A routine traffic stop ended with five suspected gang members under arrest March 17, after detectives in the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Gang Enforcement Unit reported finding concealed, semi-automatic handguns in the saddlebags of several motorcycles.
According to department spokespeople, detectives stopped two people who passed through a red light near the intersection of Highway 154 and Highway 101, and three fellow bikers pulled over to wait and observe. All were wearing insignia associated with the Vagos Motorcycle Club.
The club’s San Luis Obispo chapter president, 46-year-old Kirk Koester, was in the detained group, along with his wife, Shannon Koester, 41, and three associates who hailed from Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo.
Four of their five weapons were properly registered, but none was being carried in accordance with the law, detectives said, noting that one firearm was loaded and two were stowed with ammunition nearby. Another gun was reported as unloaded with no nearby ammunition, but was stashed in a saddlebag that didn’t lock—which a sheriff’s spokesperson said was enough to deem the weapon immediately accessible and, therefore, illegally concealed.
All five suspects were taken into custody under suspicion of carrying illegally concealed weapons and participating in a criminal street gang, and they had all bailed out of jail by March 18. They’re due to be arraigned in Santa Barbara Superior Court on April 16, according to the Santa Barbara County district attorney’s office. Their weapons will be held until the case is adjudicated.
Law enforcement officials estimate that there are more than 600 Vagos Motorcycle Club members in the country and that the local chapter has at least a dozen members or associates.