The president of the San Jose chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club -- and a
San Jose city employee -- was killed .
Jeffrey "Jethro" Pettigrew, 51, worked for 20 years as a heavy equipment operator
for the city's Department of Transportation.
"In the motorcycle club culture, Jeff Pettigrew was a local icon in San Jose, a very
"As a motorcycle club advocate, added, "it is our position that motorcycle clubs are, in
essence, families, and as such our respective 'communities' should be able to
exercise the right to reserve comment and reflect on the situation without outside
opinion or condemnation."
Police are preparing for hundreds, perhaps thousands of bikers expected to ride into
Oak Hill Memorial Park in San Jose sometime next month to honor the memory of Jeff
"Jethro" Pettigrew, the president of the city's Hells Angels chapter.
There will be members of the South Yard Heavy Equipment Crew. That is not a
motorcycle club. It is the San Jose Department of Transportation's pavement repair
They knew Pettigrew from his day job. To them, he was not the local president of a
biker club. He was as a veteran backhoe operator who paved potholes.
Hans Larsen, director of the city's Department of Transportation, said he was not even
aware that Pettigrew was a Hells Angel. Nor did he care.
"We have many employees who are motorcycle enthusiasts. What they do in their
private lives doesn't concern us as long as it doesn't affect their work,'' Hansen said.
"From what I am hearing he was a nice person with a good attitude, very professional
in his work and he did it well.''
This week in the South Bay those close to the 51-year-old Pettigrew remembered him
simply as Jethro, a cheerful one-legged, redhead. Charismatic, quick with a goofy
joke or three, lusty for life, Pettigrew was relaxed on the road even as he pulled the
"dragon's tail" of a large motorcycle run. His hands hooked into a big belt buckle on
his Wrangler jeans, he was the guy wearing a beat-up Dallas Cowboys hat belting out
a Randy Travis tune.
"From Alaska to New York City he was well accepted everywhere he went,'' said Steve
Tausan, a lifelong friend and fellow Hells Angel, sergeant-at-arms for the Santa Cruz
chapter. "Everybody knew Jethro. He was calm, cool, collected. One of those guys
that can light up a room like a Christmas tree.''
Tearfully reminiscing about his old friend this week, Tausan sat in his San Jose bail
bonds office flanked by a Victory Vision bike and decorated with photographs of
himself -- with football icon Jim Brown, with Hells Angels icon Sonny Barger, with
Summer Jean Pettigrew, whose name was tattooed on her father's wrist, said he was
proud of his club but rarely talked about that side of his life to her. He basically forbid
her to ride motorcycles.
"He was always there for me -- if I broke up with someone or I lost my job or I had a
flat tire or my hair color turned out wrong,'' said Pettigrew, 26. "It wasn't this big scary
biker with a Tony Soprano mentality. He took me to my first Britney Spears concert.
By himself. Wearing his Hells Angels stuff. And he knew the songs.''
Pettigrew lost a leg following an accident while riding. He and Tausan were coming
back to San Jose from San Francisco about 20 years ago, dodging brutal traffic.
Pettigrew went to go around a car, when it made an unexpected turn and caught his
right foot in the bumper. His foot shattered.
Later an infection set in, and Pettigrew's leg was amputated just below the knee. His
daughter said he would send his used prosthetics to charities in Mexico
This week, she donated her father's immaculate Road Glide Harley, with its death
heads and orange flames the color of his hair when he was younger, to club members
so that they could keep it in their San Jose clubhouse as a memorial.
"I want my father remembered, he was the HA president, but also so much more,''
she said. "He was my daddy, my rock, my blood."
I was deeply touched by the passing of Jeffery "Jethro" Pettigrew. Though I
didn't know him personally I have friends who spoke very highly of this good
man and father. I am saddened by this loss. I feel it would have been a privilege
to have known him and been his friend. tic September 28, 2011
5/20/1959 - 10/15/2011
San Jose Chapter
AP Exclusive: Witness: Biker killing was a mistake
/ November 24, 2011
RENO, Nev.—Chatting peacefully on the floor of a Nevada casino, a senior Hells Angels
leader and a 27-year veteran of the rival Vagos motorcycle gang thought they had negotiated a
truce between competing members who'd been itching for a fight at a weekend long biker festival.
"Everything is going to be all right," the Vagos member recalls his rival telling him. "He said, `I'm
getting too old for this.' And I said, `I'm getting too old for this too.'" An hour later, a brawl
erupted and a shootout ensued, killing one of the highest-ranking Hells Angels in the country
and wounding two Vagos members.
More violence has followed the melee at the hotel-casino in Sparks on Sept. 23, but the longtime
Vagos member told a grand jury in Reno earlier this month that the deadly gun battle was not part
of some assassination plot or formal declaration of war.
Rather, he testified under the condition of confidentiality that it was the result of the
unauthorized behavior of a drunken, fellow Vagos -- a loud-mouthed, loose cannon
nicknamed "Jabbers" who provoked the fight that led to the fatal shooting.
"Jabbers has a big mouth. He's always had a big mouth," said the witness, who described
himself as being in the "higher echelon'" of Vagos leadership "before this event."
Jabbers, whose real name is Gary Stuart Rudnick, was the vice president of the Vagos Los
Angeles chapter but since has been kicked out of the club, according to the confidential witness.
He's one of three men indicted on murder charges in the killing of Jeffrey "Jethro'" Pettigrew, the
late president of the Hells Angels San Jose chapter.
Rudnick had refused to back down even after national Vagos officers were summoned and
talks with Hells Angels' leaders had calmed the volatile situation shortly after 10 p.m., the
grand jury witness said.
"This was diffused by national," he said. "The national (leaders) went down there and talked to
them. Everything was worked out, there was no problems."
But about an hour later, Rudnick again was taunting Pettigrew, who the witness said "in the
Hells Angels world is one of the most important guys in the United States." Finally, he said
Pettigrew had enough and punched Rudnick in the face, touching off a series of fights that led to
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