Man at Center of Street Vibrations Murder Trial Takes Stand - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Man at Center of Street Vibrations Murder Trial Takes Stand

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Ernesto Gonzalez Ernesto Gonzalez
Jeffrey 'Jethro' Pettigrew Jeffrey 'Jethro' Pettigrew

The man accused of murdering a San Jose Hells Angel chapter president during Street Vibrations took the witness stand on Monday.

Ernesto Gonzalez faces several charges, including first degree murder and discharging a firearm in a structure during a fight at Trader Dick's inside John Ascuaga's Nugget on September 23, 2011.

Gonzalez says he shot Jeffrey 'Jethro' Pettigrew because he feared Pettigrew was kicking another Vago to death during the melee.

"I thought, you know what? Just keep walking by," Gonzalez said. "It's all done. And then all the sudden, I see him start kicking him. And I said 'Expletive that'. And I saw him with the gun and that's when I shot at both of them."

Prosecutors maintain Pettigrew's death was planned because of the club's rivalry, but the defense says the fight happened spontaneously.

"When the fight ensued, I backed up," Gonzalez said. "I didn't want any part of it. I had backed up, I was checking things out. It got worse."

Gonzalez says he was unarmed when the fight started and says he was about to leave.

He says he found a handgun in the dance area of Trader Dick's.

That's about when Pettigrew and Cesar Villagrana are seen on camera, drawing their guns.

"When you pulled your gun and pointed it at his back, were you trying to kill him?" Chief Deputy District Attorney Karl Hall asked.

"I was trying to kill both of them because they were over my brother and they were kicking him and they had a piece on him," Gonzalez said.

Villagrana was not shot, but Pettigrew was shot at least five times and was pronounced dead at Renown Regional Medical Center.

"I saw one with a gun and it was like a split second," Gonzalez said. "There's no way that you can, at that precise moment, figure out other than a reaction, when you see something like that. So, I just let go. I just shot."

Former Vago, Gary Rudnick, testified that there was a so-called green light on Pettigrew, that Gonzalez carried out.

The defendant denies those allegations.

"Did you participate in some sort of a secret pow-wow or secret meeting where Dragon and Tata green-lit a hit on Jethro Pettigrew?" the defense asked. "No," Gonzalez said.

"Did you volunteer to assassinate Mr. Pettigrew?" the defense asked. "No, I did not."

Gonzalez says the two motorcycle clubs wanted to avoid problems.

The 55-year-old father of four grown children says he would never carry out a murder plot and put him and his family in jeopardy.

"There's no way," Gonzalez said. "I stand to lose everything and gain nothing."

The defendant maintains his innocence, saying he was faced with a life or death decision.

"Did you want me to walk away and allow that man to be shot?" Gonzalez asked. "And then what happens to me afterwards? I have to live with it. I'm not going to do that."

Several motorcycle club members have testified during this trial saying there is no rivalry between the Hells Angels and the Vagos.

But last Friday, Les Skelton testified there is and that club members are not supposed to cooperate with law enforcement. "They don't want to get up here and tell the truth because of the club bylaws. They don't want to be snitches. And I've been told by sources, paid and unpaid, there is retaliation."

Skelton says there is a rivalry because of an ongoing struggle for territory and respect. He says Pettigrew's death benefits the San Jose Vagos.

"By removing the president of the Hells Angels chapter, it's going to take away the power and ultimate control from the Hells Angels that will allow the Vagos to expand in the area.

Written by Paul Nelson
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