Hells Angels funeral shooting suspect identified

Yahoo! Local

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Authorities have identified a suspect in the slaying of a high-ranking member of the Hells Angels who was shot and killed at a funeral for another member in Northern California.

San Jose police say Steven Ruiz, also a member of the motorcycle gang, shot and killed 52-year-old Steve Tausan on Saturday during a fight at the funeral for Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew. About 3,000 people attended the ceremony at Oak Hill Memorial Park.

On Tuesday, police said Ruiz was fighting with a member of the gang when he was knocked to the ground. Tausan apparently became involved and Ruiz drew a handgun and shot Tausan.

Ruiz is now missing. Investigators say they dug up Pettigrew's grave to see if Ruiz may have been killed and buried there, but didn't find anything.

Tausan was a high-ranking member of the Hells Angels and an enforcer of club rules who sported a tattoo on his wrist that read "Mr. 187," a reference to the California penal code for homicide.

Steve Martin Tausan, 52, also was a bail bondsman who had served in the Marines and been a professional boxer before he became the second prominent Hells Angels member from Northern California to be gunned down in less than a month.

Authorities say Pettigrew, the president of the Hells Angels San Jose chapter was slain during a brawl with a rival biker gang in a Nevada casino on Sept. 23.

Tausan was a former member of the San Jose chapter. His sister Karen Tausan said he was the current sergeant at arms of the Santa Cruz chapter who enforces club rules.

In 1999, Steve Tausan was acquitted of murdering another biker at a strip club where he worked as a bouncer. Pettigrew and several other Hells Angels sued police for conducting illegal raids of their homes in search of surveillance video from the attack.

Two dogs were shot and extensive property damage done during the raids.

After Tausan's acquittal, San Jose and Santa Clara County settled the Hells Angels' civil rights lawsuit for $1.8 million. Tausan, meanwhile, settled with the strip club after he filed a lawsuit seeking reimbursement of his legal costs.

Tausan was slain Saturday amid a heavy police presence at the funeral.

Well-armed members of the San Jose Police Department were monitoring the funeral at Oak Hill Memorial Park because of rising tensions among motorcycle gangs. The Hells Angels and Vagos have been attacking one another over the past several months, including a violent turf battle over Santa Cruz.

Police spokesman Jose Garcia told the San Jose Mercury News that officers could not have been expected to stop the killing.

"Let's suppose we were embedded in there. We can't be next to every individual," he told the newspaper. "There were 4,000 people there."

Garcia also said that by the time police arrived, someone had altered the scene in an attempt to foil the investigation.

The newspaper also published a photo of Tausan with the "Mr. 187" tattoo.

A man answering the phone Monday at Tausan's Bail Bonds declined to comment and did not provide his name.

"It appeared to be a successful business," said attorney Karen Snell, who has represented Tausan, Pettigrew and several other members of the San Jose chapter.

The California attorney general's office said the Hells Angels were formed in 1948 in San Bernardino County.

"Law enforcement has reported an increase in membership in the state among young white males as the older members are retiring," according to the state attorney general's 2010 annual report to the Legislature of organized crime in California.

The report said it expects continued violence between Hells Angels and Vagos, as well as a third rival called the Mongols.

Photo caption: San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore show a picture of Steven Ruiz, the missing suspect of a recent murder during the funeral of a Hell's Angels member at the San Jose Police Department headquarters, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)