Investigation reports about a stabbing death about three weeks ago at a tattoo shop on North Chester Avenue indicate that it stemmed from a fight between two rival motorcycle gangs, the Vagos and the Hell's Angels.
If that proves to be the case, it would be the first Hell's Angels violence in Kern County in decades. One of the early leaders of the Hells Angels, Ralph "Sonny" Barger of Oakland, wrote in his autobiographical book that about 40 or 50 of his group came to Bakersfield in the late 60s and 70s and got into fights at bars.
In recent years, the only people connected to the Hells Angels in Kern County were a Bakersfield couple convicted of assault and false imprisonment in a 2001 beating and robbery incident between rival gangs near Hanford.
The Bakersfield couple, David and Terri Wilson, were associates, not members, of the Hell's Angels, Kings County prosecutor Michael Rinehart said in 2004. The couple were among 16 members or associates of the notorious Hell's Angels that Rinehart prosecuted over the beating of two Exiles motorcycle club members and holding a woman against her will.
The North Chester Avenue incident happened in the afternoon of May 30 in front of the Pirate Tattoo Shop.
A search warrant in Kern County Superior Court says a witness reported a fight between two motorcycle groups, with seven wearing green and brown vests -- colors associated with Vagos -- and eight wearing black vests, which could be associated with the Hells Angels.
When deputies arrived after the 4:02 p.m. report, they found nobody matching that description, the warrant says.
But at 5:20 p.m., medical personnel at Kern Medical Center reported two stabbing victims who were identified as members of the Vagos motorcycle gang, the warrant says.
Roger Anthony Violano, 18, died from his wounds. The other victim, identified as N. Rinehart, had serious injuries, but he survived, deputies reported. Violano had a handgun and a knife, medical personnel at KMC reported.
Neither victim has a criminal record in Kern County, according to Kern County Superior Court records.
Deputies went back to the tattoo business and found splattered blood in front of the tattoo shop. Five motorcycles were parked in front of the business.
As deputies ran a registration check on them, three were registered to men that sheriff's gang deputy Jeff Colbert recognized as Hell's Angels members or associates, including Michael Pena, 44, the warrant says.
As deputies were outside the shop, a car drove by with Pena inside, the warrant says. People told deputies that Pena was involved in the fight with Violano and Rinehart, the warrant says, but Pena has not been charged with any crime.
It couldn't be immediately determined whether Pena has a criminal record in Kern County.
Sheriff's homicide Sgt. Craig Rennie declined Friday to comment on whether the Hell's Angels have a presence in Kern County, or whether the May 30 stabbings were the result of motorcycle gang feuding. "We get very little cooperation" from people in such situations, he said.