Hells Angels mourn Conn. chief


BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) – Bikers from all over the country gathered Saturday for the funeral of a Hells Angels leader gunned down on Interstate 95 in West Haven.

Roger Mariani, 61, of Stratford was killed and motorcyclist Paul Carrol, 37, of Bridgeport was injured last Sunday when someone opened fire as they rode with a group of motorcyclists.

State police haven’t made any arrests and said they have no evidence the shooting stemmed from a rivalry between the Hells Angels and another motorcycle gang.

But police presence was strong in Bridgeport for both the funeral and a wake Friday night at Parente-Lauro Funeral Home.

Saturday’s service drew an overflow crowd of hundreds, many of whom couldn’t get into the packed funeral home.

Harold Christianen of Bridgeport isn’t a Hells Angel, but he has ridden with members of the group and came to pay his respects to Mariani.

“I only knew him by sight, but everyone knew him,” Christianen said.

Wearing black vests and jackets with the group’s logo, Hells Angels from as far away as California and Ohio stood in the rain to pay tribute to Mariani.

Bridgeport Police Capt. Robert Craw said no incidents were reported.

“It went very smoothly,” he said.

Mariani’s casket was draped with an American flag because he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. After the funeral, bikers escorted the hearse to Mountain Grove Cemetery, where Mariani was to be cremated.

Mariani was one of 37 Hells Angels and associates from Connecticut arrested in the mid-1980s as part of a nationwide crackdown that resulted in 125 arrests and the seizure of $2 million worth of drugs. He was released from prison in 1995 and went to work as a mechanic at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Stamford. He left about two years ago to become a loan officer in Naugatuck.

Friends said Mariani, known as Bear, was a friendly man with a big heart.

“He was a true Angel if there ever was one,” Cliff Edwards of Stratford told the New Haven Register at the wake. “He will be missed. It didn’t have to happen this way.”

Though police aren’t commenting on a motive for the shooting, concerns about retaliation were heightened when, about six hours after Mariani died, Enfield police arrested two men believed to be Hells Angels near the Enfield home of a member of the Outlaws motorcycle gang. The two groups are bitter rivals.

The men face a variety of weapons charges because police say they had a loaded gun, golf clubs, a baseball bat, a ball-peen hammer and other potential weapons in the car. They also had pages from a state police training manual listing the names and addresses of Outlaws members.

Police presence has also been increased this weekend in Waterbury, where the Outlaws have a clubhouse.