Authorities who feared quick justice among bikers dug up the grave of a Hells Angels member to look for the body of a Northern California man suspected of killing another gang member during a shootout at a weekend funeral, a police spokesman said Tuesday.
San Jose police have an arrest warrant for Steven Ruiz, a member of the Hells Angels' Santa Cruz chapter. He's suspected of fatally shooting Steve Tausan after a fight broke out at Saturday's funeral for Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, who had been the president of the gang's San Jose chapter.
Ruiz and Tausan disappeared from the Oak Hill Memorial Park cemetery shortly after the Saturday afternoon shooting, which sent thousands of mourners fleeing in panic
Tausan was taken by a private vehicle to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Witnesses saw Ruiz bundled into a car and driven away from the cemetery, but police haven't been able to locate him and his Harley Davidson motorcycle was left behind hours after the last mourner left the cemetery, San Jose police spokesman Jose Garcia said.
Police obtained a warrant to dig up Pettigrew's grave in search of Ruiz's body and other evidence, Garcia said.
A backhoe was used to remove a large cement fixture over the grave and the soil above the coffin was removed, he said. When nothing was found, the grave was refilled and the cement slab affixed over the site.
"The grave was not desecrated," Garcia said.
Police felt it necessary to search the grave because Hells Angels members, relatives and others poured dirt over the casket rather than the cemetery staff, which is the usual custom, Garcia said. The investigation was hindered even more by the scrubbing of the crime scene of blood. In addition, no bullet casings were found.
"The crime scene was washed down with water," Garcia said.
Authorities named Ruiz a suspect on Tuesday and said they would continue searching for him.
Pettigrew was shot and killed last month during a brawl with a rival biker gang at a Nevada casino.