’s but by the time we stopped in Furnace Creek it was 100 degrees.  Surprisingly hot for the end of September, but the scenery is spectacular!

Death Valley

Death Valley – Timbisha Shoshone Tribe

It’s some of the best “landscape” on the planet that looks a bit like you’ve arrived on Mars. There’s nothing growing out there higher than your knee yet it will be forever etched in your memory as not just one of the greatest motorcycle rides ever but one of the most beautiful.  At one place in the park you can look down at one of the lowest points on earth at -280 feet in one direction and up to the highest point in the continental U.S. in another (Mt. Whitney, at 14,494).  It’s an amazing color contrast.

Existing Death Valley

Exiting Death Valley

We scurried on out of the national park and headed toward Mammoth Lakes on Hwy 395.  The first real town you come to is Lone Pine. In the early to mid 20th century, the area around Lone Pine, particularly the Alabama Hills, which lie between the highway and the Sierra range, was a popular setting for western movies.  Just west of town you’ll get another nice view of Mt. Whitney.

By the time we rode through the Inyo National Forest the desert heat had faded and we were getting hit with cooler air.  Much, much cooler as we gained altitude and it started to spit rain drops.  Not enough to soak the road or require rain gear, but enough to make it a bit uncomfortable.  Our ride on this day ended at Mammoth Lakes which is a ski and outdoor-sports town.

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Heading up toward Mammoth Lakes

Surprisingly it rained most of the night, but the sky cleared up in the early morning and we departed Mammoth Lakes with the temperature only in the high 40’s.  A brisk start to our riding day as we continued north on Hwy 395 on the eastern side of the Sierra’s.  We rode around Mono Lake, and we climbed to another 8100-foot ridge, which offers a great view back to the Mono basin before starting back down past the turn-off for Bodie.

Mono Lake

Mono Lake

The last real town before your reach Nevada is Bridgeport.  We stopped at the Bridgeport Inn, for breakfast.  A nice place built in 1877 and about 23 miles from Mono Lake.  It’s a family run historic period Victorian hotel, old Irish pub, and fine dining restaurant.  After warming up a bit we continue our ride and crossed into Nevada about 50 miles after Bridgeport. Aptly named Topaz Lake covers the state line next to the highway as you cross.

We arrived in Reno for the start of Street Vibrations 2016. Downtown was rumbling with motorcycles of all shapes and sizes for the fall rally which marks the last big motorcycle rally of the season for the west. There was no shortage of vendors and having been to the event a number of times we repeated some of the events over a couple of days.

The Posse

The Destination: Timbisha Indian Country Posse

Part of the posse departed early Saturday morning and some headed out late morning to return back to Portland.  I’m not sure about you, but I don’t take many photos on the return trip from Reno as I’ve been on these roads a lot over the years and just focused on riding home vs. scenery.


In summary, we traveled over 2100 miles in 8 days with no mishaps, tickets or mechanical malfunctions. What more can you ask for?

 

Street Vibrations UPDATE:  There was some disappointing  news surrounding Street Vibrations which I learned of upon my return.  Jeffrey Sterling Duke, 57, of Georgetown, Calif. was shot to death on Interstate 80 near Truckee on Saturday night.  According to law enforcement he was semi-associated with the Vagos Motorcycle Club and his Facebook page noted that he was a Green Nation Supporter.

According to officials three motorcyclists rode up to the victim and fired multiple gunshots before taking off.  It’s not clear if this shooting is associated, but you might recall that five years ago this past weekend, members of the Vagos and Hells Angels Motorcycle Clubs exchanged gunfire during a deadly brawl on the floor of a casino in Sparks.

Randy Burke (Road Shows) applies some media “spin” and explains why the Street Vibrations Rally is not to be blamed for the shooting.

Photos taken by author.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Gary Stuart “Jabbers” Rudnick

UPDATE: June 4, 2014 – As part of a plea deal to testify against fellow Vagos, Nevada Judge Connie Steinheimer sentenced Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick to seven years in prison on August 21, 2013.   The ex-president of Vagos Nicaragua, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez was sentenced to life in prison on October 3, 2013 with the possibility of parole after 20-years.

Between motorcycle manufactures, affinity groups, retailers, mechanics and aftermarket accessories, there is a wide support network of resources for our motorcycles.  More important is that many of us are looking for the same thing from the motorcycle community which means finding others who share similar interests, getting involved and contributing our time and resources to help others and the motorcycle community at large.

And speaking of motorcycle ambassadors of peace and spreading goodwill around the world…

Let’s talk Vagos and Hells Angels.  Recently, the Washoe County Grand Jury testimony was released and the proceedings outline the resulting indictments of three men accused in the shooting of  Jeffrey Pettigrew, the San Jose HAMC chapter president during Street Vibrations in September 2011 at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks.  The grand jury was conducted by two Washoe County Deputy District Attorneys named Karl Hall and Amos Stege. The full transcript is about 60,000 words long.

No, I’m not moving the blog into the “True Crime” genre.  I’m re-publishing the testimony from Confidential Source #11-67 who was previously identified as former Vago Jacob Cancelli because it provides a disappointing look into the world of motorcycle clubs and some of their members.  Mr. Cancelli was one of the 14 witnesses who appeared before the Washoe County Grand Jury on November 9, 2011.  I have yet to received a copy of the Grand Jury transcript, but this information comes courtesy of the Aging Rebel blog and I want to provide a shout out on his deep coverage of the topic.

Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez (L)

As quick background; Vago Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez is accused of fatally shooting the HAMC president.  Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana is accused of shooting two other Vagos.  And Vagos Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick is charged with instigating the fight that led to the fatal shooting.

Here is a partial transcript from the Sparks Grand Jury testimony:

The Informer (Confidential Source #11-67; former Vago Jacob Cancelli)

Question (Q): Sir I am going to refer to you as Confidential Source 11-67, all right?

Answer (A): Yes….

Q. Are you familiar with the Vagos motorcycle club?

A. Yes. I have been a Vagos for twenty-seven years. I have been involved with Vagos for twenty-seven years. I moved up the ranks to a very high rank of Vagos within the last few months. Before this event took place, I was in the higher echelon, echelon, excuse me, of the club.

Q. Were you at the Nugget on the 23rd of September, 2011?

A. Yes, I was.

Q. Are you familiar…I am showing you or behind you videoed surveillance tape that was captured from the Oyster Bar. It is Vagos-H.A. Oyster Bar two at about 22:13 hours or about 10:13 p.m. on that day. Do you recognize some of the individuals that are depicted in that video?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. I am going to play a little bit of that video. Are you familiar with Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. How are you familiar with him?

A. Through the club.

Q. You can identify him?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know Cesar Villagrana?

A. Yes.

Q. How do you know him?

A. Through the club.

Q. Through the club?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. How about Mr. Pettigrew, Jeffrey also known as Jethro Pettigrew?

A. Yes, I can identify him, too.

Q. Can you identify an individual by the name of Gary Stuart Rudnick?

A. What is his….

Q. “Jabbers?”

A. Yes.

Q. So “Jabbers” would be a nickname?

A. Yes.

Q. All right. Having been at the Nugget, were you over in the Oyster Bar on the night in question, the 23rd?

A. Yes.

Q. All right.

A. That is me right there.

Q. That would be you?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you familiar with what was going on that night?

A. Yes.

Q. Was there any tension between the Hells Angels motorcycle club and the Vagos motorcycle club?

A. Yes, there was.

Q. What was the nature of that tension?

A. What had happened is that, if I might go through this, may go through this, I got a call. I was by the east elevator bar over there.

