As of Thursday morning, police remain mostly tightlipped about “raids” on what seem to have been 94 locations in four states related to the Vagos Motorcycle Club. According to Riverside (California) County District Attorney Rod Pacheco the “raids” should collectively be called “Operation Everywhere.”
According to Pacheco, Operation Everywhere comprised “sixty local and federal police agencies” serving warrants in four states: California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. In California there were raids in at least Riverside and Shasta Counties.
The raids did not take anyone completely by surprise. Many police ponies have ridden into the box canyon over the last six months. Few ponies have ridden out until now.
A 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. Last December an under cover police officer may have tried to join a Vagos chapter in Utah.
The 2009 Los Angeles Case
A trial run of the current Vagos case failed last year in Los Angeles. Ten patched Vagos and one hang around were arrested last May on charges of reckless driving; multiple counts of possession of a deadly weapon (the deadly weapons were a slingshot, a get back whip and a padlock tied to a green bandana), and obstructing the duties of a law enforcement officer.
The accused were from Vagos chapters in the San Fernando Valley (Los Angeles), Carson City, Nevada and Mexicali, Mexico. All eleven were charged with a street gang enhancement and the eight defendants who were not charged with possession of a deadly weapon were also charged with being a member of a street gang aiding in the commission of felonious conduct of another gang member. (The felonies were the possession of a slingshot and so on.)
It was a blatantly manufactured case. The police report that accompanied the initial arrest accused the eleven men of: “Riding in a two by two tandem at excessive speeds;” “cutting people off the road;” “driving in such close proximity to cars on the freeway that at times both the driver of the vehicle and the two ‘Outlaw Gang members’ were travelling in the same lane;” (technically, ‘lane sharing’ is legal in California and is an infraction that is always at the discretion of the arresting officer); and “nearly forcing drivers of vehicles into the concrete median.”
The accused were represented by an attorney named Jeff Voll. This seemingly minor traffic incident resulted in two trials. One trial lasted nine days and the other went on for 17 days. The Vagos prevailed in both. Voll later told this page that he thought the case marked the beginning of a “new wave of harassing patch holders of any motorcycle club.” Voll thought that that traffic case was a test of new ways to use the California gang enhancement statute (California Penal Code 186.22a) to harass and imprison motorcycle club members and associates.
Riverside Is Talking
As of early Thursday, nobody but Rod Pacheco wanted to talk about Operation Everywhere. No law enforcement agencies in Bullhead City or Kingman, Arizona; Laughlin or Carson City, Nevada; Shasta or Los Angeles Counties in California, or anywhere in Utah have acknowledged participating in Operation Everywhere. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has not acknowledged being part of the operation.
But former California Governor and current state Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown has scheduled a press conference and photo opportunity to discuss Operation Everywhere later this afternoon. And, it is usually a bad sign when a gubernatorial candidate decides his campaign can gain some traction by driving over you.
At his press conference yesterday, Pacheco said the Vagos had “gained the significant attention” of police in the last six months but he did not elaborate on what he meant by that. He also said that thirty members of the club had been arrested in Riverside County and that 94 members had been “contacted.” At least 400 police participated in these contacts.
Pacheco also declined to explain what he meant by “contacted.” Pacheco did say, “The Vagos gang has gotten our significant attention. Today we delivered the terms of having gotten our attention.” As he said this Pacheco stood beside a table covered with Vagos patches and Vagos “Property Of” patches. Pacheco also said, “Our goal is to eliminate the significant threat to law enforcement that the Vagos represent.”
News Reports Threat To Police
The Riverside County District Attorney repeatedly suggested but refused to say that the Vagos as a group are responsible for three “attacks” on a local, Southern California police force called the “Hemet/San Jacinto Gang Task Force.”
Last New Year’s Eve, someone drilled a hole in the Gang Task Force headquarters’ roof, cut a gas line and inserted the line into the hole. On February 23rd someone attached a zip gun to the Gang Task Force headquarters’ front gate. The zip gun discharged when a gang officer opened the gate and he was almost hit and he became distraught. On March 5th, another gang officer found a pipe bomb attached to his unmarked car.
“When you try to kill law enforcement officers in this county, you are going to get a very significant response,” Pacheco said. “We will not go quietly into the night. We will respond aggressively and forcefully until the threat is eliminated – not reduced or minimized – eliminated.”
Los Angeles television journalists quickly understood that Pacheco was assigning the important task of making the connection between the Vagos and the harassment of gang task force officers because Pacheco could not. Because of some tricky legality that would just bore television viewers anyway. So the story ran in the first “package” (the first ten minutes of the news) on most Los Angeles newscasts last night at four, five, six, eight, nine, ten and eleven. The Los Angeles Times, which has a six pm final deadline, gave the raids four and a half inches on page AA5 in the Thursday morning edition.