OFF THE WIRE
Another Hells Angel funeral slated for Oak Hill cemetery, but this one will be private
By Sean Webby
Posted: 10/24/2011 05:19:27 PM PDT Updated: 10/25/2011 05:21:08 AM PDT
Click photo to enlarge Jeff "Jethro" Pettigrew, left, and Steve Tausan (Mercury News archives)«12345» Share condolences Read or sign a guest book in memory of Steve Tausan
Police are gearing up for potential violence at a biker funeral in San Jose's Oak Hill Memorial Park on Saturday, two weeks after Hells Angel Steve Tausan was gunned down at the very same cemetery while attending a fellow biker's burial.
However, local Hells Angels members insist there will be no trouble when they pay their final respects to the legendary enforcer from the club's Santa Cruz chapter who police say was killed during a fight with a Hells Angels member from San Jose in front of hundreds of stunned mourners.
Members of the notorious motorcycle club say there is no brewing inter-club blood-feud.
"(The police) are expecting a war or a cartel hit," said Christopher Hecht, president of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Hells Angels. "They need to stop watching 'Sons of Anarchy.' There is no power struggle. There is not going to be a land war going back and forth. That would kill what we believe in.
"We are going to bury our brother and go on with our lives."
Saturday's service will be invitation only, including family and close friends such as football legend Jim Brown.
However, the chaos and violence of the first funeral is still fresh in the minds of the public -- and police.
More than 3,000 bikers from all over the world descended on the South San Jose cemetery for Jeff "Jethro" Pettigrew's funeral Oct. 15. He was the president of the San Jose Hells Angels who was gunned down in a Sparks, Nev., casino during
a melee with the rival Vagos gang.
As dozens of police officers guarded the outside of the cemetery, the line of leather-clad bikers there for the viewing snaked around the Chapel of Oaks for hours. Then in an eruption of violence after the service, Tausan was shot and killed, and the suspect slipped away.
This time, more police are expected to be patrolling the sprawling cemetery.
"Our purpose for Tausan's funeral is ... to ensure that it is a safe event and we avoid the violence that occurred two weeks ago," said acting Police Capt. Jeff Marozick, who commands the department's special operations.
First hints of anger
It's been a bloody, unprecedented and traumatic time within the outlaw South Bay biker world, beginning with Pettigrew's slaying in a Nevada casino, then Tausan's killing, and the apparently unrelated death of a third Hells Angels member in a crash in San Leandro. Meanwhile, two San Jose Hells Angels have been arrested in recent days on seemingly unrelated charges. And on Saturday, San Jose police swarmed a Stockton neighborhood in an unsuccessful effort to find Steven Ruiz, the suspect in Tausan's killing.
Summer Pettigrew, Jethro's daughter, was very close to Tausan, and she also knew Ruiz.
"I don't know why he did it," she said. "I don't feel anything, completely numb. I can't mourn my dad, and now I can't mourn Steve. It feels like a movie -- a really bad movie."
Jethro Pettigrew was a longtime city of San Jose heavy equipment operator who also happened to be the president of the local Hells Angels.
Tausan was a Hells Angels legend, an ex-boxer who had killed a man with his fists at the Pink Poodle strip club -- and walked when a jury acquitted him after he claimed self-defense. The tattooed bail bondsman once proudly showed a reporter some photographs on his cellphone: many of his young son, and one of the bloody face of the man he had killed.
After Pettigrew was killed, Tausan was so broken up that he cried in front of strangers.
Tausan hinted in an interview earlier this month that he was deeply upset at the fact that his old friend somehow ended up in a casino filled with rival Vagos bikers.
Grave to crime scene
Some sources have said that anger sparked a fatal fight between Tausan and Ruiz at Pettigrew's funeral. During the fistfight, Ruiz drew a handgun and shot Tausan.
After the shooting, the funeral went from beer-soaked celebration with a Willie Nelson soundtrack to a shocked core group of Hells Angels hand-shoveling dirt on the grave -- a club tradition.
Using a search warrant, police that night dug up the grave -- trying to see if the Hells Angels had hidden evidence from Tausan's killing in the dirt -- or even Ruiz's body, after word spread that the outlaw bikers might have dished out their own punishment on the suspect in the killing.
They found nothing but Pettigrew's custom-painted white casket with red flames. Phil Cross, a veteran Hells Angels member who served as president of the San Jose chapter and is now a member in Santa Cruz, called the police action a sign of disrespect.
"There wasn't enough time to put a body in that grave," Cross said.
Though they were both at the funeral, Cross and Hecht both said they knew little about the cemetery shooting. However, they rejected predictions of a Hells Angels civil war erupting over it.
"We all love our brothers in San Jose," said Hecht, as Cross nodded in agreement. Added Hecht: "Within the Hells Angels, two wrongs don't make a right."
The Rev. Dick Bernal of the Jubilee Christian Center, who knew both men, will preside over Tausan's service.
Soon after Tausan was killed, the pastor Tweeted: "Too many broken hearts and grieving families ... this has to stop ... God help us!"