RENO (AP) — The alleged instigator of a biker brawl that left a Hells Angels chapter president dead at a Sparks casino testified Wednesday that the killing was part of an assassination plot and his former Vagos cohort was the triggerman.
Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, said Ernesto Gonzalez fired the fatal shots that killed Jeffrey Pettigrew, a Hells Angels San Jose, Calif., chapter president, the Reno Gazette-Journal (http://on.rgj.com/17U5UFx ) reported.
Rudnick claims Vagos leaders ordered a “hit” on Pettigrew and that Gonzalez agreed to carry it out on a busy casino floor on Sept. 23, 2011.
Defense lawyers dispute that theory and argue Rudnick made up the plot to garner a better plea deal with prosecutors.
They also say Gonzalez shot Pettigrew in self-defense and to save the life of another Vagos member who was being kicked on the floor.
Rudnick said the assassination plot stemmed from several incidents in the months leading up to the shooting, including one on a highway earlier that day.
He said a few Vagos bikes broke down and Hells Angels approached them to tell them to take off their colors.
Rudnick did not explain specifics on that incident, but said it was a focal point of discussion the day of the shooting, the Gazette-Journal reported. He said about 200 Vagos met around 8 p.m. that night to discuss what to do about the Hells Angels.
“We were told that (the Nugget) was our hotel, that we were staying there,” said Rudnick, who arrived at John Ascuaga’s Nugget earlier that evening for the annual Street Vibrations motorcycle rally.
After dinner at the Oyster Bar in the Nugget with his wife, Rudnick said he went to grab a beer and tequila with fellow Vagos. Pettigrew was patting members of the Vagos on the back, and Rudnick took offense.
“I didn’t like it,” Rudnick said,
“Why not?” Chief Deputy District Attorney Karl Hall asked.
Rudnick said touching others’ cuts, or gang colors on their jackets, is “disrespectful.”
National Vagos leaders spoke with Pettigrew to quell the tension.
Pettigrew and national Vagos leaders exchanged in a mutual apology. Rudnick said as vice president of the Los Angeles Vagos chapter, he wanted an apology, too.
When the Hells Angels left to go to their rooms for the night, several Vagos, mostly with the San Jose chapter, were told to not let them get to the elevators, Rudnick said.
He said he approached Pettigrew and they exchanged words before Pettigrew “took a swing at me.”
Rudnick said he retreated and hid behind a bank of slot machines when Pettigrew pulled out a gun.
Rudnick said he kept an eye on Gonzalez “because I didn’t want to get shot.”
“So you knew there was going to be shooting?” Hall asked.
“Yes,” Rudnick said.