7,000 attend funeral for Hells Angels leader Ralph 'Sonny' Barger at California speedway
SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. — Thousands of people gathered over the weekend for the funeral of Ralph "Sonny" Barger , longtime president and founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club.
It was an event the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office warned could become dangerous.
But those who attended the service at the Stockton 99 Speedway cried, shared stories and remembered the 83-year-old Modesto native who died in June 29 from cancer.
"Even though he was blind in one eye, and he packed his oxygen, well, when his kickstand went up, you better catch up," one speaker said.
No significant incidents took place at the funeral, a spokesman for the sheriff's office said.
Sheriff Patrick Withrow had advised residentsto avoid the area of the speedway in northeast California, and said rival organizations to the Hells Angels would likely be in the area.
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The Sheriff's Office, Stockton Police Department, and California Highway Patrol planned to maintain a highly visible presence in the area, he said.
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About 7,000 people showed up for Barger's funeral, according to Tony Noceti, the president of the business that operates the speedway.
Some, he said, came from all over California, others sported club colors from New Jersey, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Throughout the afternoon, the track infield was filled with people gathered in front of a stage decorated with rose wreaths where Barger's family and friends spoke.
Barger was a founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels, started in 1957.
Barger was well-known as the public face of the club, which has chapters across the world and is considered a gang by the Department of Justice. He authored several books and contributed to several films and was a consultant and had a role on the television show "Sons of Anarchy."
Barger was convicted in 1988 of conspiracy to kill rival club members and blow up their headquarters, The Associated Press reported at the time.
The funeral was scheduled to take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., to include speakers, a slideshow and performances by the Fryed Brothers Band.
Follow Aaron Leathley on Twitter: @ LeathleyAaron .
This article originally appeared on The Record: 7,000 attend funeral for Hells Angels leader Ralph 'Sonny' Barger at California speedway