A man’s search for brotherhood eventually turned into a night of violence in a deadly brawl between biker gangs in an El Paso bar.
Javier Gonzalez took the stand at his murder trial Tuesday afternoon, explaining why he joined the Kinfolk Motorcycle Club and why he opened fire on Bandidos during a fight.
Gonzalez admitted to fatally shooting El Paso Bandidos chapter president Juan “Compa” Martinez Jr. and wounding three other men in a shooting in Mulligan’s Chopped Hog bar on the East Side on the night of July 30, 2017.
But Gonzalez claims he did so in self defense.
“That night, I feared for my life,” said Gonzalez, who is known as “Jake” and was vice-president of the El Paso chapter of the Kinfolk.
Gonzalez is on trial in 34th District Court on a murder charge and three counts of engaging in organized criminal activity-aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Closing arguments will be Wednesday.
The trial is providing an insight into the what law enforcement terms outlaw motorcycle gangs in El Paso.
Gonzalez, 35, testified that he is currently jailed in protective custody because the Bandidos allegedly placed a “green light,” or a sanctioned hit, on him.
“They make these toy runs and events. It’s PR. It’s just a cover for what they really are,” Gonzalez said, describing the Bandidos as a violent group holding a “monopoly” over smaller biker clubs.
Gonzalez testified that he has no criminal record and attended Arizona State University but didn’t get his degree. He worked in off-shore oil exploration.
When questioned by state prosecutor Rebecca Tarango, Gonzalez said he was dishonorably discharged after a year in the U.S. Army about 15 years ago.
“I was’t able to adapt. I ended up going AWOL,” Gonzalez said, explaining he was kicked out after returning to an Army base after being gone for about a month.
Tarango said that the dishonorable discharge should have legally blocked Gonzalez from purchasing a firearm.
According to testimony, Gonzalez allegedly lied about the dishonorable discharge on a federal form at a Tucson pawn shop when he bought the 9 mm handgun about two months before the shooting. Gonzalez said he didn’t think it was a big deal.
Gonzalez said he began riding a motorcycle about a decade ago, first riding alone as “an independent” and then joining the Chamucos, a small local motorcycle riding club.
More biker murder trial coverage: Murder trial begins for Kinfolk MC biker accused of killing Bandidos leader in El Paso
Gonzalez said he later joined the Black Widows, which gang investigators described as a support club for the Bandidos.
“They were like peons for the Bandidos. ‘Get me a beer, watch my bike,'” Gonzalez said. “I saw the monopoly of telling people what to do and beating people up.”
Gonzalez said that the Bandidos collect a tax from motorcycle coalition events and that he grew tired of club politics.
In 2012, Gonzalez left the Black Widows. “I turned in my vest,” he said, explaining that he was also busy with his off-shore work.
Upon returning to El Paso, Gonzalez said he missed the camaraderie of being in a biker club.
“I missed the brotherhood. I missed having friends,” Gonzalez said. He had lost a loved one and “riding was a therapy to deal with the loss. I was very depressed.”
He ended up joining the Kinfolk MC, a national club that investigators said was formed in Texas by ex-Bandidos in 2016.
Kinfolk are “independent people who didn’t want to be under the thumb of anybody,” Gonzalez said.
Law enforcement considers the Kinfolk and Bandidos violent outlaw motorcycle gangs involved in criminal activity.
Gonzalez disputed that the Kinfolk is a gang, adding that its members have jobs. “I am not a gang member. I am not involved in criminal activity,” Gonzalez said.
The night of the shooting, Kinfolk members Derek Mercado and Manuel “Manny” Gallegos went to Mulligan’s Chopped Hog and were confronted by the Bandidos already at the bar.
A police biker gang investigator testified that the bar was a known Bandidos hangout.
“When they say it’s a Bandido bar, that’s not entirely true. We had gone there before,” Gonzalez said.
“I received a call. It was Derek Mercado. ‘Hey, come over here to Mulligan’s, they are about to attack us,'” Gonzalez said Mercado told him.
Gonzalez rode off to Mulligan’s followed by other Kinfolk as a brawl broke out between Bandidos and the two Kinfolk in the bar.
“A couple of months back, they (Bandidos) shot a member in Abilene. That’s why some of us carry (weapons) to defend ourselves,” Gonzalez said.
Video shows Gonzalez enter the bar wearing a helmet with a clear visor and holding a gun.
“I had my helmet on because I didn’t have time to take it off,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez claimed his intent was to diffuse the situation and that he only expected that there would only be three or four Bandidos not about 10.
Video shows about eight Bandidos fighting with Gallegos and Mercado, who fall down. Kinfolk members enter and are helping picking them up. Gonzalez opens fire and Bandidos drop to the floor.
It’s “one thing is to watch a video. One thing to be there. It’s hard,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez said that it all happened very quickly. He was scared and feared his friends were getting killed. The Bandidos were yelling that they were going to kill them and that Texas was their state, he added.
“They were about to circle us. They were lunging forward toward us,” Gonzalez said describing the moment he began shooting near a small hallway.
After the shooting, Gonzalez ran out of the bar, stumbled and his helmet fell off, the video showed. Gonzalez took off running, leaving his motorcycle behind.
Gonzalez claimed Bandidos chased him, one of them had a knife and broke his thumb as they wrestled near a Pizza Hut before Gonzalez kicked him and was able to run off, he testified.
Gonzalez testified that he took off his Kinfolk vest and dropped it as he ran. “I was a walking target with my vest on,” he said.
Gonzalez said that he saw a Bandido named “Smiley” pulling up in a sport utility vehicle and Gonzalez ran and knocked on the front door of home to buy time, asking a woman to call police. The woman closed the door.
Gonzalez then ran and began jumping backyard fences, dropping his gun, he said..
When questioned by prosecutors, Gonzalez admitted that he had his cellphone with him but he never called 911 claiming he was in shock. He eventually hid outside a church and phoned a friend to pick him up.
He stopped by the home of Gallegos, who was beat up but had not been stabbed, according to testimony.
Gonzalez said he went to his parent’s home in San Elizario, got his truck and drove to Arizona to “clear his head” before returning to El Paso. He was later arrested by police.
When asked by his lawyer, Dolph Quijano Jr., how he felt taking a man’s life, Gonzalez replied that he felt “bad. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever gone through in my life.”
Gonzalez claimed he is not currently a gang member because he is locked up. But gang investigators testified that the Kinfolk are backing Gonzalez.
A flyer showed the Kinfolk had a motorcycle run to raise money for Gonzalez’s legal defense, an investigator previously testified.
In jail phone call recordings with Kinfolk members, Gonzalez has used the term “KFFK,” Tarango pointed out.
The term, meaning “Kinfolk Forever, Forever Kinfolk,” is “a way of greeting each other,” Gonzalez said.
Detective Ramon Lucero of the El Paso police Organized Crime Division testified Tuesday that Kinfolk members from the Dallas area came to El Paso to attend Gonzalez’s court hearings.
“We observed a lot of support from fellow Kinfolk members,” Lucero said. Kinfolk have been in the audience at the murder trial.
Quijano pointed out there had been no problems at the courthouse and argued that Lucero was trying to create a “scary or ominous” impression for jurors.
“Is it a crime to walk into an open courtroom in our country to see what’s going on?” Quijiano asked.
“No,” Lucero responded.
The trial has taken place under added security. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 546-6102; email@example.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.
Source: El Paso Times