3rd murder indictment in Nev. casino gang killing
RENO (AP) – A third motorcycle gang member has been indicted on murder charges in the September shootout at a Nevada casino that killed the president of the Hells Angels’ San Jose, Calif., chapter.
Court records unsealed in Washoe District Court late Wednesday identify Gary Stuart Rudnick as a Vagos gang member and co-conspirator in the fatal shooting of rival Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew at John Ascuaga’s Nugget hotel-casino in Sparks.
Also known as “Jabbers,” Rudnick faces a murder charge along with Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez, a fellow Vagos member who police say fired the shots that killed Pettigrew on the crowded casino floor the night of Sept. 23.
It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday night if Rudnick had been taken into custody, but court records indicated that the previously sealed indictment returned by a Washoe County grand jury Nov. 9 would not be made public until he was arrested.
Another Hells Angels member, Cesar Villagrana, also was named in that indictment on a murder charge because he was involved in the shootout that led to Pettigrew’s death.
All three suspects were indicted on a felony count of second-degree murder with a deadly weapon while Gonzalez, 53, of San Francisco, also was indicted on a charge of open murder with a deadly weapon.
Villagrana, 36, of Gilroy, Calif., also is accused of shooting two other Vagos members that night at the casino, one in the leg and one in the stomach. A third Vagos member was shot in the stomach the next morning by someone in a passing car a few blocks away from the casino.
Another killing followed Oct. 15 at Pettigrew’s funeral in San Jose, which was attended by an estimated 4,000 people, but police believe that fatal shooting involved only Hells Angels.
The victim, Steve Tausan, 52, was a former member of the Hells Angels San Jose chapter and was the current sergeant at arms of the Santa Cruz chapter at the time of his death. Police have identified his suspected killer as Steve Ruiz, 38, another Hells Angels member they have been unable to locate.
Gonzalez was arrested Sept. 30 in San Francisco and was returned to Reno under tight security early Monday to face the criminal charges. On Wednesday, Washoe District Judge Connie Steinheimer appointed the county public defender’s office to represent him. He was scheduled to be arraigned in her courtroom Thursday.
There was no age or hometown listed for Rudnick in the court records, nor any information about his status or location.
Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputy Armando Avina said Wednesday night that he did not know the whereabouts of Rudnick. Of the three, he said only Gonzalez was believed to be held at the Washoe County Jail.
Avina said he did not believe the county had initiated efforts to extradite Villagrana from San Jose, where he was re-arrested last week on the new murder charge. He had been free on $150,000 bail at the time after originally being charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon, illegally carrying a concealed weapon and discharging a firearm in a structure.
The indictment said Gonzalez, Rudnick, Villagrana and Pettigrew all conspired “with their respective gang members and/or each other to engage in an affray” and that both Gonzalez and Villagrana shot rival gang members inside the casino.
“Rudnick did upon previous concert and agreement give or send a challenge to fight Hells Angels gang members Jeffrey Pettigrew and Cesar Villagrana” and they in turn accepted the challenge, court records state.
An alternative version of events outlined in the indictment said Rudnick and Pettigrew may have initially “verbally challenged each other to fight and did directly or indirectly counsel, encourage, hire, command, induce or otherwise procure other Vagos and Hells Angels gang members.”
“The subsequent fight was committed knowingly for the benefit of and at the direction of, or in affiliation with, a criminal gang and with the specific intent to promote, further or assist the activities of the criminal gang,” the indictment said.
Prosecutors said in court documents it was important to keep the indictment sealed to prevent the destruction of evidence and ensure the safety of witnesses until all arrests were made.
“Not only may the investigation be compromised but other people may be endangered if the identities of the suspects and informants were to be obtained by either motorcycle gang,” Deputy District Attorney Karl Hall wrote on Oct. 21.