By Sean Webby
The only gunfire at the funeral of Hells Angel Steve Tausan Saturday came as a salute from the U.S. Marine honor guard.The former Marine, professional boxer and legendary biker was memorialized Saturday morning at Jubilee Christian Church before being buried at Oak Hill Memorial cemetery in San Jose -- exactly two weeks after he was shot and killed at the funeral of another member of the motorcycle club.
Although about 1,000 bikers rumbled in from all quarters, there was no trouble, dissension or arrests. There were only bear hugs, tears and memories of the Santa Cruz "enforcer" who called himself Mr. 187, after the penal code for murder.
On top of Sunrise Hill they buried his red-and-white casket in the Hells Angels tradition -- by shovel. Sonny Barger, a founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angel and an iconic figure in the club, tossed one of the last shovels of earth on the grave, as a police helicopter circled overhead.
"They said they would have a quiet, respectful funeral and then they were going to leave town,'' said a relieved acting Capt. Jeff Marozick, the commander of the San Jose Police Department's special operations who had negotiated details of the funeral with the notorious biker club. "Everything they said is what they did.''
Amid the heavy police presence, Saturday's somber service was relatively smaller and peaceful, sharply in contrast to the huge and chaotic funeral of Jeff "Jethro" Pettigrew. That service drew more than 3,000 bikers.
Before Pettigrew could be buried, Tausan, a Santa Cruz resident, was fatally wounded during a bloody biker battle with another Hells Angel.
Aside from the odd arrest of an individual member, the notorious outlaw motorcycle club has been out of the headlines in the South Bay for years. But in recent weeks, the shooting deaths of Pettigrew and Tausan, the continued search for suspect Steven Ruiz and the bizarre traffic homicide of an East Bay member have put a hot spotlight on the Hells Angel, which law enforcement views as a criminal gang. The Hells Angels have long denied this, and many members have reacted to the recent events with dismay.
But the violent way Tausan died was not mentioned at his sentimental service. It was his colorful life they talked about, as an eclectic soundtrack from Tausan's favorite performers -- James Brown, Stevie Ray Vaughn and gospel singers -- reverberated through the big hall.
"He was an imposing man,'' said Pastor Dick Bernal during the service at Jubilee. "But underneath the muscles and the tattoos beat the heart of a man, the heart of a brother.''
Bikers from Tausan's home club, along with Henchmen, Devils Dolls and many others from as far away as New England and abroad, made up a long line of mourners. They paid their last respects as he lay in the casket, draped with an American flag and custom painted with the Angels' death's head with wings and the Marine Corps insignia. Tausan was clad in his leather Hells Angels vest, with a pack of Marlboros and an extended combat knife in his folded hands.
Next to the casket, there was a blown-up photo of him as a young Marine, his military haircut in stark contrast to the long, silvery mane he sported when he died. Also arrayed around the casket were pictures of Tausan on his Victory motorcycle and with his friends and family.
Tausan was better known than most Angels because of the charges he faced in the 1997 beating death of a man at the Pink Poodle strip club in San Jose. He was acquitted.
But to the Hells Angels and others, the gregarious and intense man was bigger than life.
"His love for his family and his friends in the club was undeniable," Bernal said. "If Steve loved you, you never had to guess. If he didn't love you, you never had to guess."
Bernal recalled that Tausan once summoned him to his bail bondsman's office so the two of them could view a 90-minute DVD of James Brown and opera great Luciano Pavarotti performing together. Tausan turned to Bernal and said, "Wasn't that the greatest thing you've ever seen?"
Bernal said he agreed, then paused for effect. "You don't disagree with Steve." That drew an appreciative laugh from the crowd.
"He was compassionate, generous and loyal." Bernak said. But he also mentioned Tausan's "legendary short fuse."
Bernal acknowledged that, as a clergyman, he is sometimes criticized for the people he hangs around with. "I don't care," he concluded. "If you're my friend you're my friend."
The bikers applauded.
Former football great Jim Brown, who was introduced to Tausan by Bernal, was among the mourners. "I feel honored to publicly acknowledge my love, friendship and respect for this man," Brown said during the service. "He had a quality I found very intriguing."
Brown said he found Tausan highly intelligent. Brown said he and his wife "loved and respected him."
Although they gathered around Oak Hill, there were no police visible inside the cemetery, which was closed to the public.
As Tausan's body was lowered into the ground, fellow Hells Angels called out "One of a Kind!''and "Hell of a man!''
Some cried. Others cracked Budweisers.
Phil Cross, a veteran Hells Angel now with the Santa Cruz chapter, said of his longtime friend: "We lost a real good man, a leader and a person who people could depend upon. I'm gonna miss Steve.''
Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003. Follow him at firstname.lastname@example.org