Sean Webby of the San Jose Mercury News is reporting that Hells Angel Steve Joseph Ruiz is the prime suspect in the shooting death of Hells Angel Steve Tausan at the funeral for Hells Angel Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew last Saturday. Webby, citing what is obviously a police source, said “investigators believe” Ruiz “could be dead.”
According to Webby’s source, police exhumed Pettigrew’s body last Saturday night looking for Ruiz’ body or other evidence related to Tausan’s murder. The source would not tell Webby what police found. Webby did not name the judge who authorized the desecration of Pettigrew’s grave.
It has been a rough month for the Hells Angels.
Pettigrew was shot and killed September 23 in a brawl between Vagos and Hells Angels in John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino in Sparks, Nevada during the annual Street Vibrations Rally. The fight, according to police, involved 60 Vagos and a dozen Hells Angels. A San Jose Vago named Ernesto Manuel Gonzalez has been arrested and charged by police with shooting Pettigrew four times in the back. Also, according to police, Pettigrew had a gun in his hand and was pistol whipping at least one Vago at the time he was shot. Pettigrew was also stabbed.
Two Vagos, Leonard Ramirez and Diego Garcia were also shot in the melee. The next morning a third Vago, Shane Smith, was shot by unknown assailants in a dark blue BMW 3 series sedan while he rode his motorcycle in Sparks.
Another Angel, Cesar Villagrana, attempted to defend Pettigrew during the brawl. Villagrana was observed by a Sparks Police supervisor and captured on videotape with a 9 mm handgun during the fight. The gun was reported stolen in Arizona in 1998. Villagrana was charged with possessing and firing the weapon and is currently free on bail. He faces another weapons charge in Santa Cruz County in California. He has a court hearing scheduled for that case on October 21.
No other Hells Angel or Vago is currently facing charges as a result of the Sparks fight. But, the honor of some of the 10 unnamed Hells Angels who were with Pettigrew the night he died has been questioned after the fact. The actions in particular of one Hells Angel who was with Pettigrew when he died but was not at the funeral last Saturday have been described as cowardly. The Angel who has been criticized as cowardly was a friend of Tausan and Tausan did not hesitate to defend that man.
Tausan and the man Webby named last night as Ruiz got into an argument about the actions of this unnamed Angel as Pettigrew’s casket was being loaded into the hearse last Saturday at the Oak Hill Funeral Home and Memorial Park in San Jose. Both Tausan and his assailant were standing in a cluster of patch holders near the funeral chapel doors. The argument became a fist fight which Tausan’s opponent quickly lost.
While laying on the ground, Tausan’s killer pulled what some sources believe was a .22 caliber revolver from inside his Angels cut and fired two shots into Tausan’s torso about three seconds apart. That interval between shots indicates the weapon was either a single action revolver or a derringer. The fatality of the shots indicates the weapon may have been a larger caliber derringer.
Tausan was mortally wounded. A dozen Angels subdued and disarmed the killer, stripped him of his colors, put a baseball cap on his head and shoved him into a car. This happened in front of numerous witnesses and if the police are already leaking Ruiz’ name to the press they already know this, too. The exhumation Saturday night was probably a search for the missing weapon. If the police have gotten that far they also know what happened next.
As a group of Angels picked up Tausan and carried him out of the cemetery Cesar Villagrana, who was with Pettigrew when he was fatally shot, launched a long tirade at the crowd. His speech was loud enough and passionate enough to silence the startled mourners. According to witnesses, the only sounds in the cemetery for more than a minute were the huffing and shuffling of the men carrying Tausan away and Villagrana’s rage. Villagrana said both deaths should “ be layed at the feet” of the Angel who has been alleged to have been cowardly in Sparks.
Tausan died about an hour later.
According to Webby’s police source, “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.”
The source told Webby that the police don’t have Ruiz and they don’t have the gun.