Vagos biker testifies about Hells Angels highway shooting

Russell Smith, from left, Stephen Alo and Richard Devries (Henderson Police Department)

Ted Lempart thought someone was throwing rocks at his motorcycle.

He was riding with a group of fellow Vagos Motorcycle Club members on U.S. Highway 95 late last month when he saw a man and woman fly off a bike in front of him, landing in the rocks by the side of the highway. Lempart testified to a grand jury that it wasn’t until he pulled over to help the other bikers that someone noticed the blood on his thigh, and he realized he had been shot, according to court transcripts released this week.

Lempart was one of several witnesses who described the chaos surrounding the May 29 shooting, when prosecutors said Hells Angels members targeted the Vagos bikers riding on the highway in the southeast valley.

Although most of the Vagos members who testified gave few details about the shooting, Lempart didn’t hesitate to tell jurors how he felt about the rival bikers he said ambushed his group.

“It’s cowardly,” Lempart testified. “Whatever happened to the day we go in the backyard and duke it out? We had no problem with them. None at all.”

Three men — Richard Devries, 66, Russell Smith, 26, and Stephen Alo, 46 — have been indicted on 36 felony charges of conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder, battery with a deadly weapon and discharging a gun at or into an occupied vehicle. Prosecutors have said Devries is the president of the Las Vegas chapter of the Hells Angels, while Smith and Alo have been described as “prospects” for the group.

Six Vagos members were injured in the shooting along a stretch of U.S. 95 west of Wagon Wheel Drive. A seventh person, who prosecutors said was a Hells Angel member, was also injured in the shooting.

Prosecutors have said the gunfire may have been an act of retaliation for a shooting at a San Bernardino bar in April in which a Hells Angels member was killed. But Lempart challenged the claim, according to transcripts from the grand jury hearing.

“From what the media said it’s retaliation. Of what?” Lempart said. “Only thing I understand is we didn’t do any shooting down in San Bernardino. They did it all. They shot their own guy because they thought he was a narc.”

The members of the rival groups first encountered each other at the “Flags over Dam” ride near Hoover Dam that ended at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.

At the cemetery, about nine Hells Angels bikers were riding around the parking lot, “revving their engines and setting off car alarms and yelling at people” before leaving, Lempart testified.

Shortly after 11:45 a.m., the Vagos members were riding side by side, in two lines, down U.S. Highway 95. A witness who was a passenger in a car behind the bikers testified that she saw the Vagos members start weaving in and out of traffic as Hells Angels bikers tried surrounding them from behind.

The witness, who was only identified by her initials “A.M.” in court transcripts, said she started hearing gunshots and pulled out her phone to start videotaping.

According to the transcripts, the video showed bikers whom the witness said she recognized as Hells Angels members from distinctive patches on their jackets.

The witness testified that minutes earlier, she had seen the group of Hells Angels members stopped in an emergency lane on a highway on-ramp.

One of the bikers who testified, Chad Merrill, said he was shot in the leg as he was riding on the highway, although he claimed he didn’t see who shot him. Merrill drove his bike to the off-ramp at Horizon Drive and Pacific Avenue, where an off-duty officer found him hurt and bleeding.

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Shiloh Johnston testified that he was on his way to work when he saw the motorcyclists stopped at the on-ramp. Johnston said once he realized the biker had been shot, he tied a tourniquet around Merrill’s leg.

Johnston testified that while he was treating Merrill, who had lost a significant amount of blood, some of the Vagos members began removing jackets that identified them as part of the motorcycle club.

A Metro detective also testified that he recognized multiple Hells Angels members in the witness video, including Devries, Smith and Alo.

Detective Benjamin MacDonell testified that he recognized multiple Hells Angels members in the witness video, including Devries, Smith and Alo.

MacDonell told the jury had has spent six years investigating Las Vegas’ motorcycle clubs, which law enforcement refers to as outlaw motorcycle gangs.

MacDonell said that while the Vagos have a “large presence” of more than 50 members in Clark County, the Hells Angels only have one, relatively small chapter. He said the Hells Angels in Las Vegas have three officials members, referred to as “full patch members,” and four bikers who are hoping to join the group, who are called prospects.

“I know who all of them are, and there was only one full patch in the charter that was not there that day,” MacDonell testified.

After the shooting, surveillance footage from a Henderson Harley Davidson dealership captured Hells Angels members parking bikes at the business. MacDonell said one of the bikes found at the dealership was Devries’ motorcycle.

On Monday, District Judge Tierra Jones lowered Devries, Smith and Alo’s bail from $380,000 each to $75,000. Court records show that Devries and Alo have since posted a surety bond and have been released from custody, while Smith remained in the Clark County Detention Center on Wednesday.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.