Revenge may be on horizon after Kelowna ambush: RCMP
A settling of scores could be on the way between gangs in British Columbia after a notorious leader of the Red Scorpions was gunned down and a full-patch member of the Hells Angels was wounded in a very public daylight attack, police say.
The brazen slaying of 30-year-old Jonathan Bacon outside a glamorous waterfront hotel in Kelowna Sunday has the potential to ignite violent reprisals, RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon acknowledged Monday, a day after the shooting that injured at least four others at the time.
"I think retaliation is something we're very cautious of," the officer told a news conference in the B.C. Interior city.
"Where it might happen, whether it'll happen in Kelowna or any community in this province is something that law enforcement officials are very leery of at this particular time.
"I can't comment on expectations. I think it's a possibility that it could happen."
No arrests have yet been made in the high-profile slaying that police described as linked to organized crime. Const. Steve Holmes said it was targeted but he wouldn't say who in the group was the intended victim.
One person in the Porsche SUV that was hit by the volley of gunfire fled the scene and hasn't been located. Two women were also wounded.
Forensic experts are examining a burnt-out SUV that was found some hours later to see if it's linked.
The police were reluctant to release other details of their investigation, refusing to say how many suspects they're looking for or what kind of weapon was used.
"The investigation is looking at the motive behind Sunday's attack," McKinnon said, adding he wouldn't comment on whether police were already aware gang members were in the city.
"While there can be a series of complex cause-based factors behind it, it can also be as simple as who is dating whom."
Experts in the province's long-running gang violence agreed Monday British Columbians should brace themselves for the possibility of ugly vengeance.
"Definitely this won't be taken lightly by the associates of the supposed victims here," said Kash Heed, a former West Vancouver police chief who helped spearhead the province's anti-gangs task force almost a decade ago.
"I'm sure there will be attempts or certainly a lot of discussion regarding retaliation."
Heed, now a Vancouver-area MLA, said the public should be alarmed.
"Just because we did not have an innocent bystander hurt here, we've have had innocent bystanders hurt and killed in the past," he said, explaining that's why he's urging police to ramp up efforts and co-operation across jurisdictions before more bloody warfare erupts.
"We've known the players for years. ... The infamous Bacon gang, the Red Scorpions, the UN gang, the Hells Angels, the Independent Soldiers. You just got to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And you need to do it with intel-led policing."
Sgt. Shinder Kirk, spokesman for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit which includes the gangs task force, said the shooting shows that gang tensions in the province haven't gone away.
Gangland activity has killed and injured dozens of people in B.C.'s Lower Mainland in recent years. Turf battles have been waged between a variety of different gangs, some over drug profits, with at least four dozen shootings in 2009 in the Vancouver area alone.
Two people in the wrong place at the wrong time were shot to death along with four other men in a Surrey, B.C. apartment building in October 2007. Police blamed the Red Scorpions and Jamie Bacon is among those charged with murder.
"It's very difficult to say what motivated this or motivates any of these types of shootings," Kirk said, noting he couldn't speak to the specifics of the Kelowna case.
"Is it long-standing disputes? We know that in the gang world, they have very long memories and the violence can occur for not only what the group or the individual within the group is up to, but it can occur for any reason."
Whether tit-for-tat clashes are likely "remains to be seen," Kirk said.
He noted that generally, when gang violence occurs, police work not only to finger those responsible, but also to determine "what potentially could fall out as a result of whatever may have occurred, (and) also to look at making arrests and monitoring individuals that are extremely high-profile that could likely get involved."
Anxiety is already building for some officials who work on the front lines in dealing with the repercussions of gang violence.
Vancouver General Hospital imposed a controlled access procedure for almost three hours early Monday morning, restricting visitors to the facility in what a hospital spokeswoman called a safety precaution.
She could not elaborate, but RCMP Insp. Bryon Massie said a patient with a known gang affiliation was being treated.
"They wanted to make sure that the staff and any of the patients at the hospital were not going to be subject to any of the influx of their friends coming in, who would have some gang history," said Massie.
He said the patient was not what he called "a gang player" and wouldn't say if the patient was linked to the Kelowna attack. But he agreed people are nervous about a renewed gang war.
"Any time you are dealing with anything of the nature that took place in Kelowna, I would think that does kind of raise a little bit of a heightened anxiety throughout the whole province," he said.
Witnesses reported spotting suspects dressed all in black brandishing what looked like semi-automatic weapons and then hearing a rapid succession of gunshots, leaving a splatter of blood and the vehicle dappled with bullet holes.
The clamour unfolded outside the front entrance of the swanky Delta Grand hotel after a silvery-green SUV stopped behind the victims' vehicle about 2:45 p.m. PT.
Daniel Bibby, the hotel's general manager, said it was a "tough day" for employees, about 150 who banded together to soothe terrified guests. He said neither Bacon, nor the other victims, were registered guests at the hotel.
"They could have been using different names, it's really hard for me to know at this point," he said, adding he'd prefer to defer to the RCMP on providing further details.
Jonathan and his youngest brother Jamie have escaped attempted assassinations in the past, and in 2008 police warned anyone associated with Jamie and middle brother Jarrod that they may be in danger because of the violence around the brothers.
The three have had repeated run-ins with the law over gun-and-drug offences. Police have said they are the nucleus of the Red Scorpions gang.
Youngest brother Jamie Bacon is currently serving a prison term.
Jonathan Bacon, the eldest, was charged in a case that the Supreme Court of Canada said last year it would review after a lower court found his charter rights were violated when he was charged with drug-and-gun offences in 2005.
Prosecutors have been hampered in their efforts to get convictions on other gang-related crimes.
In April, the Crown stayed charges against the purported leader of the Sanghera crime group, which police blamed for at least 20 fatal shootings.