Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, a member of the Vagos motorcycle gang, is now being held in the killing of Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, president of the San Jose, Calif., chapter of the Hells Angels, after he allegedly shot Pettigrew four times in the back at Trader Dick’s bar inside the Nugget.
According to police reports, Gonzalez was observed on surveillance footage carrying a handgun into the dance floor area of the bar. No other Vagos members are seen at that location at that time.
Pettigrew, after being observed punching and pistol whipping Vagos members, is then seen falling to the ground, at which time Gonzalez is observed running from the scene while stuffing the gun into his waistband. Seven .40-caliber casings were recovered from the crime scene.
Sparks police are currently searching for Gonzalez, who is said to live in San Jose. Law enforcement agencies there have tracked the movements of Gonzalez and fellow gang members in recent days, according to police reports.
On Sept. 24, California Highway Patrol officers spotted Gonzalez in Applegate, Calif. The officers are said to have taken several photographs of the suspect and also recorded his license plate number.
Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick on Wednesday told the Associated Press that in addition to running from the law, Gonzalez is likely hiding from rival bikers.
“If we’ve been able to identify him, there’s no doubt the Santa Clara Hells Angels chapter has been able to, too,” Gammick said. “He’s probably hiding out in a very small space.”
Gammick declined to provide any more information about the suspect other than to speculate he might not survive to stand trial in Reno if his revenge-minded rivals find him before law officers do.
The shooting death of Pettigrew, and fears of retaliatory violence, prompted the cancellation of the Street Vibrations motorcycle rally at the Victorian Square venue and Mayor Geno Martini issued a state-of-emergency for the city.
On Thursday, Cesar Villagrana, also a Vagos member, was arraigned in Sparks Justice Court on charges of assault with a deadly weapon for his involvement in the incident. He is being held in Washoe County Jail and a new bail hearing has been set for 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 5.
Villagrana is being held on a $500,00 cash bail.