Criminal charges against seven members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club were dismissed Tuesday in Arizona. The charges stemmed from a notorious gunfight between members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club and Hells Angels in Chino Valley, Arizona in August 2010.
Chino Valley is a mostly rural, incorporated area about 50 miles south of Ash Fork and about 20 miles north of Prescott. The seven men whose charges were dismissed are Michael Koepke, John Bernard, Kevin Christiansen, Kiley Hill, Larry Scott Jr., Robert Kittredge and Bruce Schweigert. All had been free on bond.
According to witnesses who did not testify in the case, A Hells Angel and a Vago maintained residences within blocks of each other in the small Arizona town. The Vago who lived at 2920 Yuma Drive in Chino Valley threw a barbecue on the same day the Hells Angel who lived at 2640 Yuma Drive was throwing a barbecue.
At the time of the incident a witness told The Aging Rebel: “There were two packs of Vagos. The first pack had between five and seven riders in it. The second pack with about 20 Vagos was a half mile behind the first pack.”
The witness said between six and eight Hells Angels, prospects or supporters were in the front yard of the gray, stucco house at 2640 Yuma Drive. “No one is sure how many full patches were on the HA side,” the witness said. “As the Vagos got closer to the house the HA reached into saddle bags on several of the bikes and opened fire on the Vagos as they rode by.”
According to the witness the Vagos laid down their bikes and returned fire. “The second pack rode up and the HA ran into the house for cover and began shooting from there,” the witness said. “When the Vagos chase cars got there the shooting was pretty much over but the Angels then got into cars and began patrolling outside the house (at 2640 Yuma Drive) while the Vagos returned to the member’s house up the street (at 2920 Yuma Drive.)
Five men were wounded in the fight.
A key figure in both the shootout and the prosecution was a paid confidential informant named Alfred Azevedo. Azevedo was working for the Arizona Department of Public Safety that August. In her dismissal, Judge Cele Hancock noted that, “Acevedo had previously been an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms…and for D.P.S. in other areas of Arizona, including a prior stint in Mohave County.” Acevedo was a known informant “against both the Hells Angels and the Vagos who had been moved out of State due to a belief that he may be in danger.”
Judge Hancock continued: “On the night before the incident in Chino Valley, Acevedo called (D.P.S. Detective) Morris and told him that he was meeting some individuals from Las Vegas and that they would be attending a BBQ at a Vagos house in Chino Valley, Arizona. Morris set up surveillance of Acevedo the following morning. Morris observed Acevedo and others were traveling through Kingman, in the direction of Chino Valley. In at least one of the trucks he observed a BBQ grill and camping equipment.
“On August 21, 2010, at approximately 11:30 a.m., Acevedo was at the residence of Mike Diecks, one of the Vagos. Acevedo was sent to the Circle K by the Tri-State President of the Vagos Ruben Lopez to purchase some items.”
“While Acevedo was at the Circle K, several members of the Hells Angels arrived and entered the Circle K. When Acevedo was leaving the store, a member of the Hells Angels…was also leaving the Circle K. (The Angel) allegedly asked Acevedo about his support of the Vagos. At that time, Acevedo was wearing a t-shirt that indicated his support of the Vagos. Acevedo reported feeling intimidated by (the Hells Angel) and felt as if (the Hells Angel) was trying to start a fight.”
There is no indication of what Azevedo might have said to the Hells Angel.
“Acevedo called back to the Vagos house and told Mike Diecks about the confrontation at the Circle K. Acevedo was told to wait at the Circle K and that there were more Vagos on the way to assist him.”
There is nothing to substantiate any of Azevedo’s tale about the shootout or the incident at the Circle K. Azevedo testified about both incidents to two grand juries but neither of the two panels was ever told that the informant was working for the police. The judge decided that the prosecution improperly concealed Azevedo’s status as an agent provocateur.
“This case is not set for trial,” the judge wrote in her dismissal. “There is time for the Defense to interview Acevedo and bring additional motions before the Court. This case has been on the docket for almost two years with little advancement. Most of that time has been taken up with motions for remand, disclosure issues and issues surrounding release conditions of the Defendants.”
Hancock dismissed the case “without prejudice” because “the lack of disclosure deprived the first and second grand juries, the defense, and the court of information necessary to a full and fair hearing.” She concluded, “the defendants were prejudiced and their due process rights under the Arizona Constitution were violated by the State’s failure to disclose material, clearly exculpatory evidence in its possession. The Court does not find that the actions of the State, given the posture of the case both procedurally and substantively, rise to the level of a dismissal with prejudice. “
Hancock’s dismissal allows the prosecution to refile the charges and start all over again.