We got a call there was a problem with the Hells Angels. So when we got that call, we moved towards the area of the Oyster Bar, and at that time, when I went to the Oyster Bar in this corner here, the corner…Is this the Oyster Bar here?

Q. Yes?

A. That’s the back bar, right?

Q. So it bears over on the left-hand corner.

A. Okay. Right here where you see this little area here, it is a little box. There is an opening behind it. Rght there is where “Jabbers” was at, at the time when I first came up, and Pettigrew.

Q. What was going on between “Jabbers” or Mr. Rudnick and Mr. Pettigrew?

A. Well, when I walked up, there was a lot of Vagos that were around.

And I took a look over there, and they both came out, and “Jabbers”

was very upset. And he just kept on talking, kept on talking, kept on talking. And he kept taunting Pettigrew. What he was saying was the likes of, “I don’t know you. You don’t have a right to touch me. What are you doing?” You know. “I don’t even need to talk to you,” things of that nature, really pushing on top of him. Pettigrew’s response back to him was, “Hey, man, you know, I was just having a good time. I just want to have a beer,”

basically. He wasn’t in no shape or form upset at that time. Top Hat, who is this gentleman right here, is a twenty-year what you call a Nomad for a member. I have known Top Hat for twenty-six years. He was there when we get to that point to talk in conversation with Pettigrew. What had happened is that we were talking to Pettigrew. He was cool. He was just saying, “Hey man, everything is good. I have no problem.” “Jabbers” comes up and “Jabbers” then starts taunting him.

You know, “You had no right touching me.” What he meant by “touching”, he just tapped him on the back, basically. You know, what my insinuation was, he tapped him on the back. He said, “Hey, do you want to have a beer?” “Jabbers” took it as an offensive thing, pushed out his chest because, of course, there was a lot more Vagos than there were Hells Angels. So he kept on taunting. He wouldn’t stop. So I told him, I said, “Listen, shut the fuck up.” Excuse my French, but I have to tell you the way it went. I said, “Shut the fuck up. Get the fuck out of here.” He backed up for a minute, then he come back again. I said, “I told you to leave.” He says, “Hey, hey, don’t worry.” I said, “I told you to leave.” Now me, in my position, he has to listen to me.

So what happens is that Pettigrew and I are talking. He comes back up again, and then Pettigrew looks at him. I am going to call him Jethro.

Jethro looks at him and he says to Jethro, “You know I don’t know why you had to touch me.” He says, you know, “Just talk to me.” He said, “I don’t need to talk to you,” this and this, whatever. Jethro lost it. He got pissed off.

Q. Jethro Pettigrew is mad at “Jabbers” or Rudnick?

A For taunting him, taunting him, taunting him. He finally just said, “Listen, I don’t need to fucking talk to you no more.” He turned around and walked away.

Q. We have that depicted on the video. Let’s see, Mr. Rudnick also known as “Jabbers” and so we are at 22:13:40?

A. We are looking at him right now.

Q. Can I ask you to back up so we can see? I have a pointer right here. We can kind of identify people. Now this individual at the bottom left-hand corner?

A. Gonzales.

Q. Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez?

A. Yes.

Q. Is he associated…How would be he associated with Mr. Rudnick or “Jabbers”?

A. He would be associated just as a brother, but he’s an underling because “Jabbers” is a V.P., Vice President. So at any moment, if “Jabbers” was to ask him for assistance to back him up, he would do it. So Mr. Gonzalez is basically the backup to Mr. Rudnick because Rudnick is a Vice President in the Vagos. “Jabbers,” yes, and here is Pettigrew right there. That is him. All he’s doing, he’s just trying, shaking people’s hand, saying hello. That is his MO, tapping, say hello, whatever. This is when I come over, because “Jabbers” is having serious issues. So this is Top Hat, Gonzalez, they call him Romeo, that is his nickname. There is “Jabbers” right there. So I go over there. I am talking to him for a minute, and I told him…and here is this guy that was backing him up. This is the guy that says I won’t leave my Vice President. He’s an L.A. charter. This is Bret from South Bay, South Bay member. I think that is Bret right there from South Bay.

Q. Did you go over and talk to Pettigrew?

A. Yes. This is Pettigrew right here, Hells Angels President. I am over there talking to him. And this is Crusher, his name is Leo Ramirez. He’s one of the guys that got shot.

Q. Leonard Ramirez, the person that got shot in the stomach?

A. Yes, he did. He watches over me. That was his job. And I am talking to Top Hat here. And what we were trying to do is make everything at ease right here, settle everybody, to back them off. We don’t want nobody in there.

Q. You were trying to diffuse the situation, avoid an altercation?

A. One hundred percent. See there, I am on the phone. I am trying to get in touch with some of the top, top, National members so I could tell them what is going on before this thing turns into a problem.

Q. Now were there a lot of Vagos meeting at the Nugget that weekend?

A. Yes.

Q. Had there been a meeting earlier that day at the Nugget?

A. Yes. We had a meeting at 8:00 o’clock in the West towers.

Q. Approximately how many Vagos members attended that meeting?

A. Over five hundred. There was a Vagos members meeting. Right afterward, there was a Prospect meeting. Then right after that, there was a Nomad meeting. Nomad, which means there is gentlemen Vagos in the club that have been in the club twenty years or over. And there was a Nomad force there. They had the third meeting. After this meeting took place and everything, we remained downstairs again.

Q. All right. We can still see Mr. Gonzales in the bottom right-hand corner, Mr. Rudnick or “Jabbers” there kind of in the middle, I think that would be.

A. There is “Jabbers” talking to Top Hat. That is his wife. Top Hat is trying to talk to him, but “Jabbers” is not paying attention. He’s just getting more and more frustrated. See by Top Hat’s demeanor when he’s talking to him, basically telling him he has to back up, just relax. Can we go back for a moment, please?

Q. Yes. I am getting there. Bear with me. It is more.

A. That’s it right there.

Q. We’ll get there.

A. There I am. I have got everybody for the back.  That is Bob. He is the Vice President of the San Jose Hells Angels. I went up to Bob. I was talking to him, and he said, “Everything is going to be all right.” He says, “I am getting too old for this.” I said, “I am getting to old for this, too.” We shook each other hands.  A lot of people around didn’t like what was going on. But I talked to his Hang-around. I am talking to the guy. Now Top Hat goes back.

Everybody is a little bit tight. And there is “Jabbers” right there.

Q. Rudnick went back over to where Pettigrew was?

A. Yes. I go back in. I am getting angry. I told him already to go. When I go…Leo’s name is Crusher, the Vagos name we call him.

Q. Leonard, Leo, Crusher, they are all the same….

A. Yes.

Q. …guy?

A. Crusher, Leo, is right here. He has to watch me. I am telling him to leave.

Q. You are telling “Jabbers” to leave?

A. He’s trying to tell him, “What is going on? Don’t touch me.” He’s, “Listen, I was just playing around.” So him, Top Hat and I are telling “Jabbers”, I put my hand on “Jabber,” said, “back off.” I said, “Get out of here.” Basically just leave. I am telling him. That is his essay.

