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Shooting victim was a leader in Hell's Angels

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- 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 Hell's 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 US 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.

State Police were still looking 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 Colonel 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."

Specialists in gangs and organized crime 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 Captain 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.

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