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Pumpkin Festival

I previously blogged about Street Vibrations and the club-on-club shooting in Sparks, NV last month at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino which left dead the HAMC San Jose Chapter President (Jeffrey Pettigrew).

We now have the first documented incident of how the HAMC and Vagos violence has provoked a response from law enforcement in Manteca, CA which is about 75 miles east of San Francisco.

It happened at a Pumpkin Festival in “the family city.”  Yes a Pumpkin Festival.  Two members of the Bikers for Christ Motorcycle Ministry were asked to leave the street fair by the Manteca Police because they were wearing their motorcycle vest with ministry patches on the back. They were told it was due to the shooting in Sparks, NV.

Keep in mind that the Christian Motorcycle Ministry is a non-profit ministry.  Not a street gang, or are they really even a motorcycle club.   Their purpose is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the biker world, a section of society,  that many have chosen not to associate with. The ministry has been operating for 21 years without problems.

Isn’t profiling against the law?  The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Cohen vs. California, 403 U.S.15 (1971) that individuals have the constitutional right under the First Amendment to wear clothing which displays writings or designs. In addition, the right of an individual to have freedom of association has long been recognized and protected by the Courts.

What’s next?  I suppose, motorcyclists will be asked to leave events because they are wearing a H.O.G. emblem on a vest or people wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt or one from their favorite Sons of Anarchy television show. I find this whole situation discouraging.

Photo taken by author in Hood River.

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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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DPSST Tactical Village

I arrive at the mock Rogue River Bar.  It could very well be your average motorcycle enthusiast bar, complete with pool tables, fridge and beer taps.  It’s all part of “Tactical Village” – a sprawling complex with faux buildings, roadways, cars, buses and the typical neighborhood debris you’d find in any urban environment.  This area was also referred to as Scenario Village which as the name implies is for various training scenarios to simulate real-world incidents.

Tactical supervisor Capt. Ed Thompson provided instruction as he led the group of exercises.  Today the press participants would be acting as a police officer in various situations.  We were briefed on gun safety, shooting and while the Glock’s only fired paint-pellet bullets they did have enough velocity to sting and leave substantial marks.

Demonstration by Lt. Daryl Tate (L) and Officer Jason Brown (R)

I’ve experienced confusion at motorcycle rallies when ask to respond to conflicting instructions from multiple law enforcement officials, but nothing prepared me for my first “routine” patrol stop.  The patrol car radio blasted a somewhat inaudible message about the ’96 Dodge Stratus with Idaho plates that I had pulled over for a traffic violation was involved in an arm robbery – I cautiously exited the patrol car collecting my thoughts as a rather large man (~300 pounds) exits the Dodge on the driver side – I shout out to stay in the automobile, the man doesn’t comply – I shout again for the man to stop, but he continues to walk toward me and the patrol car with one hand in a back pocket – I notice he has an angry and aggressive physical demeanor.   Now I’m using all the techniques from earlier in the day… defining the threat (Intent; Means; Opportunity) when at about 20 feet from the police car I see the man pull a gun.  My first thought was WTF? this can’t be happening.  In addition I had tunnel vision and didn’t see his partner exit the scene…I was so focused on that gun.  Having no police gun/holster experience didn’t help and my attempt to pull my firearm was delayed by safety snaps — Gunshots sounded.  The officer (me) was hit by 4 paint ball pellets.  No blood was spilled, but I was dead in less than 20 seconds!  It was about that time when one of the instructors stated “experience is the knowledge you needed 1 minute ago”… a bit flipant, but I’ve got to give ‘em that one.

