Police: Slain cyclist was gang leader

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) – A motorcyclist shot to death on Interstate 95 Sunday was a leader in the Connecticut chapter of the Hell’s Angels and had been monitored by local and federal authorities after serving time in federal prison, police said.

Roger 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, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Mariani, 61, of Stratford, was killed and motorcyclist Paul Carrol, 37, of Bridgeport, was injured Sunday afternoon when someone opened fire on I-95 in West Haven.

Mariani was shot in the chest but managed to pull his motorcycle to the side of the road. The medical examiner’s office on Monday ruled his death a homicide.

State police were still looking Monday for a GMC sport-utility vehicle with Florida plates. They believe four men were inside. They were also looking into the possibility that the shootings occurred during an altercation between the motorcyclists, who were riding in a group, and the people in the SUV.

Specialists in gang activity are reviewing the case. Though police officials are aware of ongoing disputes between the Hell’s Angels and other Connecticut motorcycle gangs, they said they haven’t seen evidence tying the shooting to any of those clashes.

“Rivalries among motorcycle gangs are nothing new,” said Col. Edward Lynch, commander of the state police. “We’re always listening for that, but we’re cautious about saying that’s the case here because you don’t want to jump to a conclusion.”

Gang and organized crime experts have noticed an increase in tensions recently.

“There seemed to be an escalating conflict between the Angels and some of the other outlaw biker groups, namely the Outlaws and Diablos,” said Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin, who oversees the city’s organized crime unit.

Conklin described Mariani as a club leader whose stature had increased in recent years.

Conklin said his department kept tabs on Mariani when he worked for Fritz’s Harley-Davidson in Stamford.

Fritz Blau, who owns the dealership, said Mariani worked there for about six years but left two years ago to become a loan officer.

Blau said he knew Mariani had been involved with the Hell’s Angels but said he believed it was a condition of Mariani’s parole that he not associate with the group. Blau said Mariani’s parole ended around the time he left the dealership.

“The guy had personality, so he had friends,” Blau said. “He was just funny, he made you laugh. It’s kind of shocking that he’s not around anymore. People are going to miss him.”

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