The September 23 shootout at the John Ascuaga’s Nugget casino in Sparks, Nevada claimed another life Saturday. Steve Tausan, 52 (above), Sergeant at Arms for the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club San Jose charter was shot twice and killed by a still unidentified assailant while both men attended the funeral service for Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew, former President of the San Jose charter.
The shooting occurred before Pettigrew’s interment at about 12:50 p.m. at the Oak Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park in San Jose. The shooting occurred as Pettigrew’s remains were being loaded into a hearse. Tausan was pronounced dead at an unidentified hospital about 45 minutes later.
Pettigrew had been shot and killed during a brawl between members of the Hells Angels and members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club in the Sparks casino September 23. Police have accused a San Jose Vago named Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez of shooting Pettigrew four times in the back.
Four Thousand Mourners
A Hells Angel patch holder named Cesar Villagrana was arrested after the Spartks brawl and accused of possessing a stolen weapon and of discharging that weapon during the casino fight. Villagrana attended Pettigrew’s funeral along with approximately 4,000 other mourners including numerous Hells Angels charter Presidents, retired Hells Angel Ralph “Sonny” Barger and Steve Tausan’s nine-year-old son. Numerous other children and women attended the service.
Tausan was shot in a driveway outside the funeral home. Tausan became involved in a heated argument with another mourner about the Sparks brawl. Tausan argued in defense of a friend who was not at the funeral. The argument was about the actions of motorcycle club member the night Pettigrew died. The argument became a one sided fist fight. Tausan, a former middleweight boxer, was significantly larger than his opponent.
.22 Two Shots
After the smaller man was knocked down, he pulled a .22 caliber revolver from inside his vest. He fired two shots at least 15 seconds apart. Conflicting accounts indicate that the shooter was probably subdued at the scene and then disappeared in the confusion that followed. The shooter was a patched member of a widely respected motorcycle club.
Hells Angels immediately carried Tausan to the police perimeter that surrounded the service. As Tausan was being carried away, according to witnesses, an unidentified member of a major motorcycle club shouted that the blame for the shooting should be laid at the feet of a club member who had done something “cowardly in Reno.”
Police immediately sealed the cemetery but the funeral proceeded anyway. After the service, mourners who were not members of the Hells Angels were allowed to leave and Angels were detained.
Police later alleged that the shooting scene had been “tampered with.” Police have not named a suspect and have not yet recovered a weapon. The shooter’s identity and whereabouts are unknown. The shooter was not a member of the Vagos Motorcycle Club, the Mongols Motorcycle Club, or a member of any motorcycle club affiliated in any way with either the Vagos or the Mongols.