Q. What happened after that? Did Mr. Rudnick, “Jabbers”, say anything about the situation?

A. Yeah. What happened is that “Jabbers” kept taunting him.

Q. Taunting Pettigrew?

A. Taunting Pettigrew. What happened is Pettigrew then got angry and he says, “I don’t need to talk to you no more,” basically. And he walks away. So I tell everybody to walk out. “Jabbers” and Top Hat sit right here at the video, and “Jabbers” is drunk, and he tells Top Hat, he says, “Why are Nomads always getting involved with our business?”

Nomads are, the Nomad Vagos are Vagos. We are all one. But still, they are there to help out. Nomads are there to help out, and each one of the charters of the Vagos, for any type of encouragement if someone has a problem, whatever. They can come into any meeting they want to at any time to hear what is going on within the structure of each charter. He give Top Hat, he has a beard, a full beard, and he says, “You got this much time, because I made a call to the guys. They were still upstairs, the National members. This is the International Vice President, Secretary, Sergeant at Arms, all the way upstairs talking.

What I then did was made a call to the National President and he didn’t answer the phone. I then called the National President Nomads, Rocky, and we talked and he says, “Come up here immediately.” I walked. Then he says, Top Hat, I am right next to Top Hat, “If you guys don’t get down here, something’s going to happen.”

Q. What did he mean by that?

A. It is going to get it on, move without anybody’s, you know, permission or anything.

Q. When you say get it on, Vagos are going to fight with Hells Angels?

A. One hundred percent. So I got pissed off at him. Right at that point, being who I am, I could have smacked him in the mouth, knocked him out, but I didn’t choose to do that. I went upstairs, because this is a big deal going on here. When I went upstairs, I talked to Dragonman and Dragonman and Rocky are up there. We are talking about the situation, what happened. I told him Jabbers is drunk. I told him that, you know, he was taunting the guy. And I told him it is going to turn into a real bad thing real quick, because us and Hells Angels don’t get along too well at all because of past history. So what they did is they formed their little group. They came downstairs. They walked around. They came back down to the bar where no one was allowed. All Vagos were backing up at that time. They went into the bar. Pettigrew was there, Jethro, and they talked to Jethro and they talked to Bobby V and everything was diffused. They said everything’s cool. Jethro says he didn’t want no issues. There is no problems. They said, okay, everything is fine. There is no problems here. Everything is cool. The problem is, when you have a lot of people, when you have over five hundred people from a particular organization, you can’t get the word out to everybody at one time. That is the problem. So they came walking back. And I don’t know if you want to go through that area.

Q. Well, we’ll get to that area. But before I get there, can I talk a little bit about the organization of the Vagos organization?

A. Absolutely.

Q. All right. So can you tell us about how the organization is structured? You talked about the hierarchy, the upper echelon?

A. How it is structured is that you have a panel that are called International who are what you call the top of the whole Green Nation Vagos Motorcycle Club. It starts with the International President, then goes International Vice President, International Secretary, International Sergeant at Arms, International Road Captain.

Q. What are their duties? What are they charged with, those different people?

A. Road Captain is on the road. He basically takes over the pack or the charter, whoever is on the road with him. The International Road Captain, at all times you have to obey what he has to say when you are on the road with the Road Captain, because it is the road. What happens is, when he takes a pack anywhere, whether it is to Vegas, Reno, whatever, everybody has to follow his direction. He controls it on the freeway. Sergeant at Arms, when you are off the bikes and you are out and about, Sergeant of Arms position is to make sure that nobody, absolutely nobody guests hurt, has any problems. I am talking Vagos members. Okay. Each Vagos charter has the same type of set up.

You have your President, you have your Vice President, you have your Secretary, you have your Sergeant at Arms, and you have your Raod Captain. Now each one of them have to follow pretty much the same direction. So the International President, he runs the club. The International Vice President assists him in running the club. He’s like what you call a concierge, tells him, delegates certain things to him, what he thinks he should do. The Secretary takes care of, you know, the books, Bylaws, things of that nature. At the end, the Secretary combines everything and puts it together. The Sergeant at Arms, his position is to protect the President, International President at all times, at all cost no matter what it is. Okay. If the International President was here at the time, the first thing was to protect him from all members, because it read that way in the Bylaws.

In the Bylaws it says that, number one, start off with the International President. At all times the International President is to be respected under any circumstances, wartime or whatever, wherever he’s at. That is the way it runs and that is the way it operates.

Q. Is respect an important part of the Vagos creed and the Vagos code?

A. Absolutely. Right underneath that part of the Bylaws there is a thing call PBTs. The PBTs are…The PBTs are in essence underneath the International President. They are what you call a higher king of the whole club. Anyone that disrespects them faces serious, serious consequences. Anybody from any chapter, say for instance there is a Riverside chapter. Say for instance there is an L.A. chapter. Say for instance members of the L.A. chapter come up to the President of the other chapter and says words to him, he reports that to the President, and then he could take care of it the way he wants to. Or this President takes care of it the way he thinks is peaceable. They talk about it. They come to a remedy. Most of the time, most of the time when disrespect gets out of order, they don’t call the patch no more.

They became Prospect again. Sometimes they get a beating. So if the guy has been around a long time, what they will do is Prospect him.

Now how it operates, to become a Vagos member, you have got to hang around first. It is called Hang-around. From Hang-around, if we feel everything is good and you are a good person to come into the club, we feel you could do the right thing within the club, from that standpoint it goes from Hang-around to Prospect. When you became a Prospect, the minimum amount of time for Prospects are six months minimum amount of time. It depends on your actions. It depends how you are. But even though you are a Prospect for one charter, because there is a lot of charters of the Vagos, illustration, for instance southern California, Rivera, if there was a Prospect for southern California Rivera that belongs to me or belongs to another individual, at that time, that Prospect then not only belongs to me but has to have the respect of all and everybody until such time as he earns the patch. So wherever he has to travel, wherever he has to go, whatever he has to do, he does as a Prospect to earn that patch.

Q. So for example if you have prospects that made the trip up to Reno, what would they be tasked to do or told to do?

A. Well, that is when you had the second meeting with the prospects. And the prospects are usually told, I wasn’t at the Prospect meeting, but have respect, shake everybody’s hand, get to meet everybody, say hello. But in any situation, when a situation like that happened, you will see in this video there is a Prospect that is walking through, and they will up the command of their sponsor, move into a battle if they are told to, because if they don’t, they are gone.

Q. Do Vagos typically carry a weapon?

A. There is a lot of Vagos that carry weapons.

Q. Is that part — Is everybody required to carry weapons or is it just your own personal choice?

A. Well, it is basically personal choice. You are not required to carry a weapon. Most of the time, probably ninety-six percent of the club carries a knife, a pretty long knife, a knife that could create damage.

Q. What about guns?

A. Yes, they carry guns.

Q. Are they an outlaw gang?

A. Yes.

Q. Are they involved in criminal activity?

A. Absolutely.

Q. What kind of criminal activity would that include?

A. Murder, rape, robbery, drugs, all types.

Q. Now we were talking about the patch. What is it? Is there a symbol that the Vagos have?

A. Well, laymen’s term, there are two parts of the Vagos. I mean a pack of guys riding into the wind, motorcycle gypsies. The Loki on the back the thing that looks like the demon, it is called a Norse God of Mischief. And those are, it is a very mythological term. It means, for instance, super natural. It means germantic mythology. It means neo-paganism. It means to slaughter. There is a lot of meanings to the Loki. That is basically it. If you took any time and looked, you could see for yourself what it means. It comes out of mythology, not from here but from Germany, from the Netherlands and some EEC countries.

