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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Shootout erupted without warning


11:15 |

 

While Sparks police continued their investigation into Friday's fatal shooting between rival motorcycle gangs inside John Ascuaga's Nugget, Washoe County's counterterrorism unit said it had no intelligence indicating a shootout was about to take place that night. Killed in Friday's incident was Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, 51, president of the San Jose, Calif., chapter of the Hells Angels and a heavy equipment operator for the city of San Jose. Two members of the Vagos, Leonard Ramirez, 45, and Diego Garcia, 28, were wounded in the gunfire Friday night. The only man arrested immediately after the shooting -- Cesar Villagrana, 36, a Hells Angel member from California -- was being held Monday on $500,000 bail at Washoe County Jail. He faces a court appearance on felony assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a stolen firearm charges. It was not immediately clear if Villagrana had a lawyer. Also on Monday, police identified Shane Smith, 40, a member of the Vagos motorcycle gang, as the victim of a Saturday morning drive-by shooting. Sparks police said a dark blue BMW 3 series pulled up beside Smith and shot him in the stomach as he was walking on Victorian Avenue, near the Nugget. His condition was not released. Police said the two shootings have not been definitively linked, though both prompted Sparks officials to declare a state of emergency before canceling the remainder of the annual Street Vibrations rally, which attracts thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to the region. A state of emergency gives a city the power to enforce a curfew, use private property to stage emergency responses and call on the state for additional resources, such as the Nevada National Guard, which Sparks did not do. The declaration lasted 24 hours starting at 5 p.m. Saturday. Video shows crowd seeking cover Deputy Sparks Police Chief Brian Allen said Monday that casino surveillance video won't be made public until investigators complete the painstaking work of identifying about 60 Vagos and 12 Hells Angels amid a crowd of several hundred people gambling and partying. Members of the crowd suddenly dove for cover when gunfire erupted. "We don't want to sensationalize it. We don't want to influence the groups. We don't want to have something happen somewhere else," Allen said in an interview. "A lot of the players are from out of the state and out of the region. If you look at it historically, there've been tensions between these two groups. But we're still looking at what exactly set off this specific incident." In Arizona, more than two dozen members of the rival groups were arrested in August 2010 after a shootout left five people wounded in Chino Valley, north of Prescott. In California, an annual organized crime report from the state attorney general calls long-standing tensions between the Hells Angels and the Vagos "particularly poignant." It cited instances in which the Hells Angels have forced Vagos out of chapters in Hells Angels hotspots. It's not the first time a motorcycle rally has turned deadly in Nevada. According to a 2002 story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, court documents and gaming officials showed Southern Nevada law enforcement had intelligence that a fight was about to break out between the Hells Angels and Mongols motorcycle gangs during the River Run motorcycle rally in Laughlin that year. Police warned casino operators, according to the story, about the potential for violence before the event turned fatal when a shootout ensued inside the Harrah's Laughlin casino, leaving three bikers dead. Law enforcement officials in Northern Nevada, meanwhile, said no such information existed ahead of Friday's violence that would have alerted them of a melee about to erupt between the Hells Angels and Vagos gangs.


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