The jam-packed funeral for slain Hells Angels Motorcycle Club boss Jeffrey (Jethro) Pettigrew almost five years ago was the site of another headline-grabbing murder that shook the west coast biker world with equally thunderous reverberations. Pettigrew, the 54-year old beloved president of the club’s San Jose, California chapter, was killed on September 23, 2011 inside a Nevada casino, shot five times in the back by a Vagos Motorcycle Club leader as the Hells Angels and Vagos engaged in a brawl at an annual Reno biker rally known as Street Vibrations. The Pettigrew homicide is back in the news this week due to his alleged killer being granted a new trial.

Pettigrew’s best friend and fellow Northern California Hells Angels’ administrator, Steve (Mr. 187) Tausan, was gunned down at Pettigrew’s funeral overflowing with well over 4,000 attendees three weeks later on October 15, 2011 by a rival club member after a fight broke out between them over what led to Pettigrew’s death. The 52-year old Tausan (pictured) was raised in San Jose, but was in the Hells Angels’ Santa Cruz chapter.

Leading up to the funeral, Tausan, the Santa Cruz chapter’s sergeant at arms, had feuded with Hells Angels San Jose chapter member Steve (Chico) Ruiz, Tausan expressing anger towards Ruiz at a party in the direct aftermath of Pettigrew’s murder for the fact that Ruiz had not been in Reno watching Pettigrew’s back. Both hurled threats in the other’s direction and threatened to kill one another. When they met face-to-face at Pettigrew’s funeral at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose, Tausan, a hulking former U.S. Marine and retired pro boxer, punched Ruiz in the face, resulting in Ruiz pulling his gun and shooting and killing Tausan in front of dozens of onlookers.

Ruiz had told Tausan that he had been instructed specifically not to attend the Street Vibrations rally by his superiors in the San Jose chapter because of his recent drug arrest. He pled guilty to manslaughter and weapons charges in the Tausan case and got sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Ernesto (Romeo) Gonzalez, the man prosecutors say killed Pettigrew in cold blood as part of a coordinated assassination plot hatched by Vagos brass hours prior to the casino slaying, had his 2013 conviction thrown off the books late last year on a legal technicality regarding the method jurors at his trial were provided their instructions. Gonzalez, the former Vagos president of the club’s chapter in Nicaragua, was back in court this week when state’s attorneys officially refiled first-degree homicide charges against him and he had an arraignment date set for later this month. He claims he only opened fire on Pettigrew because Pettigrew was severely beating a friend of his. In his first trial, he pled self-defense and is expected to do the same again at his June 23 arraignment.

The Hells Angels and Vagos had been at war for years fighting over territory in Northern California. The Vagos’ L.A. chapter vice president-turned-informant Gary (Jabbers) Rudnick testified at Romeo Gonzalez’s first trial that the hit on Pettigrew was set in motion the same night it occurred at a meeting of hundreds of Vagos in a hotel suite at the West Towers of John Ascuaga’s Nugget Hotel and Casino in Sparks, Nevada, located just east of Reno.

Gonzales, according to Rudnick, volunteered for the job after Vagos international president Pastor (Ta Ta) Palafox, addressed the club and “put the green light” on Pettigrew, placing a murder contract on his head to be carried out immediately. Rudnick admits to antagonizing Pettigrew into a physical altercation on the Nugget casino floor right outside Trader Dick’s Bar and Rosie’s Café which snowballed into a brawl involving dozens of Hells Angels and Vagos less than three hours following Palafox’s speech. As Pettigrew traded blows, Gonzalez, per Rudnick’s testimony, sought him out and executed him.

Pettigrew and Tausan were longtime confidants and riding buddies. Tausan had been the president of the Hells Angels’ Santa Cruz chapter before stepping aside and taking on sergeant at arms duties – a chapter’s sergeant at arms is its’ rules enforcer. He beat murder charges at trial in the 1990s on a plea of self-defense. The charges stemmed from a fist fight in 1997 at the Pink Poodle strip club where Tausan worked as a bouncer at and where an unruly, drunk patron named Kevin Sullivan attacked him after Tausan instructed him to stop harassing a dancer.

At the time of his own death, Tausan owned his own bail bonds business. As a pro boxer in the 1980s, he fought as a middleweight and compiled a 3-2 overall record.

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  1. Valerie V

    “…Tausan, a hulking former U.S. Marine and retired pro boxer, punched Ruiz in the face, resulting in Ruiz pulling his gun and shooting and killing Tausan in front of dozens of onlookers.”

    The beauty of due process administered instantly. Tausan has earned himself a coveted RPU – Resting Place Urinal – a prison issued stainless pot to be placed on his final resting place so all can pay their respects.

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