Officer Jason Brown (L) Explains Scenario in Tactical Village

For several hours we responded to chaotic, dangerous or unpredictable situations in an effort to serve others. The exercises really hit home and made me re-think law enforcement’s role and the second guessing of intentions. With sincere respect to families of people shot by police, including Aaron Campbell’s, what most people killed by police have in common is that they were running from the law, threatening to harm someone or failing to obey police commands. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be shot, but it does complicate an officer’s job and forces the type of split-second decisions police make.   I believe Capt. Rau stated during training that “Nobody wins these situations, you survive them.”  We continued into the afternoon with the academy’s interactive video training program called MYLO (Multiple Interactive Learning Objectives) which used a Glock laser firearm vs. paint-pellets.   It’s a computerized model capable of running hundreds of scenario’s ranging from domestic disturbance to school shootings.  The situations are intense and life like even if displayed on a video screen.

Tactical Village

At the end of the day I was tired from the adrenaline rush and participating in a number of these scenarios (I was hit so many times I looked like a member in the Blue Man Group!).  Near the end of the day we received an overview from Michael Slauson (Sr. Assistant Attorney General, Oregon DOJ) on SB 111 (2007) and requirements for each county (36 in total) to have a deadly force plan which outlines a number of minimum requirements around police officer mental health and making information available to the public.  In all there were more than 25 people involved in delivering this training.  Unfortunately the mainstream media/press turnout was dismal.  Why?  Fox News (TV12), Albany, Corvallis (Gazettetimes.com) and a local neighborhood paper called The Skanner participated.  While the small class size made for high-quality individual training the absence and the opportunity for the mainstream press to help influence perceptions was a disappointment.

After all the scenarios I wasn’t so sure who would want to be a police officer?  Why would anyone be willing to serve, given the beatings the bureau gets from a rush-to-judgment public and the second-guessing of officers. Instead of officer retraining, maybe we should talk about citizen retraining, so critics will at least wait until they have all the facts of a case before calling in the high-profile, paid-to-incite activists.

Part 1 is HERE.

Tactical Village photo courtesy of Gazettetimes.com, other photos taken by author on scene.

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DPSST Admin Building

Earlier this week I attended a day-long training session at the Oregon Public Safety Academy (DPSST) about Deadly Force used in making an arrest.

It took some persistence, but I was able to convince the Department of Public Safety that independent bloggers DO have a community voice and should be included along with “mainstream” media. To that end I was afforded the opportunity to fully participate in the Salem event and want to provide a major shout-out to Cmdr. Cameron Campbell and PIO and OSP Trooper Lt. Gregg Hastings!

So why was I there and what’s the 411?

You may recall last month’s fatal shooting of Aaron M. Campbell by a Portland police officer which sparked intense scrutiny on the use of deadly force.  The 25-year-old African-American was shot and killed by a white police officer after he emerged from a Northeast Portland apartment where officers had been called to perform a welfare check on a suicidal, armed man.  The shooting prompted national attention, including public protests and marches by members of the Albina Ministerial Alliance, and a high profile drive-by visit to Portland by none other than the infamous Rev. Jesse Jackson.  I’m not going to cover all the details and anyone who wants to have an opinion about this police shooting really needs to read the nearly 500 pages of grand jury transcripts.  Or if you prefer The Oregonian can provide summary information HERE.

DPSST Admin Building (Back)

The law enforcement agencies were quick to realize that when a police officer shoots an unarmed person because the officer fears for her/his life – this is a huge contributor to the tension and distrust that the public might feel on the streets – so it prompted the Oregon Police Trainers to offer the media some unique training to learn about the realities in use-of-force incidents.  Basically in 8 hours we received what police officers receive during the 16 week training program.

Not surprisingly, a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp survey found that 56% of Americans think the government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to their rights and freedoms.  And with that, in some communities, there is a deep-seated distrust of police and a fear that interaction with them has the potential to turn violent.

Yes, I’m white and feel that police are here to protect me and work for me.  I can’t represent or fully appreciate through a racial lens what African-American people feel.  I can say that as a motorcycle enthusiast I’ve experienced law enforcement arrogance that allows an armed professional to be held less responsible than a typical citizen to control motorcyclists or rally crowds and make them stay “in their place.”  That mentality comes from people who believe that their time is more valuable than ours. It comes from an arrogance that says that our actions are supposed to make their lives easier, not the other way around.

