Years of Bloodshed
toll of Calgary's gang war
February 27, 2009
By NADIA MOHARIB, Calgary Sun
Vicious dispute may have roots in high school rumble but
has escalated from knives to guns
this is not an official list from police, here are some
of the names of those confirmed or suspected to have been
killed as a result of the dispute, or by players in that
17 — Adam Miu, 18, is stabbed at Today’s Cafe
and Karaoke Bar downtown. He was not a gang member. Vuthy
Kong was given a seven-year manslaughter sentence for the
killing. He was granted a retrial after the Supreme Court
agreed self-defence wasn’t looked at in the original
one. The decision was upheld at the retrial. John Pheng,
who was killed in 2005, pleaded guilty to stabbing Adam’s
brother, Peter, during the fight.
29 — Vinh Le, 29, is shot in a downtown afterhours
nightclub where assailants walked across a dance floor to
a table where he sat and shot him. Police said he was a
Fresh of the Boat Killers associate or member.
29 — Linju Ly, an FBK member, the driver in the Southcentre
shooting where a 19-year-old was injured, is gunned down
while shovelling outside his parents’ Renfrew home.
Hours later his father calls for an end to the violence.
29 — Long Dinh, 33, killed in a knife attack at the
Warehouse nightclub downtown. He was said to be a gang associate
but it is unknown if his murder was part of the ongoing
1 — Tay (Jason) Dang, 18, stabbed to death while out
with friends. Police said he was killed because he was dating
John Pheng’s ex-girlfriend.
26 — FBK member John Pheng, 22, is shot in a busy
martini bar on 17 Ave. S.W. Police have video of the attack
but no arrests have been made. They were poised, before
his death, to lay charges against him for Dang’s murder.
Police said they have not ruled out he may be behind the
fatal stabbing of Aaron Shoulders, who was not a gang member,
in August of 2003.
20 — Peter Huynh, 19, and said to be a Fresh of the
Boat associate is repeatedly shot at by a masked gunman
at a Forest Lawn gas station where he sat alone in his Honda
Civic. He had just finished gassing up and was on his way
to meet his parents.
4 — Sophorn Kim, 21, is leaving a kickboxing tournament
and shot after taking a seat in a vehicle where an FBK member
was sitting earlier in the evening. Police say he was the
victim of mistaken identity and his family later went public
with a plea to end the violence.
9 — A gunman wearing a hoodie runs up to the SUV where
Chuong (David) Tran, 21, and Dat Le, 22, are sitting and
fires at close-range while Le’s brother escapes being
struck. They are said to be members of the FOB gang. A man
in a car nearby with a young child is horrified to find
shell casings while a dozens of gawkers crowds around the
crime scene where the bodies lie under a tarp. Le, who survived
an earlier shooting, was said to be a suspect in the 2002
killing of Linju Ly. Tran’s cousin, Peter Huynh, was
shot weeks earlier.
8 — Tan Diep, 22, a longtime FOB member is shot while
in a car in an industrial area at Barlow Trail and 50th
3 — Adam Cavanagh, 18, is shot in the head by a bullet
fired through the basement window of his family’s
home. His parents were upstairs at the time. It is said
to be gang-related. During later court testimony, it was
revealed that two days earlier Cavanagh was the victim of
a violent robbery attempt when he met up with men he had
sold cocaine to in the past.
16 — Son Nguyen, a 26-year-old said to be with FOB,
is shot in the garage of the Saddleridge home while his
young child and girlfriend are inside. Police later say
gangster Mark Kim is a possible suspect in the killing.
31 — Mark Kim, 23, an FBK member, is hit in a daytime
shooting in a downtown alley. He was downtown that day to
report to a probation officer. Testifying at his friend
Vuthy Kong’s retrial for manslaughter in 2007, Kim
told court — “It’s stupid to say, but
it’s natural, it’s that type of crowd where
you die young.” He was released on $1,000 bail while
awaiting charges for court breeches just three days before
he was shot.2008
28 — Gurjinder Singh Dhillon, 25, is stabbed to death
at a restaurant in what police said might have began as
an innocuous fight. Police said the 25-year-old was not
a gang member but at the time had not ruled out the assailants
may be and sources said he was friends with several gang
5 — Roger Chin, 23, loses control of his luxury SUV
after being shot as he drove along Centre St. N. A woman
runs out of her home and up to the scene, terrified to see
bullet holes in the vehicle. Chin’s brother, Roland,
who police say is an original FOB member, was serving a
jail term for drug and weapons offences at the time. Some
mourners wore matching baseball caps with the words “Forever
Our Brother” on them to Roger’s funeral. He
was shot about a half-dozen times at a Falconridge gas station
just months earlier, an attack police said stemmed from
ongoing disputes between the two gangs.
26 — Tuc (Tony) Tran is shot while sitting in a car
parked in Chinatown. The former gang member was sent to
jail for the 1995 fatal shooting of Ryan Davids. He was
said to be friends with gang members but police had not
determined if that was the motive in his killing.
9 — Kevin Anaya, 21, and an FBK associate, is shot
while walking in front of a northeast home. Friends said
they thought it was a case of mistaken identity but police
said they had no reason to believe the attack was random.
