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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July 2005, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
A murderous night in Nevada
By Chris Summers
BBC News

A trial beginning in the US this week will focus on a bloody clash between two biker gangs in a Nevada casino which ended with three deaths and dozens of injuries. BBC News explores what lay behind the violence.

Killed at Laughlin
Bikes outside the casino
Robert Tumelty, 50, from California - Hell's Angel
Jeramie Bell, 27, from California - Hell's Angel
Salvador Barreras, 43, from California - Mongol
There is little love lost between the Hell's Angels and the Mongols biker gangs and it appeared to be just bad luck when both pitched up at the same Nevada casino one night in 2002.

What started as a trivial spat turned into an enormous and bloody brawl involving guns, knives and clubs.

Three men - two Angels and one Mongol - were killed and dozens of others were injured in the battle.

Sergeant Kevin Manning, a homicide detective with Las Vegas Police Department, said: "This didn't just fester that weekend. This stuff has been going on for a long time and it happened to boil over."

Many patched up their own wounds and holed up in hotels and safe houses as detectives tried to piece together exactly what had happened.

The venue for the confrontation was Harrah's casino in the town of Laughlin, 90 miles south of Las Vegas.

In March a jury in a civil trial decided Harrah's could not be held responsible for the death of Salvador Barreras, a 43-year-old member of the Mongols' California chapter.

His widow, Yvette Barreras, claimed security officials at Harrah's knew about the impending battle and did nothing to stop it.

'Unforeseeable'

But Harrah's lawyer, Robert Foster, said the security at the hotel did everything they could, and the incident was too much for anyone to have handled.

Mr Foster told the jury: "No Harrah's employee killed Mr Barreras. You may be thinking why didn't they [the plaintiffs] sue the Hell's Angels who killed Mr Barreras?"

Harrah's spokesman David Strow told the BBC News website: "These events were completely unforeseeable and out of our control and we believe that the jury's verdict confirms that."

The accused
Maurice Eunice, Hell's Angel
Calvin Schaefer, Hell's Angel
Rodney Cox, Hell's Angel
Dale Leedom, Hell's Angel
Raymond Foakes, Hell's Angel
James Hannigan, Hell's Angel
Sohn Regas, Hell's Angel
Roger Pinney, Mongol
Alexander Alcantar, Mongol
He added: "The police were not aware that this was going to happen, and neither were we."

When police arrived on the scene in the early hours of 27 April 2002, they tried to question many of the injured bikers but found none willing to talk.

Dale Leedom, a Hell's Angel from Alaska, was interviewed in hospital where he was recovering from gunshot wounds to the leg and hand.

But Detective Don Tremel told the grand jury ahead of the forthcoming trial: "He was very unco-operative. He wanted nothing more to do with us."

Hundreds of bikers who had been held on the premises were videotaped and forced to identify themselves before being released.

Bikers outside Harrah's casino in Laughlin
Harrah's casino had been a popular venue for bikers
This would eventually help police piece together the night's events.

Detectives turned to the footage from CCTV cameras at Harrah's and several neighbouring casinos.

They spent hundreds of hours trawling through 400 separate tapes to piece together what had happened.

Eventually they created special DVDs which documented the actions of each of the major players during the melee.

'Storyboards'

Nine men were eventually charged with murder. Each has his own DVD backed by a "storyboard".

David Chesnoff, lawyer for Calvin Schaefer
Mr Schaefer has said that anything that occurred was in self-defence either of himself or others and we are confident he will be acquitted
David Chesnoff
Attorney for Hell's Angel Calvin Schaefer
Examination of the CCTV footage showed punches being exchanged initially and then knives, clubs, axes and guns were brought out, many of which were left behind.

Police recovered 14 guns, 107 knives, two hammers, two wrenches and nine torches.

One detective said: "Weapons were found pretty much everywhere - in stairwells, on top of stairwell landings, in casino machines and everything else."

Attorney David Chesnoff represents one of the Hell's Angels, Calvin Schaefer, and he says they were "ambushed" by the Mongols.

He told the BBC News website: "We are looking forward to the trial and Mr Schaefer has said that anything that occurred was in self-defence either of himself or others and we are confident he will be acquitted."

Nine men are accused of murder and other charges.

Original plans for a joint trial have been scrapped.

Seven Hell's Angels will go on trial first. They are: Dale Leedom, 43, Rodney Cox, James Hannigan, Calvin Schaefer, 35, Maurice Eunice, 54, Raymond Foakes, 41, and Sohn Regas, 38.

Two Mongols will have a separate trial in February 2006. They are: Roger Pinney, 60, and Alexander Alcantar.




SEE ALSO
Scores held in Hells Angels raids
04 Dec 03 |  Americas
Hell's Angels jailed in Canada
24 Sep 03 |  Americas
US biker charged with murder
25 Feb 02 |  Americas
Hell's Angel jailed for 15 years
23 Nov 98 |  UK News
Lived fast, died young
10 Mar 00 |  Europe

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