Thousands Gather To Say Goodbye To Hells Angels Founder

Thousands came together at the Stockton 99 Speedway on Saturday for the funeral of Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger, longtime president and founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office warned on Friday the event could potentially become dangerous.

Funeral attendees cried, shared stories, and remembered the 83-year-old Modesto native who died on 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.

Sheriff Patrick Withrow urged residents at a press conference Friday to avoid the area of the speedway and said rival organizations to the Hells Angels would likely be in the area.

The Sheriff's Office, Stockton Police Department, and California Highway Patrol maintained a highly visible presence in the area, he said.

Medical assistance was requested at the service for two attendees on the infield of the track.

There were about 7,000 people in attendance for Barger's funeral, according to Tony Noceti, the president of the business that operates the speedway. Some came from various parts of California, others sported club colors from New Jersey, Minnesota and Nebraska.

People gathered in front of a stage where Barger's family and friends spoke. Barger was a founding member of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels, which started in 1957.

Barger was 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 funeral was set to take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., to include speakers, a slideshow and performances by the Fryed Brothers Band.

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