Steve Ruiz, the former Hells Angel who shot and killed a club brother at a club funeral in October 2011, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter yesterday and will be sentenced to 44 months in a California prison.
Current California law requires prisoners to serve two thirds of their sentence before being eligible for parole. However, due to prison overcrowding, current California policy makes prisoners eligible for parole after serving half of their sentences. Ruiz has been in custody since February 25, 2012 so he could be out of prison as early as January 2015.
Ruiz shot Santa Cruz Hells Angel Steve Tausan at the funeral for San Jose Angels president Jeffrey “Jethro” Pettigrew on October 15, 2011. Tausan was a former member of the San Jose charter and he and Pettigrew were close friends. Pettigrew died in a brawl with members of the Vagos Motorcycle Club at John Ascuaga’s Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada on September 23, 2011. Stuart Gary “Jabbers” Rudnick, the Vago who baited Pettigrew and instigated the fight was sentenced to seven years in prison last August. Ernesto Gonzalez, the Vago convicted of shooting Pettigrew, was sentenced last October to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Before their final, fatal confrontation Tausan and Ruiz had two arguments about Pettigrew’s death and whether it could have been prevented. Shortly after the shooting in Sparks, Tausan chastised Ruiz for not attending the 2011 Street Vibrations run at which Pettigrew died. Tausan thought Ruiz might have been able to protect Pettigrew and Ruiz argued that he hadn’t attended because he was on club probation and he had to work. The two men wrangled again at a club party in San Jose. According to prosecutors, Tausan threatened to kill Ruiz at that party.
The two men met again at Pettigrew’s funeral and argued. The argument turned into a one sided fist fight in a driveway outside the funeral home. Tausan, a former middleweight boxer, was significantly bigger than Ruiz. The fight was recorded by cemetery surveillance cameras. After Tausan knocked down Ruiz, the smaller man pulled a small caliber pistol from inside his vest and fired two shots.
Ruiz was quickly subdued by mourners, stripped of his club colors and disappeared in the confusion that followed the shooting. In general, Hells Angels who use a weapon on another Hells Angel are expelled from the club. Tausan was carried out of the cemetery by his club brothers where, according to witnesses, police obstructed his access to an ambulance. He died within the hour and was buried in the same cemetery on October 29. According to police, mourners picked up the shell casings and dumped the contents of a cooler on the crime scene. Police also allege that some mourners tried to seize the surveillance video from cemetery employees.
After Pettigrew’s funeral, police assumed Ruiz had been murdered and his body concealed in Pettgrew’s coffin so Pettigrew was exhumed. Ruiz was publically named as a suspect the next day.
Ruiz was the subject of an often ludicrous, four-month-long manhunt that included a particularly destructive Swat raid on a private home in Stockton on October 22. He was eventually captured at a Days Inn in Fremont, California.