Biker brawl turns to shooting at Nevada casino, 1 dead

SPARKS, Nev Sat Sep 24, 2011 7:54pm EDT

SPARKS, Nev (Reuters) - A shooting that erupted during a brawl between rival motorcycle clubs at a high-rise Nevada casino overnight killed a biking enthusiast and wounded two others, police said on Saturday.

Police said the brawl erupted between armed members of the Hells Angels and Vagos motorcycle clubs shortly before midnight on Friday at John Ascuaga's Nugget hotel and casino in the northern Nevada city of Sparks.

"The Sparks Police Department was notified of a fight involving a large group who were armed with firearms inside John Ascuaga's Nugget near the Trader Dick's Bar," a police statement said.

"As units were responding to the fight, the information received indicated that shots had been fired," it said.

One member of the Hells Angels was killed in the gunfight while two members of the Vagos club were wounded and treated for bullet wounds, Sparks Deputy Police Chief Brian Allen later told a news conference.

Police also reported a drive-by shooting on Saturday near the venue for a fall motorcycle rally, Street Vibrations. They gave no information on whether anyone was hurt in that shooting.

Bikers, many with beards and clad in leather jackets, had converged on Sparks and nearby Reno for the popular fall motorcycle event. Many were staying at the Nugget. Hotel officials declined to comment on the incident.

Rod Manning from Oregon, sitting with his wife at a Starbucks in the hotel lobby in a sleeveless Harley-Davidson shirt, bemoaned the violence.

"One percent of people make it bad for the other 99 percent," he said.

'BOUND TO HAPPEN'

Another biker, who was staying in the hotel and who had been on an upper floor when the shooting erupted, said tensions were mounting between biking rivals for several days.

"It was bound to happen," biker Don Gilbert told Reuters of the shooting. "It's ridiculous ... All the regular bikers shake their heads. It's nonsense."

The restaurant and part of the casino floor were roped off on Saturday as police inspected the area and workers in yellow gloves scrubbed the floor. Nearby, gamblers including motorcycle enthusiasts played slot machines and mingled.

"It's a tough situation, I hope people out there won't judge the motorcycle community by the incident last night," Sparks Mayor Geno Martini told a news conference.

"Whenever you have people enter our city with bad intentions, bad things are going to happen," he said.

The Street Vibrations event, dubbed a "celebration of music, metal and motorcycles," was canceled for the remainder of the weekend, the city said in a statement. The city also declared a state of emergency.

The shooting appeared to cap a spate of fatal incidents this month in normally quiet northern Nevada, where a gunman with a history of mental illness opened fire at a pancake house in Carson City, the state capital, on September 6.

Three National Guard soldiers and a civilian were killed in that attack and seven others were wounded before the gunman killed himself.

Then last week, a World War Two-era fighter plane crashed into box seats near the grandstands at an air race in Reno, killing 11 people in the worst accident in the history of the annual event.

(Additional reporting and writing by Cynthia Johnston in Las Vegas; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)

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