Q. All right. I was just, if you could look behind you, I have displayed a jacket. So when we are talking about the patch, full patch member, is this the patch I am pointing to with the Loki?

A. Yeah. This right here is the Vagos patch. This is the rocker that represents where you are from.

Q. Did somebody say something?

A. This is their flags, and this is the beginning of when you became a member of the Vagos motorcycle club. This patch is not on your back at first when you are a Prospect. When you are done prospecting, that patch is given to you and you have to sew that patch on. Then you take it somewhere to get it sewed on.

Q. All right now before we kind of digress into the Vagos and discussed the Vagos and hierarchy, I had a couple other questions about that. Do the Vagos have, each chapter, have regular meetings?

A. Yes. They are called church.

Q. And what do you discuss at church?

A. Church, usually it is pretty much a lot of the same things, but most of the stuff at the church that is going on is the Bylaws, the Bylaws of the Vagos way of living. To make sure they understand those Bylaws.

Everything in the Bylaws has to do with the National with the Presidents, with the members, with prospects and Vagos old ladies, their thinking of that nature. He’s laughing over there. I am going to tell you, you are going to like this, the thing about the Vagos ladies that has changed is that Vagos old ladies like to ride bikes, so they can’t ride bikes in the pack with the guys. What they have to do, they have their own Vagos lady patch that says she’s the property of such and such a member. Say for instance Leo, his wife has a rocker on her patch that says Vagos old lady belonging to Crusher, property of Crusher which means that is his property. No one can go near, disrespect or whatever. But if she wants to ride a bike and get on the bike, the rules change. If we are going out in the pack, say we are going up to, you know, coming here to Reno in a pack, she wants to ride a bike, she has to ride in the back of the pack, just like any guest or anybody of that nature. A Hang-around, the same thing.

Prospects ride in the back also. Only members ride in the front, back then there is prospects then the Vagos old ladies.

Q. Now Mr. Rudnick, what was his rank?

A. “Jabbers”?

Q. “Jabbers”?

A. Please, if you call him “Jabbers”.

Q. We’ll go with “Jabbers.” I am sorry. Rudnick, “Jabbers.”

A. He is Vice President of the Los Angeles Vagos.

Q. So would that be the higher echelon?

A. He’s the second in command of his charter.

Q. Are there people under him that are required to protect him and stand behind him and back him up in case of an altercation?

A. Absolutely. His whole charter, his Sergeant of Arms, depending on Campos. Campos was it. He holds rank. So you have to make sure he’s all right. By the same token, make sure the Vice President is okay.

They split it. Usually they will have one. Sometimes Vagos charters or chapters they will have two Sergeants of Arm in their charters. A lot of them have two. One follows the president, one follows the Vice President. So, yes, they do watch them to make sure he’s okay. Being he’s in that position, all Vagos members, who are not…who are not officers of the club, if he needs assistance, they have to assist him no matter if they are at another charter. He don’t have to ask nobody at a time when something like this goes on, pull him off to do something.

Q. All right. Now I am going to go to camera number 45.

A. Okay. This is the guy right here.

Q. There is “Jabbers” there. No, that is not “Jabbers”, excuse me, this is Garcia?

A. Yeah.

Q. Diego?

A. Diego, yes.

Q. Do you know who these women are?

A. Yeah. That is the International Secretary’s old lady, I think her name is Patty, and that is her sister.

Q. Are they associated with the Vagos?

A. They are Vagos. Lori is definitely a Vagos old lady. These are just friends of hers.

Q. Do you know what charter Diego Garcia is associated with?

A. San Jose.

Q. Now did you see Diego Garcia that evening?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you notice whether or not he had any injuries?

A. Yes. He was shot in the right leg. There is Gonzales. Romeo. That is Little Dave right there. Now he’s here. He comes over to have a discussion. This is the Sergeant at Arms for South Bay. This is Justin. He’s a Prospect. When you see his back, you will see a patch.

This gentleman is from Lake County. I think his name is Mike or Mark.

I can’t remember. You have to, even though you are in a club for a long time, there is some people in a club, there is not just a couple hundred, you know, there is over thousands of people in the club now.

Right there is “Jabbers.” Right there. He’s putting on his gloves. He’s talking to him. The reason why he’s putting on his gloves, for one reason only, is that it is a premeditated thing. They are going to start some action. This thing is going to go off. And they already have talked to each other, and he told him and he put on his gloves, because they are ready to get down with the people that will come into the picture here shortly. See his gloves going on?

Q. Are these Hells Angels?

A. These are Hells Angels.

Q. Walking past him?

A. And there is some prospects and Hang-arounds that are moving forward. Mind you, this was diffused by National. This is Bobby V, the Vice President, and this is Pettigrew. Now this is “Jabbers”.

Q. When you say it was diffused, you were talking about forty minutes earlier when they were at the Oyster Bar?

A. Absolutely. When the National members went down and talked to them, everything was worked out. It was diffused. There was no problems.

Q. Do you know Pettigrew or Jethro?

A Yes.

Q. What is his rank?

A President of San Jose Hells Angels.

Q. Is that significant?

A. In Hells Angels world, absolutely. He’s one of probably top five or six on the council of Hells Angels.

Q. So he’s an important person in the Hells Angels organization?

A. One of the most important guys in the United States.

Q. All right. So do you know whether or not the Hells Angels motorcycle club is similar to the Vagos motorcycle club in terms of the hierarchy and the code of conduct in terms of protecting the President, respect?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. Very similar?

A. One hundred percent. The only difference between the Hells Angels and only difference between the Vagos is that each charter or chapter of the Hells Angels are all separately incorporated. Vagos are under one cooperate-type entity. The Hells Angels, it is a very, actually it is a smart move on their behalf. The reason why, it has to do with, you know, conspiracy factors and what is the other?

Q. Aiding and abetting, Rico?

A. Rico. Thank you so much. Rico and things of that nature. So if someone does something in this chapter here, that is incorporated, Hells Angels San Jose, San Francisco is not responsible. Oakland is not responsible for that particular situation. That is how it was formed by them. Sonny Barger forged that a while back.

Q. 23:25.

A. We see the gloves on Diego. What he does, you just saw him, he taps him saying, hey, you know, seems like he’s saying no problem. But this guy right here, “Jabbers”, has a big mouth. He’s always had a big mouth. This guy is going to grab on to him, because he probably sees him taunting again.

Q. Would taunting and provoking….

A. Yes.

Q. …be similar?

A. Absolutely.

Q. To pick a fight?

A. Yeah. He’s again in his face. Pettigrew as you saw was walking by.

He called him over.

Q. Would that be disrespectful?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. After what had happened earlier at the Oyster Bar to call him over?

A. Absolutely. As far as today is concerned with “Jabbers”, he’s no longer in the Vagos motorcycle club. He’s been kicked out, okay? And because of the problems he’s done which is going to create a lot of problems for him.

Q. I don’t want to digress. I am on a limited time. Let’s just, I want to bring your attention to one thing, though that would maybe be indicative of preparation for battle, and that was one thing that we already discussed was the fact Diego Garcia put some gloves on. Based upon your experience with the club, that would be preparation for battle?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. The other thing where we have Romeo.

A. Romeo, yeah he’s taking off.

Q. He has a drink?

A. He comes over, drops off his drink which means he’s getting prepared. This is the President of San Jose.

Q. Now he’s freeing up his hands?

A. There. He’s right there.

Q. Vagos there. Here is a Hells Angels that gets hit. Over here you can see Pettigrew and Bobby V getting attacked from the rear?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Would that be, based upon your view of this, a concerted effort?

