Police and city officials shut down Sparks’ participation in the annual motorcycle rally after the president of the San Jose, Calif. chapter of the Hells Angels club was shot to death during a fight in the bar area near Trader Dick’s restaurant at John Ascuaga’s Nugget. The hotel-casino was hosting many of the event’s participants and outside many vendors were set up selling leather goods, motorcycle repair, insurance, food and more.
No new information was released Sunday in the death of Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, 51, the man killed in the incident that occurred about 11:30 p.m. Friday. Injured were Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia, both from California. Both were reported in stable condition on Saturday.
Neither individual has been arrested and no one has yet been charged in the murder of Pettigrew. Police are reviewing casino surveillance tapes.
A second Hells Angels member, Cesar Villagrana of California, has been arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a stolen firearm. Villagrana was seen on surveillance footage firing into the crowd at the Nugget.
Police are asking witnesses to this incident to come forward. A press release from the Nugget said the fight was between members of rival motorcycle gangs. No one else was hurt in the incident.
A separate shooting occurred shortly before 11 p.m. Friday in which a motorcyclist, whose identity has not been released, was shot in the stomach after a car pulled alongside.
A black, four-door 3-series BMW with tinted windows and two occupants was seen speeding away from the scene. No link between the two shootings has been identified, police officials said.
At about 4 p.m. Saturday, city officials declared a state of emergency — which ended at 5 p.m. Sunday — and vendors along Victorian Square were ordered to cease operations and close up shop. On Sunday morning, businesspeople were angry, frustrated and disappointed as they tore down booths and packed up boxes. Willem VanderHoeven, owner of Dead Center Cycles of Seattle, said he had just started to earn money past his $5,000 investment to come to Street Vibrations when he was told the city’s portion of the event was to be canceled.
“We were so busy we didn’t have a chance to eat lunch,” VanderHoeven said of Saturday’s pace.
Dead Center makes saddle bags and fairings, the windshield and handlebar fixtures that attach to motorcycles. Street Vibrations was to be the last of the business’ special events of the summer.
“It’s usually one of our best ones,” Dead Center salesman Joel Woods said of the event.
While Woods and VanderHoeven prepared to head north for home, Carrie Bayless, owner of fried-food vendor Bayless Concessions, prepared to head to her next event at the San Benito County Fair in California. Bayless and her family-run business came from Southern California for their first northern Nevada Street Vibrations this year. She said she understood that the shutdown was for safety purposes but added that she hadn’t noticed any problems out on the street.
“The Laughlin River Run (another motorcycle event) has a no-colors rule that seems to work pretty well,” Bayless said, suggesting a similar rule at the Street Vibrations here might help eliminate biker-gang confrontations.
As for whether she will return to the event next year, Bayless said, “The jury’s still out on that one. They would have to make it quite enticing.”
Angrily packing up to leave were workers with Biker Design, a Florida-based leather goods vendor. Owner Larry Johnson said it cost him about $20,000 to make the trip and that shutting down a day and a half early was leaving him well below that in sales. He said other vendors he spoke to were angry about the Sparks event being shut down and not the events in Reno or Virginia City.
“It’s not like they can’t go to Reno and shoot,” Johnson said.
Late Sunday afternoon, the city of Sparks issued a press release with a statement from Mayor Geno Martini.
“We will not allow, nor will we tolerate violent behavior by any groups or individuals in the city of Sparks,” Martini said in the release. “The special event held in Sparks was intended for motorcycle enthusiasts and attracts thousands of people annually, including families with children. The safety and security of event attendees in Sparks is a priority. The individuals who engaged in the violence do not in any way reflect the majority of the event attendees. We appreciate the understanding of our residents and businesses throughout the last 24 hours. We want to thank our regional partners, the city of Reno and Washoe County for their support and resources during this time. We also send our appreciation to Gov. Sandoval for his willingness to support our efforts.”