Then I spent two hours in a class room with Lorraine Anglemier (Deputy DA and Judge) getting a comprehensive overview on the use of force and Oregon statues and my views started to evolve.  The conversation went well beyond typical discussions of force continuums or matrixes.  The focus was on how the use of force must be understood in a comprehensive manner to ensure proper force decision making.  She covered statutory authority and limits, State and federal case law, prevention and tactical consideration.  We were reminded of the Bill of Rights and the 4th Amendment along with the Oregon equivalent (Article 1, Section 9).  Then came State v. Bates, 304 OR519 (1987) followed by Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and how excessive force is analyzed (deadly or not) under the 4th Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard.  Then we dissected the “Graham Factors” and whether the totality of circumstances justifies a particular sort of action.  Yeah, it was heady stuff and as a person who has trouble with a motorcycle rental agreement this had my head severely spinning.

After another 30 minute presentation by Capt. Raymond Rau on the physical effects of being in a high-stress situation and the traumatic effects of being involved in a shooting I made my way down to the “Tactical Village” … I’m fitted with face protection, a bullet proof vest, holster, a Glock firearm and extra clips/bullets (paint balls) to undertake my urban training scenario’s … I kept replaying what Ms. Angelmier stated… the standard “reasonableness at the moment” applies not with 20/20 hindsight in my head.

This is a multi-post article… Part 2 HERE on Tactical Village.

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police_bikeAs you may recall the situation happened at the Roadhouse bar with four off duty, out-of-state law enforcement officers and a firefighter, all members of the Iron Pigs – a police motorcycle club – who get into a heated confrontation with some Hells Angels members on the last day of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  The confrontation ends when Ron Smith pulls his Glock 23 and shoots Joseph McGuire a HAMC member.

I blogged about the incident and posted several updates HERE, HERE and HERE.

Many readers weighed in with comments between support of the police to those who where very distrustful.  Some comments became derisive after the South Dakota court threw out the assault and weapons charges and then later dismissed all the indictments.

Recently Charles Remsberg, an author of three best-selling law enforcement training textbooks, and contributor to the PoliceOne site has posted an interesting “Behind The Scenes” recap of the shooting.  Part 2 of the report is HERE.  His report provides deeper insight into the minutes leading up to the shooting, the psyche of the various folks involved, the injuries and a bit of the grand jury transcript.  Granted Mr. Remsberg writes from a LEO point of view, but does so after nearly three decades of work where he earned the prestigious O.W. Wilson Award for outstanding contributions to law enforcement and the American Police Hall of Fame Honor Award for distinguished achievement in public service.

To be fair, and after reading Remsberg’s report some of my initial implications were inaccurate.  However, I do think my overall assessment was correct, at least based on the information that was released at the time.

At any rate check out the good report and you be the judge.

UPDATED: January 28, 2009 – Part 2 of the report HERE.

UPDATED: February 25, 2009 – In a plea agreement Joseph McGuire (HAMC) pleads no contest to simple assault (versus aggravated assault) and was sentenced to one year in the Meade County Jail.  According to Rapid City Journal, McGuire’s sentence was suspended as long as he does not break the law.  No fines were imposed, but he can not attend this years rally.

UPDATED: May 7, 2010 – Detective Ronald Smith has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department.  Even though all charges were dropped the suit alleges the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.  This was an embarrassment and the lawsuit contends his reputation was harmed.

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The Seattle PI reported yesterday that an off-duty Seattle police officer attending the Sturgis Rally was detained in a shooting that left a Hells Angels MC member injured early Saturday morning.  UPDATE: Sturgis Police identified the Hells Angels member as 33 year old Joseph McGuire of Imperial Beach, CA. The police officer is a member of the Iron Pigs Motorcycle club which is open to all law enforcement and firefighters who own and ride a V-Twin.

