A 25-year-old Hells Angels member from Ventura County was fatally shot in Arizona, and authorities are investigating whether the homicide was linked to an ongoing power struggle between two biker gangs.
Joshua William Harber, a lifelong county resident who worked as a mason and lived in Oak View, was shot once in the cheek about 12:15 a.m. Saturday outside the Coyote Wild Bar & Grill in Cave Creek, police said. He died later that day at John C. Lincoln Hospital in Phoenix.
Harber became a member of the biker gang about six months ago, said George Christie Jr., 54, a co-founder of the Hells Angels’ Ventura chapter and a longtime national club spokesman.
“Josh was not an imposing person,” Christie said Tuesday. “I don’t know why someone would want to shoot him.”
Organized-crime detectives with the Phoenix Police Department were investigating several motives, including the possibility that the slaying was in retaliation for another recent killing in the gaming town of Laughlin, Nev.
“We are looking at that ... it could be fallout,” Sgt. Lauri Williams said Tuesday.
On April 27, during the 20th annual Laughlin River Run, a fistfight broke out between members of the Hells Angels and the rival Mongols, a Los Angeles-based gang that has long sought a toehold in Arizona. In a shootout at Harrah’s Casino & Hotel in Laughlin, three bikers were killed and at least 12 were injured.
Christie declined to comment on the feud. However, he acknowledged that Phoenix detectives were planning to come to Ventura this week to interview members of the motorcycle club.
According to Christie, Harber rode his motorcycle to Arizona with five fellow club members from Ventura. There was no planned event and police believe the group showed up primarily to drink and party.
Police said Harber walked outside the Cave Creek bar and was approached by an unidentified man. The two had a brief conversation before the man shot Harber in the face and fled.
Police would not say whether any physical evidence was found at the scene.
Several witnesses at the bar, a known Hells Angels hangout, described the shooter as a white male, about 6 feet 1 and 240 pounds.
Sgt. Williams said officers had dealt with relatively few problems with Hells Angels members at the Cave Creek bar. However, she added that cases involving rivalries were difficult because the Mongols had not been wearing their gang colors locally.