A few details are finally starting to emerge about the brawl between members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club on the casino floor just outside Trader Dick’s Lounge at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada on September 23.
Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, President of the San Jose charter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club died as a result of the fight. Two Vagos, Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were shot. Three men, San Jose Vago Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, former Los Angeles Vago Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick and San Jose Hells Angel Cesar Villagrana have all been indicted for conspiracy to commit second degree murder for their actions before and during the brawl.
There was a round up of Vagos on October 6 in a media event called Operation Simple Green. The ATF, the motorcycle club police, although present during the October 6 raids has been entirely invisible since the September 23 shootout and there are two possible explanations for that. Either John Ciccone and other well known biker cops have completely abandoned their careers or the ATF is hiding to avoid public scrutiny of their investigative methods and procedures.
Shockingly, last week it was announced that “a 27-year veteran of the…Vagos motorcycle gang” had given 278 pages of testimony to a Nevada grand jury. The “Vago” testified “under the condition of confidentiality.” There has been no explanation of why any Vago would do this. Until now there has been no speculation about what he might have to gain other than a clean conscience. This witness piled most of the blame for this tragedy on Rudnick’s shoulders.
“Jabbers has a big mouth,” the witness said. “He’s always had a big mouth.”
People who “love” Rudnick agree and add that, “he just doesn’t like Hells Angels.” Since Rudnick was voted out bad from the Vagos soon after the shooting he makes a convenient scapegoat.
Rudnick is now very alone in his solitary cell at the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. He will probably be extradited to Nevada within two weeks and spend Christmas in a jail cell there. He would make a convenient target for the ATF if the ATF had not so obviously gotten out of the business of investigating motorcycle clubs. Most witnesses agree that Rudnick almost singlehandedly started the fight in Sparks.
San Jose Angels And Vagos
Contrary to what has been previously reported here, the Vagos were not surprised to see Angels at the Nugget. The Angels had rooms there. They had a souvenir and tee shirt stand set up outside the hotel.
A few Vagos suspected that the ice chest that the Angels’ hang arounds hauled everywhere contained guns. The ice chest contained ice and beer. Most Vagos already assumed that.
The San Jose Angels were not there to fight anybody. Most of the San Jose Angels and San Jose Vagos knew each other and got along. Some of them had known each other their whole lives. There was no friction in San Jose as there had been a couple of years before in Santa Cruz. Despite a very widely circulated story to the contrary, what happened in Sparks had nothing to do Starbucks.
What happened in Sparks was that Pettigrew and Rudnick just did not get along. The two proud men stared at each other like pit bulls. Senior Vagos calmed the situation. Moments before the fight began, Pettigrew walked over to Rudnick, said something like “How are you doing,” patted Rudnick on the back and simultaneously touched Rudnick’s patch.
Rudnick seethed over that and as Pettigrew limped away Rudnick rose, spread his arms wide and said something like, “So hey! Are we done here or what?”
Pettigrew, according to witnesses, turned, walked back and broke a beer bottle on the side Rudnick’s head. Rudnick punched Pettigrew and knocked him down. Pettigrew rose with a small caliber pistol in his hand and shot Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia.
Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, seeing two of his club brothers shot, pulled a .40 caliber pistol and shot Pettigrew in the back. Official documents state that Gonzalez shot Pettigrew four times. Pettigrew’s autopsy revealed he had been shot five times. There is a persistent, plausible but unverified rumor that a security guard fired the fifth shot and that shot might have been the fatal shot.
Almost simultaneously, one or more Vagos stabbed Pettigrew. Some of the stab wounds were apparently inflicted by the bottle with which Pettigrew had just hit Rudnick. And Cesar Villagrana, in the midst of this mayhem, pulled and began firing his .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol. He fired at least ten shots at the ceiling and floor while shouting, “Get down! Get down!” There doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that Villagrana was actually trying to assault any Vagos in the crowded casino because he did not actually shoot any. A reasonable person might conclude that Villagrana was trying to put a stop to the fight before anyone else got hurt.
The Simple Green raids on October 6 were precipitated by the shootings in Sparks. One of the key items sought in those raids was the .40 caliber pistol Gonzalez used to allegedly kill Pettigrew. Those raids culminated an investigation officially led by a San Bernardino city police officer named Erick M. Bennett with the aid of the California Department of Justice but not the ATF. Sources describe Bennett as “a hard charger” and “clean.”
This state investigation utilized at least six wiretaps and two confidential informants. The Aging Rebel has been told that those informants were a Vago named Mario Ayala and a longtime friend of the Vagos named Jacob Canceli. A prime objective of the raids was to attempt to coerce Vagos into volunteering information about Pettigrew’s homicide. One of the homes raided that day was Jabbers Rudnick’s. Rudnick was detained, refused to cooperate and was then set free.
The witness who testified before the Nevada grand jury might have been one of the Vagos who was detained that day. However the most likely candidate to have offered 278 pages of testimony was Jacob Cancelli. Cancelli was already cooperating with some police agency, but not the ATF according to the official narrative, during the long investigation of the Vagos that preceded the Sparks shootings.
The witness only testified before the grand jury because that was enough to return an indictment. He is unlikely to testify at trial, if there is a trial, because to do so would subject him to cross examination.
Canceli, who used to live in Mission Viejo, California, was accused of stock manipulation and defrauding investors of more than $700,000 in 2009. He pled guilty and his sentencing has been continued several times. He is currently scheduled to be sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware on December 13. It is a federal case.