The confrontation happened on Main Street about 1 a.m. at the Loud American Roadhouse between the Hell’s Angels and members of the Iron Pigs Motorcycle club.  It included five other Seattle law enforcement members and the Seattle Police Department has

“All five officers placed on administrative reassignment (relieved of duty) pending further investigation by the South Dakota authorities.”

Loud American Roadhouse, Sturgis

Loud American Roadhouse, Sturgis

It was reported that as many as 500 people were inside the club when officers from several agencies converged on the bar, evacuating patrons and securing the club.  Dean Kinney, one of the bar’s owners, told the Rapid City Journal in Rapid City, S.D., that workers at the bar noticed several Hell’s Angels gathering in and outside the bar, and actually called police prior to the shooting as a precaution.

The Sturgis rally has a reputation, but Saturday’s shooting is the first to take place during the rally in nearly 20 years.

An unfortunate way to end the rally. I plan to follow this story and watch if the “spin” machine goes into overdrive!

Update #1: more background on the Iron Pigs M/C HERE.

Update #2: Sturgis Police identified the Hells Angels member as 33 year old Joseph McGuire of Imperial Beach, CA.  Police are not releasing the Seattle Policeman name out of fears of his safety.

Update #3: The Rapid City Journal identified the Seattle police officer as Ronald Smith (43, of Seattle, WA). More info posted HERE.

Update #4: August 14th – Seattle PI is reporting that Hells Angel member Joseph Patrick McGuire was arrested Jan. 18, 2007, as part of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the San Diego Police Department. Police served warrants on two San Diego-area homes that belonged to the president of the Hells Angels’ local chapter.  McGuire is the chapter treasurer and was arrested at one of the homes in Pacific Beach, Calif. Police seized a pound and a half of marijuana, in addition to hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, and $5,000 in cash.  The San Diego chapter president and vice president were charged in a separate cases in the investigation.  McGuire was released on bond and scheduled for a pre-trial hearing Aug 20 in San Diego County Superior Court, with his trial set for September.  He was charged with possession of marijuana for sale and two counts of illegal possession of narcotics.

Update #5: August 15, 2008 – Seattle Times is reporting that Smith testified against the HAMC in a high-profile racketeering and murder case last year.  His testimony was characterized as “pretty periphery” to the case, however, suggestions were hinted that the Sturgis confrontation could be linked.

Update #6: September 5, 2008: The Argus Leader is reporting that both men (McGuire (HAMC) and Smith (Iron Pigs)) are charged with alternative counts of aggravated and simple assault.  Smith was also charged with perjury.  In addition, misdemeanor gun charges were also brought against the four other fellow bikers with Smith (also part of the Iron Pigs): Scott Lazalde (Bellingham, WA); Dennis McCoy (Seattle, WA); Erik Pingel (Aurora, CO) and James Rector (Ferndale, WA).

Update #7: September 9, 2008 – The Seattle.pi is reporting that the perjury charge has been dismissed against Smith.  The grand jury indicted Smith last month on charges of aggravated assault, perjury and illegal possession of a concealed weapon.  Smith initially stated he was carrying his personal firearm, but the Seattle Police Department records contradicted him, showing that it was a department-issued gun.  This was the evidence that was presented which resulted in the perjury charge.

Update #8: September 17, 2008 – Aggravated assault charges dropped.  See HERE for more info.

Update: #9: November 18, 2008 – All weapons charges dropped.  See HERE for more info.

Update: #10: February 25, 2009 – In a plea agreement Joseph McGuire (HAMC) pleads no contest to simple assault (versus aggravated assault) and was sentenced to one year in the Meade County Jail.  According to Rapid City Journal, McGuire’s sentence was suspended as long as he does not break the law.  No fines were imposed, but he can not attend this years rally.

Update: #11: May 7, 2010 – Detective Ronald Smith has filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle and the Seattle Police Department.  Even though all charges were dropped the suit alleges the department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.  This was an embarrassment and the lawsuit contends his reputation was harmed.

Iron Pigs M/C logo courtesy of web site and Loud American Roadhouse photo courtesy of Yan Soderlin / Rapid City Journal

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