Members and associates of the Mongols Motorcycle Club converged on the patio of a popular Las Vegas, New Mexico, hotel and saloon the evening of Oct. 23, unaware that they were under surveillance by local authorities intending to arrest two men on felony warrants.
As it turns out, their choice of seating led to the arrest of a third Mongol purported to be the organizer of a new Las Vegas club chapter.
Sitting behind the group at the Byron T’s Saloon in the historic Plaza Hotel with his wife was the off-duty Chief of Police of Highlands University Clarence Romero. He ended up becoming a key witness in the subsequent federal case against Shawn Michael Norton, 49, on a charge of felon in possession of a firearm.
Romero watched as other law enforcement officers closed in on the motorcycle club group, and saw Norton stand up with his hands in air and step in front of his girlfriend. She was still seated and quickly removed an object from the small of Norton’s back, dropping it into her purse, according to a federal search warrant affidavit.
After Romero alerted the arresting officers about what he had seen, investigators retrieved a Ruger 9 mm pistol from the black purse of Aundrea Perez, who was arrested with Norton on state charges of unlawful carrying of a firearm in a liquor establishment.
No weapon was found on Norton, but he was later arrested on a federal charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
At a federal detention hearing Tuesday in Albuquerque, Norton’s attorney Melissa Morris said her client hadn’t been in New Mexico long, but wasn’t dangerous and had a steady job.
However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Laura Fashing noted his prior convictions for escaping from jail and ordered him held in federal custody pending trial.