The founder of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang has died.
Sonny Barger was 83.
News of his death was announced on his official Facebook page early Thursday morning.
The post read: “If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing.”
It went on to say, “I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club.”
Barger, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer and who had advocated against smoking, was surrounded by his wife Zorana Barger and other loved ones.
Barger was born Ralph Hubert Barger in Modesto, California before his family moved to Oakland. He joined the U.S. Army when he was a teen and eventually joined a motorcycle club and adopted the name Hells Angels from a motorcycle club that had disbanded, according to Barger’s autobiography, The Mercury News reported.
The Hells Angels eventually grew to 467 charters in 59 countries over five countries. It also has a corporation, a nonprofit that started in 1970 that owns and protects the club’s intellectual property, The New York Times reported.
The authorities had said the Hells Angels were a criminal enterprise, but Barger said the group was not and frequently defended the club, including the time when a member of the Hells Angels stabbed a concertgoer during a set performed by the Rolling Stones at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
Barger said he was also frequently targeted by law enforcement, including being charged with the murder of a drug dealer in Oakland and racketeering, both of which he was acquitted of.
In the latter case, Barger said he refused a plea deal because it would have meant that he had to admit the Hells Angels was a gang, The Mercury News reported.
Barger didn’t always win his court battles. In 1988, he was convicted of conspiracy to kill members of a rival club and served five years in federal prison, The Washington Post reported.
Barger also said he was addicted to cocaine and sold heroin in the 1960s and 1970s, serving eight years in all on drug and firearms charges, the Post reported.
Berger was diagnosed with throat cancer in the 1980s, which lead to the removal of his vocal cords. He moved to Arizona in the late 90s due to his health, but returned to Alameda County in 2016, The Mercury News reported.
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