A. One hundred percent.

Q. Of the Vagos? All right.

A. But it works on both ends because….

Q. Pettigrew threw the first punch?

A. It started from that point, things going to happen. Pettigrew could have said to him as well, hey, listen things has been diffused. I talked to your National members. Everything is okay. It didn’t happen.  This is the outcome. That is Leo Ramirez right there. He was shot. He was shot in the stomach. And he shot Diego in the leg and Gonzalez, Romeo, disappeared back here.

Q. Would it be fair to say in modern terms parlance a challenge to fight was issued and accepted in this particular case?

A. Absolutely. There is Pettigrew.

Q. Now where were you in relation when all this was going down? Where were you?

A. I was blown to some tables. When I came down the aisle, everything started to happen. We took a right turn. Right to the left, Pettigrew was right in the middle. He was in the fight. The Vagos were crushing him. Leo went inside. Gunshots went off. Leo went left, went out, got shot in the stomach. All hell broke loose, just bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, you know. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, numerous amount of shots were happening. I ran straight. I told everybody to hit the deck, everybody. There is people still on the tables, people on machines.

Finally, everybody…actually rammed into the tables, and there is a lady delivering some drinks. I ran into the table. She fell down. I hit my hand. I just wanted to get everybody down. When gunfire is going off, anyone can get hit. I am surprised that a citizen didn’t get shot in the event. Because anyone could have walked out of any corner anywhere. You could have walked out of the bathroom and got shot.

Q. There was one other individual that I wanted to ask you if you knew who he was.

A. There is Gonzales there.

Q. I guess I can ask in simple terms, do you know who shot Leonard Ramirez or Leo?

A. Yes, him.

Q. This fellow right here?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know what his name is?

A. God, I can’t believe it. I lost my train of thought on him. Cesar.

Q. Cesar Villagrana?

A. Yes. Sorry.

Q. That is all right. We can see this fight here. Are there other altercations going on?

A. Bobby V gets hit. He hit him in the head with the gun. Lake County Vagos. There is a fight down over here.

Q. He’s going to get hit again. You see him go down right there?

A. Yup. Because that happens. That is when he walks in, all the fight starts happening over here.

Q. There is the shooting?

A. Yeah, bam. But then there was so many shots going on right now.  There is shots going on through this whole melee that is happening here.

Q. Did you see any Vagos with guns?

A. Here?

Q. Well….

A. No.

Q. While you were there?

A. No, I didn’t see guns. They were all tucked away. But I am sure there were plenty of guns there.

Q. So then I was going to go to camera 5.

A. These are Vagos old ladies. One is “Jabbers” wife here.

Q. Would there be a reason they would be standing over here as opposed to standing over there with their husband?

A. The husbands told them to move over here, because something was going to take place.

Q. The altercation we just witnessed on camera 45 would be happening at the top of the screen?

A. Absolutely.

Q. They are kind of back here?

A. Because they were told to go there.

Q. Would that be indicative of a prior plan to engage in mutual combat?

A. Absolutely. Absolutely. They are watching the whole time. As you can see, although people here, some people here, any moment any of them could have been shot, been killed innocently.

Q. Here is 88.

A. That is me, and Pettigrew is in here now with the fight. Then the bullets. You will see me run through here. Bullets go off.

Q. Pettigrew in camera 5 at 23:26:20. There is a number of Vagos he’s confronting?

A. Yes. Leo comes in here, takes a left. He would be right over here.

Takes a right. He is throwing something at the guy with the gun. I don’t know, maybe it is his karate background, who knows. But at that time, he gets shot, but then the shooting is pretty repetitive. It happened, you hear the first round of shooting go off, one, two seconds; next sound of shooting go off, one, two seconds; next round of shooting goes off. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. And to me it sounded like there were thirty rounds go off. It is not out of the question for the members, after they shoot their guns or whatever, to pick up the bullets as the evidence and take it with them. Everybody is hitting the ground.

Q. That looks like another Hells Angels getting chased by some Vagos there.

A. Yeah. He ran through here. I think that is Lunch Box right there.

Q. All right. Then camera 3. So this would be just to the left of Trader Dicks looking at the bathrooms?

A. Yeah. That is the bathroom. That is the men’s. Women’s over there.

Q. We need to kind of move ahead a little.

A. There I am right there.

Q. Okay. So that you are heading towards the altercation?

A. Absolutely. You see the punch. You see, I mean you see the punch right there, bam when he hit “Jabbers” in the face, then all the melee took place.

Q. Ducking and running, is that consistent with the beginning of people running for cover?

A. Absolutely. You know, it is a Friday night. There is a lot of people at the casino. Everybody is just minding their business playing, you know, their game, playing their poker, playing their game. And this is like a pretty heavy thing to happen.

Q. Here we see an H.A.?

A. Yeah.

Q. He gets attacked by more Vagos down here?

A. Yes, he does.

Q. That is a group of Vagos attacking the Hells Angels?

A. Absolutely. Actually, some women in the women’s bathroom.

Q. So right there is that where you see Pettigrew come down?

A. Yes.

Q. That is where Pettigrew….

A. Gets shot.

Q. That is where he gets shot, right there?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Okay.

A. He gets shot four times in the back.

Q. So then here is camera 7, and that surveillance camera captures the front of Rosie’s Cafe which, again, is just left of the bathroom. I guess that would be south of the bathroom. I am going to go ahead.

A. There I am right there. I just came out of the bathroom with Crusher.

Q. Ramirez was with you?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. He went down where the fight was. That is where he got shot?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Diego Garcia putting on the gloves. He gets shot?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Then Pettigrew gets shot?

A. And he dies.

Q. So that series of events I just relayed, is that consistent with the video and your recollection of the events of that evening?

A. Yes.

Q. Basically, was that a result of the challenge to fight issued by “Jabbers” to Pettigrew?

A. Absolutely. One hundred percent.

Q. All right. Thank you.

MR. HALL: I have no further questions.

THE FOREMAN: Do we have any questions for the witness?

A GRAND JUROR: I have a question.

THE WITNESS: Yes.

A GRAND JUROR: Do you know who actually fired the shots at Mr.

Pettigrew and hit him with the bullets?

THE WITNESS: Yeah, Gonzales.

A GRAND JUROR: I don’t know if you can answer this. Is he just following the code at that point, Gonzales, do you think?

THE WITNESS: When a situation like this happens, it is Vagos Forever, Forever Vagos. Whatever happens at that time, the way the Vagos organization feels, when you get into situations is to protect. And “Jabbers”, he is a Vice President. That is how it started. So the thing was the guy who was the shooter and Diego, they are related.  They are family, okay? So the chapter that was started, when you saw the cut, the jacket with the Vagos Nicaragua and San Jose are all cousins. Gonzalez and Diego are cousins. They are the ones who helped start that whole charter down there. And they are building the chapter very rapidly down there right now. So to your answer, it is a thing that happens, and it is a protective mode to go in because of the guns and the shooting of the other Vagos individuals that got shot first by the Hells Angels automatically puts them into the mode to shoot one of them.

BY MR. HALL:

Q. I was going to ask a question. You mentioned San Jose and the fact the Vagos are expanding rapidly in the San Jose area, Nicaragua area.

The Vagos were expanding in the San Jose area?

A. They were.

Q. Had that caused some problems with the Hells Angels?

A. Yes. Hells Angels didn’t want them there. The Hlls Angels in northern California are very big. The Hells Angels felt the Vagos were coming into their territory. It is like you have a home. You have an acre of land. That is your land. They have been there for some years.

