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Hells Angel member arrested in connection with San Jose funeral slaying

SAN FRANCISCO -- A Hells Angels member missing since October has been arrested on suspicion of gunning down a fellow member of the biker gang at a funeral for the local chapter's president, police said.

Steve Ruiz surrendered Saturday night after San Jose police surrounded his motel in Fremont, according to police Sgt. Jason Dwyer.


Ruiz, 38, had been the subject of a widespread manhunt since Steve Tausan was shot and killed during memorial services for Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew on Oct. 15. Police believe that Ruiz shot Tausan when a fight broke out at the San Jose funeral, which was monitored by police.

Dwyer would not say what led officers to the Days Inn motel in Fremont or if any weapons were recovered, but added that Ruiz was considered "armed and dangerous."

A front desk clerk at the motel, Rey Bayangos, said Ruiz had checked in just two hours before police arrived.

"They used the phone at the front desk, called and asked him to surrender peacefully, and he did surrender," Bayangos said. "It happened all of a sudden."

Casino brawl
Tausan, 52, was one of 4,000 people attending services for Pettigrew, the president of the Hells Angels' San Jose chapter. Pettigrew was slain during a brawl with a rival biker gang in a Nevada casino on Sept. 23.

Police said Tausan, who was Pettigrew's close friend, and others confronted Ruiz at the funeral over his perceived failure to have protected Pettigrew during the casino melee, prompting Ruiz to pull a gun on Tausan.

A week after Tausan was killed, police stormed a house in Stockton but came up empty. Investigators also said in December that they had "credible evidence" that Ruiz, a former San Jose resident, had been seen in the city.

Ruiz was booked into Santa Clara County Jail. Dwyer did not have bail information or know if he had been assigned a court date.

The Ruiz arrest marks the latest development in a saga of violence between two rival biker groups -- the Hells Angels and Vagos -- which has led to multiple deaths and injuries.

Rivalry
The U.S. Justice Department has named both groups as outlaw gangs engaged in drug and weapons trafficking and other violent crimes.

Police have said they trace the rivalry to a push by Vagos into the northern coastal town of Santa Cruz, long claimed as Hells Angels territory.

Tensions flared when members of the rival gangs fought outside a Santa Cruz Starbucks in January 2010. Seven months later, in August 2010, the two groups exchanged gunfire, leaving five people wounded in Chino Valley, a northern Arizona town.

The Pettigrew killing -- coming 11 months after the Chino Valley fight -- in turn sparked tensions within the Hells Angels' ranks that led to yet another slaying in California, police said.

Vagos was founded in the 1960s in a Southern California desert community. The Hells Angels, which has over 230 chapters with an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 members worldwide, was founded in 1948 in Fontana, California.

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The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.