BY: Sean Webby
San Jose police continued their manhunt for a Hells Angels member who they believe shot to death Steve Tausan, a fellow member of the notorious outlaw motorcycle club, during a funeral crowded with mourning bikers -- and then mysteriously disappeared underneath the watch of hundreds of police officers.Police have not released the suspect's name, but sources told this newspaper he is Steve Joseph Ruiz, a 38-year-old San Jose Hells Angels member. And they said investigators believe he could be dead.
Police said very little Monday about the chaos Saturday at the Oak Hill Memorial Park, when Tausan was shot and killed at a memorial for San Jose Hells Angel president Jeff "Jethro" Pettigrew, who himself was shot and killed last month in a Nevada casino.
Although police had surrounded the cemetery in anticipation of possible trouble, the shooter somehow vanished. There was also no trace of the handgun.
That's why, sources said, investigators Saturday night got a judge's permission to exhume Pettigrew's coffin to see if Ruiz's body or any other evidence was hurriedly buried in the soil next to his former club president. They reportedly found nothing connected to Tausan's killing.
The coffin itself was not opened.
Investigators suspect Hells Angels members or other bikers somehow managed to smuggle Ruiz, dead or alive, from the cemetery. They believe he may have been killed soon after he shot the 52-year-old Tausan, according to sources.
Although he was a member of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Hells Angels, Tausan was a close friend of Pettigrew and was a former member of the San Jose chapter.
The bizarre and brazen shooting came around 1 p.m. during the Saturday funeral for Pettigrew, a longtime city heavy equipment operator and the San Jose motorcyle club's local president. He was shot to death last month at a Sparks casino, allegedly by a local member of the Vagos, a rival club.
To pay their respects, the Oak Hill cemetery grounds were filled with thousands of mourning bikers -- from the Hells Angels and many other supportive biker clubs -- and guarded outside by a large contingent of police officers.
Some bikers said they were infuriated by the macabre search of Pettigrew's resting place.
"He was a friend first and foremost, and being told that San Jose Police dug up the grave was more than could be imagined,'' said "Big Ed" Aki, a leader with the Henchmen motorcycle club in San Jose. "First Jethro and now Steve (Tausan,) both friends who helped the Henchmen San Jose Chapter. There are no words to describe this loss.''
Police, who on Monday identified Tausan, a former Marine, ex-boxer and San Jose bail bondsman, as the victim in the case, have said nothing about what they suspect was a motive.
But sources said it appeared the two men had argued before the shooting.
Sources said investigators later found a weapon which may have been used in the shooting of Tausan, a popular member of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Hells Angels known as Mr. 187, after the penal code for murder.
Tausan was prosecuted 14 years ago on suspicion of killing Kevin Sullivan for drunkenly badgering a dancer at the Pink Poodle strip club in San Jose and then insulting the motorcycle club.
He was acquitted.
Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.