Accused killer and Vagos Motorcycle Club leader Ernesto (Romeo) Gonzalez was ordered to be retried this week in Nevada state court on murder charges related to the assassination of a powerful Hells Angel inside a casino during an annual biker rally in Reno in the fall of 2011.The 58-year old Gonzalez, the one-time Vagos president in Nicaragua, had his August 2013 homicide conviction for killing Hells Angel San Jose, California chapter president Jeffrey (Jethro) Pettigrew tossed on a technicality back in December due to faulty jury instructions.

On Wednesday, the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office refiled first-degree homicide charges against Gonzalez and Gonzalez had an arraignment date set for later this month (June 23) where he’s expected to enter another not-guilty plea for self-defense and have a new trial scheduled. He’s being held on two million-dollars bail. Following his previous, since-nullified conviction, Gonzalez was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

Jethro Pettigrew, considered by federal authorities one of the Top 5 most influential Hells Angels in the world at the time of his death, was shot five times in the back in the middle of a brawl that had erupted between the Hells Angels and the Vagos outside Rosie’s Café and Trader Dick’s Lounge inside the John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel and Casino in Sparks, Nevada (directly east of Reno city limits) on the evening of September 23, 2011 in what prosecutors categorize as a planned hit. Pettigrew was 51 years old and reportedly incredibly well liked.

Both the Hells Angels and Vagos had descended on the Reno area that day for the annual Street Vibrations biker rally and festival. The bad blood between the Hells Angels and Vagos had been simmering for years and stemmed from the Southern California-based Hells Angels push to establish a heavier presence in Northern California, a region traditionally dominated by the Vagos. The Nugget in Reno had long been considered Vagos’ turf and the decision of dozens of Hells Angels to check into the hotel that weekend for the Street Vibrations celebration caused tensions to rise and the Nugget to increase its’ security staff. It didn’t matter.

According to then-Vagos Los Angeles chapter vice president Gary (Jabbers) Rudnick, originally a co-defendant in the case who is now in the Witness Protection Program, Gonzalez volunteered to be the triggerman in the Pettigrew hit in the immediate wake of the assassination order being issued by Vagos international president Pastor (Ta Ta) Palafox in an impassioned speech given at a massive club meeting hours earlier in a hotel suite in the Nugget’s West Tower. Gonzalez admits to shooting Pettigrew but claims he only did so because Pettigrew was severely beating and stomping a Vagos associate of his on the floor of the casino.

It was Pettigrew allegedly bumping into Rudnick and touching Rudnick’s green-colored Vagos vest without apologizing that is said to have kicked off the conflict-filled day, laying the groundwork for the chaotic bloodletting later that night. Rudnick testified to intentionally antagonizing Pettigrew into a fist fight that ignited a full-on melee of a bar room-style brawl in a crowded casino between the Vagos and Hells Angels, “opening the door” for Gonzalez to seek out Pettigrew and execute him. Vagos lieutenants Leo (Crusher) Ramirez and Diego (Boo Boo) Garcia were shot in the fracas as well, but survived.

At the original summer 2013 trial, Pettigrew was described as an “icon” of the region’s underworld and the “Godfather” of the San Jose and Santa Cruz biker gang community. The jury was only out for five hours prior to returning with a guilty verdict against Gonzalez. Casino surveillance cameras caught Gonzalez pumping the five bullets into Pettigrew as Pettigrew knelt fighting with a Vagos member on the ground near a row of slot machines, stashing the weapon into his waistband and quickly retreating.

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  1. Vargaz

    “Casino surveillance cameras caught Gonzalez pumping the five bullets into Pettigrew…”

    Time for the firing squad to make an appearance.