They claim that territory. Like taking a house and putting it on the corner of your lot. That is the way they feel about it in laymen’s terms. This is our house. Just don’t move into our territory. It is going to create problems. Well, it has been creating problems forever.

A lot of people…this is not the first incident that this has happened.

This has been building up, building up. Big Mike, Lake County got beat merciless in a casino. But he was the one who was provoking the Hells Angels over there telling them they were scum bags, they are pigs, all these things. They came and beat his ass. There was another Vagos with him named Chris from Lake County who was a Secretary. They didn’t touch him because he wasn’t a big mouth. So with all that said, then you have the incident in Bakersfield. I don’t know if you know about the incident in Bakersfield. An 18 year old young man was stabbed right through his body by Diego who was a Hells Angels.

Q. The victim was a Vagos?

A. Victim was a Vagos. His father brought him in. He was an 18 year old kid. Now that was also provoked by the Vagos motorcycle club. He said go up in, a 18 year old young man who was getting patched. The Bylaws, an 18 year old is not suppose to come into this club. For some reason his father, being in the position he was, their rules were changed a little bit. But the kid was killed, and he was stabbed twice in the back. So the man went on trial, but it got self-defense on the Hells Angels. They walked away. But Vagos provoked it. They provoked that one, too. Lied about it at first. It was provoked. So then the point being, there has been some ongoing animosity and problems between the Vagos and Hell Angels. Arizona. This is all stuff that just happened within the last, you know, year and a half, two years. Arizona there was a pack going to a party. Hells Angels came out, six guys shooting on the Vagos on the bikes, shooting on them. They weren’t very good shots, I hate to say. When the Vagos came up on them, they shot three of their guys. You know, one was critical. This is a situation that is ongoing. And because of this particular event and, you know, Pettigrew.

Q. We can probably leave it there I am sure as far as this case goes.

A. Okay. Yes?

A. GRAND JUROR: How long is someone in the higher hierarchy? If you are a Vice President, is it a year term, four years, until they vote you out?

THE WITNESS: You can stay there. You are pretty much there as long as you want to be. There is a vote that happens, but most of the time in the vote, people don’t like to be in an officer position because an officer position is the one that gets hit the most, you know, from all sanctions, whether it be National or law enforcement. They go after a lot of the hierarchy, you know, the Presidents, Vice Presidents, Secretaries, all that. So in order to become, you know, an officer in a club, you have got to really think hard in order to do that. But, yes, he could be there for a very long time. But if the time period comes, he could became a Nomad and do what he wants to do.

THE FOREMAN: Do we have any other questions? Sir, the proceedings before the Grand Jury are secret. You may not disclose evidence presented to the Grand Jury, any event occurring or statement made in the presence of the Grand Jury, any information obtained by the Grand Jury or the result of the investigation being made by the Grand Jury.  However, you may disclose the above information to the District Attorney for use in the performance of his duties. You may also disclose your knowledge concerning the proceedings when directed by a court in connection with judicial proceeding or when otherwise permitted by the court to your own attorney. The obligation of secrecy applies until the Court allows the matter to become public record. A gross misdemeanor and contempt of court may be pursued if your obligation of secrecy is not followed. Do you understand?

THE WITNESS: I understand.

THE FOREMAN: Thank you.

THE WITNESS: Thank you.

(Witness excused.)

Photos courtesy of Scott Sonner/AP

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Graham Nash (of CSN&Y fame) wrote “Teach Your Children”, “Lady Of The Island” and “Right Between The Eyes” in ONE night.  He was on tour with the Hollies, was frustrated and sick of making pop music.  He wanted to write songs with meanings…and these three came out.

All we’ve got is time and I don’t want to waste yours.  But, you see Graham had a passion.  Maybe it’s a baby boomer thing.  Encouraged by their parents.  They were the first generation who could be something more.

Speaking of “Teach Your Children”… I rode down to Reno for the Street Vibration motorcycle rally.  The good news;  there were no deaths in the 84 crashes investigated by Nevada Highway Patrol.  There were 23 arrests made during the 5-day Street Vibration motorcycle rally with a total of 1,396 traffic enforcement stops.

The bad news; and one that all motorcycle enthusiasts should care about was the motorcycle club-on-club casino shooting at John Ascuaga’s Nugget which left one person dead (Jeffrey  “Jethro” Pettigrew, HAMC President (San Jose Chapter)) and two members of the Vagos MC (Leonard Ramirez & Diego Garcia) injured in the hospital.  I wasn’t there during the Friday night shooting because Randy Burke of Roadshow Productions really pulled out all the stops to make this year the best-of-the-best and I was in downtown Reno enjoying everything that Street Vibrations had to offer.  You see, last year was a rather dismal affair which I coined as “Street Frustrations” so, props to Randy… this year had all the markings to be a really great event.   Except for that little brazen and almost “drug cartel” style casino shooting.  Police reports indicate there were about 60 Vagos and a dozen HAMC on the casino video tapes.  It’s reminiscent of the Laughlin River Run melee of a few years ago between the HAMC and the Mongols MC.  There was one arrest of a HAMC member, Cesar Villagrana on a suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon charge. [Note: The incident in Nevada isn’t Villagrana’s first run-in with the law. Following a March 17 collision in Aptos, CA. – for which Villagrana was found to be at fault – he made Santa Cruz headlines when the California Highway Patrol discovered the Gilroy Hells Angel was carrying an unregistered Beretta handgun. The discovery of the weapon came after Villagrana collided his 2002 Harley Davidson with a Honda and Toyota on Soquel Drive near State Park Drive in Aptos, according to CHP Spokeswoman Sarah Jackson.  The Associated Press reports state Villagrana has been out of custody, and pleaded not guilty in May to charges of carrying a loaded gun not registered to him and being an active Hells Angels gang member. Source HERE]

Police Block Off Victorian Square

And I predict just like Laughlin, Street Vibrations will now forever be changed.  First will be the citizen calls to cancel the event.  But, capitalism will prevail and a change will occur under the broad brush of security and the need for an “abundance of caution” to tamp down or avoid any possibility of club violence.  Higher tax payer costs associated with security.  Higher hotel fees for attendees to cover the increased cost of security.  Higher vendor fees to cover security costs.  They city will implement a NO COLORS rule and it will go into effect.  Wrist bands to enter the hotel lobby.  Wrist bands and hotel keys to enter elevators.  Long waits to exit the hotel parking garages due to security validation of rider/owner to motorcycle.  Random road blocks and searches.  SWAT, Counterterrorism Unit and Gang Enforcement Teams will have a presence reminiscent of a military-dictator bent on keeping power.  You watch. It will be costly to the average rider.

Vendor Booths at Carson City H-D

Club business is none of my business, but when the public is exposed to an increase in the number of individuals who are willing to carry and fire guns indiscriminately around a public casino are we to just ignore the incident and continue on with breakfast plans and t-shirt buying as if it didn’t happen?  And where was the law enforcement intelligence?  And isn’t the casino security somewhat at fault?  Didn’t they get a clue when a dozen HAMC arrived at the Vagos base-camp that a fight might break out?

