The simmering dispute between the Vagos Motorcycle Club and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club boiled over into public view over the weekend in Sparks, Nevada.
Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, 51, President of the San Jose charter of the Hells Angels was killed in a gunfight on the casino floor just outside Trader Dick’s Lounge at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort. According to police, Pettigrew was killed during a fight between about 60 Vagos and a dozen Hells Angels last Friday, September 23 at about 11:20 p.m.
Two Vagos, Leonard Ramirez, 45, and Diego Garcia, 28 were also wounded. Garcia was shot in the leg and Ramirez was shot in the abdomen. Police have accused a Hells Angel named Cesar Villagrana, 36, of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a stolen firearm.
The next morning, September 24, a Vago named Shane Smith, 40 was shot by unknown assailants in a dark blue BMW 3 series sedan while Smith was walking on Victorian Avenue in Sparks. Police have failed to connect that shooting to any Hells Angels.
The Police Already Know
The Vagos have been, arguably, the preeminent club in northern Nevada for more than 20 years. When the Hells Angels patched over the Reno Renegades in the late 1990s that charter became the Nevada Nomads rather than the Reno Angels or Nevada Angels out of respect for the Vagos. Out of respect for the Angels, at around the same time, the Vagos agreed to refrain from establishing any new chapters in Arizona where Ralph “Sonny” Barger, long the eminence gris of the Hells Angels, currently resides.
That understanding was not a quid pro quo agreement and was not a statement of territoriality, although police may intend to construe the mutual respect between the two clubs more cynically.
This mutually respectful understanding between the two motorcycle clubs began to go south about two years ago. Another club named the Renegades appeared in northern Nevada and that club had friendly relations with the Nevada Nomads. The Vagos established a chapter in Bullhead City, Arizona and in Chino Valley, Arizona.
The Angels had previously maintained the Skull Valley charter of their club in Chino Valley.
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 in 2009, Barger led a large pack of bikes into Kingman, Arizona, near Bullhead City, to challenge a local no-colors policy. Many of his fellow riders were Hells Angels. Barger was cited for speeding on US 40 coming down off the Mogollon Rim. Because his autograph is valuable and because he refuses to enrich cops Barger was briefly detained for refusing to sign his ticket.
Eventually, 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.
Drama With Guns
Vagos and Hells Angels engaged in a prolonged gunfight in Chino Valley in August, 2009. At the time, Vagos members explained they were on their way to a birthday party and were attacked as they drove past an Angels barbecue. Angels have not commented on that incident.
The Vagos Motorcycle Club has been growing rapidly and establishing new chapters in the last year. On August 13, Vagos and members of the Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club engaged in a confrontation at a truck stop near mile marker 150 on US Route 44 in Pulaski County, Missouri.
Many of the Vagos in Missouri are former members of the Midwest Drifters Motorcycle Club which generally maintains cordial relations with the Galloping Goose and El Forastero Motorcycle Clubs.
Police allege that confrontation also involved gun play and that Missouri State Police had to pursue the fleeing motorcyclists for seven miles down Interstate 44 until the pack finally heard the sound of the sirens over the roar of their engines and promptly pulled over.