Street Vibrations: Motorcycle Gang Activity High As We Prepare For Event

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RENO - Excitement for the upcoming Street Vibrations Motorcycle Festival, has been tainted for some, due to a violent gang war going on in some neighboring states.

Bay area police officers say the September 2nd murder of the San Francisco Hell's Angels chapter president is what started the war, and now they're worried about retaliation.

There has already been one backlash. Just a couple of weeks after the Hell's Angel's Frisco President, Mark Guardado, who goes by the name "Papa," was shot and killed, pipe bombs were set off at the home of a San Jose man named Robert Rios. Rios is the president of a chapter of a rival motorcycle gang, called The Mongols.

With Street Vibrations starting Wednesday, some say they're concerned about that violence spilling over into our area.

Chuck Norris is a local rider, who says the problem is, where there are bikers, sometimes, there can also be trouble. In 2002, four people were killed, and nine others were shot or stabbed at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Police say it was rival motorcycle gangs, the Hell's Angels and the Mongols.

"Same group, in a casino. They had a few words, somebody pulled out a gun and started blasting," said Norris.

Norris says recent headlines about wars and retaliation should serve as a warning to us. He says there's bad blood between the two gangs, and they may be headed our way.

"I think everyone should be worried a little bit. If you see a Mongol or a Hell's Angel, I would walk away if I were you. I would,' he said.

But not everyone agrees with Norris' concerns. Former Reno resident, and member of "HOG," or the "Harley Owners Group," Richard Hamilton, says if you're not in a gang, you're not at risk.

"I think those kind of people will stay mainly to themselves or with other rival gangs. But for general HOG members or recreational riders, I don't think we have much to worry about," said Hamilton.

Street Vibrations organizer, Randy Burke, says the event is safe and secure, no matter what may be happening elsewhere. He says 99 percent of motorcycle riders are good people...and bike gangs aren't his crowd. He says he doesn't know of any expected retaliation...and as always, security will be tight.

"We are told we have the majority of Reno Police Department. We do every year. We pay for that and expect them to be here. We've never had a challenge," said Burke.

Our local police officers did not return our phone calls when asked whether they are concerned about any gang activity heading to our area during Street Vibrations. Last year, there weren't any major fights or problems.

The annual event is expected to bring in more than 30,000 bikers, and pump at least $70-million dollars into our local economy. It's the 6th largest motorcycle event in the whole country.

Road closures start Tuesday at 8 a.m. Virginia Street in downtown Reno will be closed from 2nd Street to 6th Street, as will cross streets between Center and Sierra Streets. Center and Sierra Streets will remain open.