And then there are the financial ramifications.  This year in Reno, Virginia Street had about 55 vendors which was limited by the Reno City recreation officials for security reasons.  The majority, about 120 vendors were in Sparks.  And as you can image the vendors spend a lot of money for hotels, permits, food and gas to set up for Street Vibrations.  The biggest day of sales are typically Saturday, however, after the previous night’s shooting the Sparks mayor declared a state of emergency (to get and receive additional police enforcement resources as well as enforce a curfew) and then after a retaliation shooting Saturday morning of a Vagos MC member (Shane Smith) who was walking on Victorian Avenue they made the decision to closed down the event, including all vendor booths in Victorian Square.  What was surely a difficult business decision in light of the economic circumstances, but none the less many riders thought was good one considering the real or perceived retaliation rumors swirling around the area.

LEO Presence Post HAMC/VAGOS Shooting

It’s not clear if Street Vibrations can survive.  For Roadshow Inc., the event production company, it has to be the most important weekend/event of the year.  In fact, I’m not sure how or if Reno can ever shake off all the tragedies and grief it’s endured recently.  It was just about a week ago when 11 people were killed at the Reno Air Races and about two weeks before that there were 5 people randomly shot at an IHOP in Carson City.  Add to those tragedies the Amtrak crash in June where 5 people were killed and it makes you wonder.

And before you start with the comments… I want to acknowledge that the acts of a couple motorcycle clubs do NOT represent a majority of the motorcycle enthusiasts that go to Street Vibrations every year.  I get it.

The frustration is that the incident murder (let’s call it what it was!) is another confirmation for an uninformed public that results in a “guilt by association” and one more piece of my freedom is likely to be taken away…

We need to teach the children to be something more!  My sincere condolences to Mr. Pettigrew’s family.

Reference: The Nugget shooting case number is 11-8996.

UPDATE: September 28, 2012 — Vagos MC attorney, Joe Yanny states in a phone interview that no Vagos member fired a gun.  He goes on to state that the “social club” has a zero tolerance policy of criminal activity.  Listen to the interview HERE and how the club is apologetic for the negative consequences.

UPDATE: October 7, 2011 — According to this report, or this video report, Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, 53, of San Jose, CA., was taken into custody last week by police in San Fransisco. He was on the University of California SF campus.  Gonzalez was being held in San Fransisco until police from Sparks, Nevada, arrive on the scene to question him.  Police believe that Gonzalez, who is an allegedly a member of the Vagos gang, shot Pettigrew four times in the back. The evidence against Gonzalez came from surveillance photos taken of Gonzalez inside the casino, which matched photos the California Highway Patrol took of Reno-bound motorcycle gang members in the hours leading up to the casino shooting.

UPDATE: June 4, 2014 – As part of a plea deal to testify against fellow Vagos, Nevada Judge Connie Steinheimer sentenced Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick to seven years in prison on August 21, 2013.   Rudnick testified that the murder was ordered by Vagos Motorcycle Club President Pastor “Tata” Palafox in front of 200 witnesses and Gonzalez volunteered to murder Pettigrew at that meeting.  Vago Ernesto Manuel “Romeo” Gonzalez was reportedly the ex-president of Vagos Nicaragua, and was sentenced to life in prison on October 3, 2013 with the possibility of parole after 20-years.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of RGJ.com

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About a week ago in Josephine county it was time for the 7th annual Grants Pass Toy Run.

In case you are unfamiliar with toy runs, they are about bikers of all persuasion getting together to help disadvantage children during a bad time in their life.  Or another way to say it is these are children who would have a minimal or no Christmas had it not been for the direct effort of a toy run event.  Most if not all of the toy runs are supported by ABATE members and ABATE of Oregon exists to promote the rights and interests of all motorcyclists, both patch holders and independents alike.

But, there is an unfortunate pattern developing in law enforcement in some parts of the country which was visible in Grants Pass, Oregon on October 3rd.

Officials stated that police and fire personnel would not to take part in a charity “toy run” because members of the Vagos MC were in attendance.  Specifically Deputy Chief Bill Landis told the Daily Courier that the city considers the Vagos MC to be a criminal organization and took what amounts to a “there goes the neighborhood a’tude.”

Motorcycle clubs are often prominent at charity events, such as toy runs.  The non-motorcycle riding public might conclude from the city’s police and fire personnel actions that any motorcyclist attending a toy run is possibly affiliated with a criminal enterprise.  It’s true that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has weighed in on the topic complaining of the bad publicity for motorcycling in general caused by so-called “outlaw” clubs.  They’ve previously stated that the presence of these clubs at charity events has actually harmed the needy by driving down public participation and reducing donations. The shootout’s between rival motorcycle clubs in the midst of a charity toy drive have not helped.  In fact, they have influenced authorities in some states to attempt a ban on certain clubs from charity events, or to restrict the wearing of colors at those events.  This in turn prompted litigation in Pennsylvania on the unfair exclusions.

Before you get the wrong idea… does giving presents to boys and girls make up for bad things that some of the motorcycle club members do?  No.  But, neither should we consider ALL cops bad because some of them instead of catching criminals ARE criminals?

I’ve participated in a number of toy runs and find this maneuvering and attempt to cast a guilt by association on what otherwise would be acts of kindness for kids very disappointing.

Previous posts about the Vagos MC in Grants Pass are HERE and “Operation Everywhere” HERE.

Photo courtesy of ABATE.

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Starting in 1994 with only 1,500 bikers participating, Street Vibrations has grown into the nation’s 6th largest bike event.  It was estimated (no info supplied on how) that slightly more than 25,000 motorcycles attended Street Vibrations in 2010.  About the same as previous years, however, hotels like the Peppermill, Grand Sierra Resort, the Nugget and Atlantis all reported shorter stays for guests on average vs. other years.

During the event period there was an increase in motorcycle accidents.  It’s unclear if the increase was attributable to the split-event in Sparks which many riders complained about.  Here is how the stats break down:

Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP) arrested 39 people of which 21 were DUI arrests.  There were 15 accidents investigated, which included 2 fatal crashes, including one with a motorcycle.  In total there were 8 injury crashes and 5 crashes involving property damage only.  NHP didn’t report which arrests involved only motorcycles.

Reno Police reported making 72 arrests for various offenses stating alcohol was a factor in most.  They handed out 533 traffic citations and placed 4 people in civil protective custody (public intoxication).  They also handed out an additional 428 traffic warnings.  There were 6 stolen motorcycles (which the Pepper Mill Casino seemed to be hit most often) and 10 stolen tour packs (saddle bags).

Stealing saddle bags? That is just down-right mean! I hope they set up sting operations in the future to take down the jerks.

In addition, there was a brawl reported between 30 people (unknown if it was bikers?) that left one man stabbed in Sparks and was sent to the hospital.  The Carson City man was treated with multiple stab wounds which were non-life threatening.

Speaking of large groups… it’s unclear if related to last month’s HAMC and Vagos MC shootout in Arizona (Chino Valley, north of Prescott) where 27 people were booked on charges ranging from attempted murder to participation in a criminal street gang and where more than 50 rounds were fired between the two clubs… but, there was an extraordinarily large mass of the “Green Machine”, and the “Red & White” along with support clubs like the “Miscreants” on the corner of 4th and Virginia Street on Saturday.  I was on the street at the time and the atmosphere was most tense, it looked as if a confrontation would explode similar to scene’s from the problem-oriented “Hot August Nights” event.  Even the few LEO’s looked somewhat threatened.  Fortunately no confrontation occurred and within a half-hour the groups had mostly cleared out.

