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Posts Tagged ‘Victorian Square’

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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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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The Sands Hotel (Orange) From Silver Legacy

Previously I blogged about how Street Vibrations 2010 turned into Street Frustrations 2010 HERE.

Sure, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that can go wrong with any major event the size of Street Vibrations and after months and months of hard work the folks running this event know if they just pulled off another stunning performance or if it’s all over in minutes after it starts.  Unfortunately it was over before it started…

I wrote a letter to both Reno’s Mayor Bob Cashell and to Randy Burke of Road Shows Inc., who is the event producer.  I want to thank them both for a quick response and am sharing the information I received:

Reno Mayor – Bob Cashell via Marcia Morse

Mayor Cashell asked me to thank you for your comments and let you know it was not the City of Reno that changed the format for Street Vibrations.

It was the promoter, Randy Burke with Roadshows.  His contact information is: http://www.road-shows.com/contact.php . The City of Reno will be meeting with him soon to discuss this situation and get back to the regular format for next year.

We are sorry that this has happened to a wonderful event and promise to make next year a better year.

Marcia

Marcia Morse
Administrative Secretary to
Mayor Robert Cashell
P.O. Box 1900
Reno, NV  89505
775-334-2001
775-334-2097 Fax
morsem@reno.gov

Randy Burke – Road Shows Inc.

Thank you for your input about Street Vibrations Fall Rally 2010.

The City of Reno provided us with our downtown Reno layout in January 2010. After five revisions, we agreed to their plan. We had heard from our bikers that they wanted bikes, not vendors, on Virginia Street. We were wrong, shame on us.

We will meet with the mayor of Reno next week to discuss bringing vendors back Virginia Street for 2011.

Best Regards,

Randy Burke
Roadshows, Inc.
admin@roadshowsreno.com
775-329-7469

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Street Vibrations 2010 - Thin crowds at the split event!

Formally known as Street Vibrations…

As thousands of motorcycles descended into Reno, NV for the annual Street Vibrations motorcycle rally they were met with what will be surely known as the motorcycle rally debacle of 2010!

Our posse arrived on Thursday (23rd) afternoon.  Checked in to the hotel and walked out on to the street to take in some of the action.

WAIT.  Where are the vendor booths?  Why are cars traveling on so many of the side streets?  Where is every one?  Why are people standing around doing NOTHING on Virginia Street?  We walked three blocks and someone remarked how we’ve yet to see any law enforcement patrols?  WTF?

Sparks Victorian Square - Thin crowds at the split event.

Street Vibrations is the fourth largest motorcycle rally in the country, but you wouldn’t have known that by observing the thin crowds on Virginia Street.  Crowds that mostly wandered around wondering what to do.  It turns out that the information released earlier about vendors being expanded into Sparks really meant — ALL of the vendors were moved to the Sparks Victorian Square this year.  Only the convention center contained vendor booths.  With the exception of a handful of food vendors and a couple official t-shirt booths ALL OTHERS where moved to Sparks.

On Friday we headed to Sparks to check out the vendor booths in Victorian Square.  The traffic control folks were sending everyone into a dead-end parking area.  There were 25-30 bikes at a time getting jammed up with little room to maneuver or turn around creating a blockage that overflowed onto the street.  Dumb.  We finally got parked and walked around.  The feel of the area was nice, clean and open, but the crowds were thin.  Sure you could drink, but are you going to when you’ve got to get back on the motorcycle and ride to your hotel?  Not likely.  Whose idea was it to promote drinking and driving?  Where were the shuttle buses?  Dumb.  And while it’s true they expanded a number of vendors, I don’t know about you… I didn’t go to a motorcycle event to look at scented candles!   The Simms, Kuryakyn, Performance Machines, Mustang Seats and Metzler booths were well attended, but most others were fairly spotty.

Street Vibrations 2010 Event Map -- Split event booths at Sparks/Reno

I met/talked with several vendors in both locations as well as some attendees to get their reactions.  NONE liked the set up.  Not one!  I ask casino employees/pit bosses and they all balked at the setup.  The local Reno H-D dealer attendance was much lower than previous years.  People had front row parking available in the dealer parking lot.  Unheard of in previous years.  H-D employees had NOTHING good to say about the new arrangement.

I received a mixed bag of finger pointing.  The first reason was about how the Reno Police were greedy in what they wanted to charge for crowd control.  The cost couldn’t be passed on to the vendors so, the events producer decided to move it to a lower cost area (i.e. Sparks).  Then we heard that the event had become too big.  We heard that the city council was trying to “Get Back The Streets”… meaning that the days of blocking off streets from residents and creating traffic jams for locals were over.  We also heard that there wasn’t enough parking for motorcycles and then I heard that it was the bikers fault because they wanted to park/drive on Virginia Street… blah, blah, blah.  It seemed like reason de jour.

I’m somewhat convinced it was about $$.  At the end of the day it always seems to be about $$.  Whether it’s law enforcement costs, city liability, promoter margins or [make your excuse here]… it typically comes down to someone not getting enough $$ or someone paying too much $$.

MEMO TO: Randy Burke (Events Producer (Road Shows)) and Bob Cashell (Reno Mayor) – WORK it out.  The split event sucks!  Street Vibrations started on the street and should stay on the street.  It’s just that simple.  Don’t correct this debacle and I predict a fast decline and the end of Street Vibrations.

If you attended and have an opinion (good or bad) then please send an email or contact Mr. Burke HERE or Mr. Cashell HERE and let them know what you thought of this years rally.

Photo’s taken at the event.

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