The escalating hard feelings between members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club and the Vagos Motorcycle Club erupted into gunfire early Saturday afternoon in Chino Valley, Arizona.
Multiple news outlets are reporting the fight took place near a gray, two story, stucco house in 2600 the block of Yuma Drive around noon. Yuma Drive is about a mile west of Route 89. Chino Valley is a mostly rural, incorporated area about 50 miles south of Ash Fork and about 25 miles north of Prescott.
The Hells Angels Skull Valley Charter had a clubhouse in Chino Valley. That charter was apparently decertified after Operation Black Biscuit. Black Biscuit was an ATF investigation that attempted to entrap and incriminate as many Hells Angels as possible. During that investigation, an ATF Special Agent named Jay Anthony Dobyns and a paid, confidential informant named James “Pops” Blankenship prospected with the Skull Valley charter. Blankenship has characterized that investigation as a morally reprehensible “rogue” operation. Both Dobyns and Blankenship later sued the ATF.
Five men were injured in yesterday’s fight. One man was treated at the scene and released. Another man was carried out of the Yuma Drive home on a stretcher and helicoptered to a hospital in Phoenix. Residents identified the home as the long time residence of a member of the Hells Angels.
After the grey eminence of the Hells Angels, Ralph “Sonny” Barger retired to suburban Phoenix, the most respected motorcycle club in that state, the Dirty Dozen Motorcycle Club, patched over to Barger’s club and the Angels have vigorously asserted their preeminence in Arizona ever since.
Both the Vagos and the Hells Angels are respectfully regarded one percenter clubs with chapters in California and Nevada. The Angels and the Vagos are sometimes rumored to have negotiated an agreement in the late 90s that would keep the Vagos out of Arizona. It was a quid pro quo agreement that some observers allege the Angels violated.
Consequently, relations between the two clubs have been less cordial that they could be. For example in June 2009, according to police, five Hells Angels and two Desert Road Riders attacked two Vagos at Lazy Harry’s Sunshine Saloon in Bullhead City. Six months later, Vagos and Hells Angels were reported to have brawled in a parking lot in mellow Santa Cruz, California. The Bullhead City brawl prompted a six month long campaign of police harassment against all bikers in Mojave County, Arizona.
Late last year, Barger led a large pack of bikes into Kingman, putatively, to challenge a local no-colors policy. Barger was actually cited for speeding during that run and briefly detained when he refused to sign the ticket. In early December, the Arizona Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (G.II.T.E.M. – pronounced Git-em) and the Coconino, Yavapai and Mohave County Sheriffs and the Kingman, Flagstaff, Lake Havasu and Bullhead City Police carried out a series of dramatic raids and arrested seven men for felony riot for allegedly being in Lazy Harry’s Sunshine Saloon at the time of the fight.
News reports are characterizing yesterday’s shooting as part of an “ongoing power struggle in northwestern Arizona between the Vagos and Hells Angels.”
Kim Stam, manager of a bar in Chino Valley, told the ABC affiliate in Phoenix that the shooting was “between members of the Hells Angels and Vagos motorcycle clubs” and that members “of each club live right around the corner from each other.”
“This has been coming for a long time,” Stam said. “They want this to be their town, one of them.”
An unnamed woman who lives near the shooting told the Prescott Daily Courier that she “saw two men on motorcycles, although one of them did not seem to know how to ride, traveling on Yuma. Moments later, she said she witnessed a black SUV driving backwards after the bikers.
“Once the struggling rider was able to get his bike going, she said he then stopped because he saw his buddies drive by in a white four-door Chevy truck.”
According to the witness, the struggling rider said, “Somebody just stole my bike. Give me a gun.”
The woman told the Courier she later heard four gunshots.