And speaking of the Reno police, they worked a lot of overtime and were paid based on a grant called “Joining Forces”.  The “Joining Forces” grant program is one of the many Nevada Office of Traffic Safety’s proactive safety initiatives coordinated directly with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide grant funding for special enforcement campaigns, education, equipment and training throughout the calendar year.  There are currently 28 law enforcement agencies in Nevada that participate in this program. Some of those enforcement campaigns include DUI saturation patrols and checkpoints, speed enforcement, traffic signal enforcement at identified high-accident intersections, and crosswalk & pedestrian safety enforcement initiatives.

Lastly, is my rant about the fact that Nevada has over 49,000 miles of road and nothing is more treacherous than the I-80 and U.S. 395 interchange (known by locals as the “Spaghetti Bowl”) in downtown Reno.  Motorcyclists have seen at least 2 years of congested traffic flow from this construction project, but more important is trying to navigate through or ride over and avoid the deep crevices and cracks in the concrete.  It’s dangerous for motorcycles and get it done already!

Stat sources: Daily Sparks Tribune #1#2News 4Carson Now.

Photo’s taken at the event.

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If that’s not some irony…

I logged on to the blog dashboard this morning to approve comments and noticed several hundred views of an article I posted back in 2008 on the California-based Vagos Motorcycle Club.  As I made my way to the Google reader I learned that some 30+ members of the Vagos, also known as the “Green Nation” were arrested Saint Patrick’s Day in a multistate police raid.

The Vagos, formed in the late 1960s and have been the subject of numerous investigations. Back in 2006, at least 25 Vagos members were arrested for various weapons and drug violations after a three-year investigation that the Orange County Register called one of the “largest coordinated law enforcement probes ever conducted in the region.”

The “raids” on Wednesday were collectively called “Operation Everywhere” and comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California and involved some 400 police officers. As many as 70 locations were hit in Southern California, where police seized weapons and drugs and discovered a methamphetamine lab. The California Attorney General, Jerry Brown held a press conference releasing very few additional details on the scope of the investigation or what law enforcement plans are to eliminate the “threat” posed by the Vagos.  It’s been previously reported that the Vagos chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona has been closely scrutinized by officers of the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission since June 2009.

Some of the news reports suggest that the arrests have a connection to the discovery of at least four booby-traps targeting Southern California gang task force officers. The cash-strapped state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the people who set the traps, which included an attempt to blow up the gang officers’ headquarters.

Like so many of these motorcycle club arrests they have a tendency to fall apart for the district attorney who is committed to pursuing justice.  I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the Riverside County DA (Rod Pacheco) stepped on an ongoing ATF investigation or would I be shocked to learn that Mr. Pacheco (who has gubernatorial aspirations) made a splashy arrest for the TV cameras.  Don’t get me wrong, the Vagos aren’t immune from having criminal issues, but it does make a person wonder what’s going on.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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NO ANGEL 5.26.qxd

There are many ways to talk about the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC); as a reporter illuminating the record, as an advocate praising their actions or as an undercover agent providing clear insight into the mind of a biker enterprise.  Sure, not everyone agrees with the mission and tactics of law enforcement just like not everyone is going to praise OMG. It’s the way of the world.

Much thanks to G. Walker (Det. Retired) who provided me a preview of the book “No Angel” by Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  I wanted to pass this along because as the preview suggests, this is going to be one great read!

“No Angel – My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of the Hells Angels”

ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns and Nils Johnson-Shelton

(Crown Publishers, 2009)

      ATF Special Agent Jay Dobyns sat with his back to me.  He was furiously typing on a well-used keyboard.  He wore a white wife-beater t-shirt and both his exposed arms were fully “sleeved”, or covered with tattoo work.  Pulled down low over his bald skull was a dirty blue knit cap.  I quietly watched him as his fingers danced over the keyboard, wondering how no one else at the outlaw motorcycle gang conference I was attending hadn’t spotted this brazen infiltrator who was even now probably sending license plate numbers and other handy information to whichever 1%er club he belonged to.

      It had happened before.  Two full patch members of the Vagos MC had openly walked into a past OMG conference presentation, the room filled with cops and investigators.  The Vagos went unnoticed for several minutes before being identified and ushered out of the hotel.

      I found the conference coordinator and shared my concern about the tough-looking b*astard using the business room Internet service.  “Oh,” he replied, “that’s just Jay…Jay Dobyns.  He’s our ATF guest speaker on the Hells Angels.”

      Well f*ck me…

      Later in the conference I listened to Dobyns speak about his role in Operation Black Biscuit, a two-year ATF undercover operation against the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in Arizona.  Pacing back and forth in front of a table featuring some of the OMG props he and his ATF team of UC bikers, known as the “Solo Angels”, had used to gain introduction and then admittance into the inner sanctum of the HAMC, Jay’s rapid-fire account of the deepest UC thrust into the heart of the Angels’ organization came alive.

      Today Jay Dobyns, in conjunction with co-author Nils Johnson-Shelton, has written the true story of both his greatest professional and near personally ruinous achievement – riding shoulder to shoulder with the Hells Angels to include the ultimate Angel himself, Ralph “Sonny” Barger.  It is a book the Red & White won’t appreciate; however in all fairness, it’s also a book some in the ATF will hate with equal passion.

      Whether brokering deals for illegal automatic weapons, taking on murder for hire contracts, arming up to do battle with the rival Banditos on behalf of the “81”, or riding 18″ off the rear wheel of an Angel juggernaut Jay Dobyns shoves us down the slippery steep steps that lead to the glowing red inferno that is the world of the Hells Angels.

      Finely woven throughout the book is the agent’s personal decent into the madness of both the investigation and his increasing loss of identity as a human being.  He writes “As I said, dark days.  I turned to the only things I had left: God, friend, and family…It wasn’t my job, it wasn’t ATF, and it wasn’t the Hells Angels that had transformed me into the worst version of myself.  It was I alone who had done that.”

      There have been several previous books on the HAMC and Operation Black Biscuit but none comes close to the knife-edge reality and factual accuracy of Jay’s memoir.  Of the Hells Angels he observes “I realized in that single moment that the brotherhood the Hells Angels claimed to be part of was nothing more than a support group for misunderstood loners held together by hate and money…I’d thought I was the one infiltrating them.  I had it backwards.  They were the ones who had infiltrated me.”

      In mid-2003 Operation Black Biscuit was brought to closure in a series of search warrants and arrests.  The case, however, was gutted by squabbles among prosecutors and the decision makers at the ATF and by 2006 “Black Biscuit” looked more like Brier Rabbit’s badass tar baby.  Earlier, in 2004, the Angels put a contract on Dobyns’ head.  In 2008 his home mysteriously caught on fire and while no one was injured the implications were obvious to the man once draped with the Angel’s coveted Deathhead for “killing” a rival Mongol down Mexico way, an elaborate mock murder that brought Dobyns to the goal he’d always thought he wanted – to become a fully patched Hells Angel as an undercover ATF agent.

      You can advance order your copy of “No Angel” through Amazon.com. The book will be released this February.  Warning! Once you’ve opened its cover and entered the world of Special Agent Jay “Bird” Dobyns there’s no putting it down.  This is one 5-star weekend’s reading about the man who dared enter the innermost sanctuaries of the Hells Angels and returned with his soul singed but intact.

More information available on Jay Dobyns web site.  Book pre-order information from Amazon.

Previous posts on 1%er bikers (1, 2, 3, 4).

UPDATE: February 5, 2009 – Good interview and summary written by Leo W. Banks of the Tucson Weekly.

Book cover photo used with permission.

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