Rival accused of killing Hells Angels boss caught

SAN FRANCISCO - A man accused of killing the leader of the San Jose Hells Angels in a shootout at a Nevada casino has been arrested on a college campus in San Francisco, authorities said Friday.

Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, an alleged member of the rival Vagos motorcycle gang, was taken into custody Thursday after a University of California, San Francisco police sergeant spotted him in a parked car just a block from campus police headquarters, UCSF Police Chief Pam Roskowski said Friday.

Sgt. John Gutierrez was on routine patrol when he spotted a 2011 Chevrolet Malibu with Washington state license plates and saw a man inside acting nervously shortly after 8 p.m., Roskowski said.

Gutierrez then asked Gonzalez, 53, of San Jose, for his keys and driver's license. A background check quickly revealed Gonzalez's arrest warrant in the Nevada murder.

He was arrested without incident.

"It's just good old-fashioned police work," Roskowski said of Gutierrez, noting authorities across California and Nevada were told to be on the lookout for Gonzalez. "The sergeant is an experienced investigator who simply trusted and followed his instincts."

Gonzalez is being held in the San Francisco jail pending his extradition back to Sparks, Nev., where police accuse him of killing Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, 51, of San Jose during a shootout inside John Ascuaga's Nugget hotel and casino last Friday.

It wasn't immediately known if Gonzalez has an attorney.

Gonzalez allegedly shot Pettigrew, president of the San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels and a city transportation worker, four times in the back, authorities said. They believed Gonzalez was in hiding and feared rival bikers would track him down before they could.

Two Vagos members also were wounded in the Sept. 23 shootout, and a third was shot in the stomach the next morning by a gunman in a passing car. Saturday's shooting happened a few blocks from the Nugget and the town square where the 18th annual Street Vibrations motorcycle rally was being held.

Sparks Mayor Geno Martini canceled the event and declared a state of emergency amid fears the gang violence might continue.

Police Sgt. Greta Woyciehowsky said Friday authorities have no new leads or evidence to definitively connect the casino shootout and the shooting the next day of a Vagos gang member by a gunman in a black sedan. But she said the circumstances indicate they were linked.

"We had an individual that was dressed out in Vagos attire, in the color green, riding on a motorcycle and the people come up next to him in a car and shoot at him five times,"' Woyciehowsky said a news conference. "I think you can reasonably assume that was an act of retaliation."

Investigators say they were able to track Gonzalez in part by matching up casino surveillance footage with photographs the California Highway Patrol took of a number of Reno-bound motorcycle gang members in the hours leading up to the casino gunbattle.

Gonzalez appears in pictures with other Vagos members at a gas station in Applegate, along Interstate 80 between Reno and Sacramento.

He was wearing the same clothing as when he was captured on the casino security video - a green long-sleeve shirt, a black Vagos vest, black jeans and black sunglasses, Sparks Police Detective John Patton said in an affidavit.

Patton wrote in the affidavit made public Thursday that those photos were taken Sept. 24 - the day after the casino shooting. But Woyciehowsky told reporters Friday that date was in error and in fact the photos were taken a day earlier, on Sept. 23.

Sparks detectives traveled to San Francisco late Thursday to assist in the investigation and begin to lay the way for Gonzalez's extradition to Nevada, where he is wanted on the warrant for first-degree murder.

Gonzalez must appear in court in San Francisco to face a charge of being a fugitive from justice before the formal extradition process can begin, Woyciehowsky said. She said she didn't know when that would be or whether Gonzalez would fight it.

Woyciehowsky added authorities haven't ruled out making additional arrests in the case. Investigators continue to interview witnesses, though some are reluctant to talk, the said.

One other person has been arrested in last weekend's shootout. Cesar Villagrana, 36, of Gilroy, Calif., did not enter a plea during his initial arraignment Thursday on multiple felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon.

Police say video surveillance shows Villagrana, a member of the Hells Angels, pulling out a gun from his waistband and firing into the crowd after Pettigrew was gunned down.

A hearing has been set for Oct. 5 as Villagrana's attorneys will argue to lower his $500,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 12.

Villagrana's lawyer Richard Schonfeld has said his client is a good family man with no prior felonies who cares for his ill mother and stepfather.


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