20 — Robbie Anthony Jones, 20, is gunned down outside
the Saddleridge home he shared with friends. He is said
to be a gang associate and friends with several other slain
16 — Jason Viet Quoc Luong, 20, is gunned down outside
the Chestermere home he shared with his family. His sister
finds him collapsed on the front steps. A marijuana grow
operation is later found by police inside. Luong has gang
ties to Calgary, a possible factor in the killing which
police also said could be drug-related.
26 — Student Tina Kong and friend Kevin Ses are fatally
shot in a northeast restaurant. They were both 21. Police
say Tina, who was a nursing student — a career path
she had chosen to help people after surviving two aneurysms
— had no gang association while police in Calgary
and as far away as Brooks say Ses was involved with the
1 — Several gunmen kill three men at a southeast Vietnamese
restaurant in a mid-day shooting. Police say Keni Su’a,
43, was an innocent man targeted simply because he was there
and said to be running for his life when he was struck.
He was killed along with Aaron Bendle, a 21-year-old police
stopped short of calling a gang member but said was a drug
dealer. Also killed was gang member Sanjeev Mann, 22, who
was wearing a bullet-proof vest at the time. Mann and his
brother, Ranji, both said to be known to the Southern Alberta
Gang Enforcement Team, were both charged after a long-term
drug investigation. While Sanjeev was not convicted his
brother is still behind bars.
Sanjeev survived a 2001 shooting.
13, 2009 — Matthew Chubak, 20, is killed when a Dodge
Durango is sprayed with bullets while driving in the southeast.
Two other men, including one said to be an FOB associate,
are injured. Police say Chubak was involved in gang activity,
involved in a previous gang shooting and on bail awaiting
trafficking charges at the time. He was said to be a victim
in a Nov. 16, 2008, incident where five suspected gangsters
were charged after a shootout which sent five people to
hospital. Brothers Daniel and Marcel Landry, Chantha Kim,
the brother of Mark Kim and a youth face charges in that
case as does Shaun Roberts, who was injured in the incident.
on cop radar by ’01
NADIA MOHARIB, Sun Media
cops say roots of the dispute between the Fresh off the
Boat and Fresh of the Boat Killers gangs can be traced back
to a rumble at Lester B. Pearson school in 1999.
2001, however, the reality a serious rift existed between
the two was impossible to ignore. Deputy Chief Murray Stooke
says although all the violent clashes at that time were
not reported to authorities by those involved, witnesses
occasionally brought it to their attention.
escalated to drive-by shootings and an attempted murder
at Southcentre Mall in December 2002 where Linju Ly was
driving a car which pulled up outside the mall, busy with
Christmas shoppers, with a gunman opening fire on a 19-year-old.
On Dec. 29, police were debriefing after Vinh Le was shot
to dead at a downtown nightclub when Linju Ly was gunned
down while shovelling the walk at his parents northeast
member Michael (Duner) Oduneye was later convicted of attempted
murder for the mall shooting.
2003, police struck a special team to target FOB and FBK
members in a bid to stop the homicides and violence. But
keeping tabs on the gangs wasn’t so easy. It still
Hells Angels are clearly identifiable, they have clubhouses,
they drive Harleys,” Organized Crime Sgt. Gavin Walker
recently said. “They are not driving around with FB
or FK emblazoned on their licence plates.”
war all about revenge
cycle of violence makes organized crime life 'a pretty asinine
way to live'
NADIA MOHARIB, SUN MEDIA
Calgary's eight-year gang war has left dozens dead and city
streets red with blood. Today, Calgary Sun crime reporter
Nadia Moharib starts a three-day, in-depth look at the raging
war. "In taking revenge a man is but even with his
enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior."
say it was over a stolen jacket, some insist it was a beef
over drugs, a tiff over a girl or a dispute sparked after
a girl was raped.
gang members, their friends and associates have many theories
on what ignited a gang war between the groups, dubbed Fresh
Off the Boat and Fresh Off the Boat Killers, which has lasted
at least eight years and claimed more than two dozen lives.
say before two clear sides evolved, it was just a group
of friends selling drugs and enjoying the easy lifestyle
it could buy. Some apparently had a clubhouse in Edmonton,
where sources say the sister of several men, later involved
in gang activity, was raped. Others claim the violence began
when a group of buddies were dealing drugs and one went
out on his own, creating rival groups while some say a dispute
over distribution of crime proceeds led to a splinter group
and made enemies of friends.
there was a moment in time which might mark the start of
the deadly duelling, many say it goes back to a 2001 shooting
at a party in Huntington Hills. When the dust settled 17-year-old
Brandon Boychuk was clinging to life after being shot several
times as he was running down an alley. No one was ever charged.
"Everybody at the party knows who he is," Insp.
Keith Pollack said at the time of the shooting. "The
problem is no one is telling us." As the bloodshed
goes on unabated years later, that frustrating silence is
still a sorry reality, a roadblock for police to laying
charges in gang slayings that play out on city streets and
recently took the life of an innocent man. Despite making
repeat appearances on the gang radar over the years, Boychuk
has recently kept a low-profile, at least from police. Some
say he attended a funeral for gangster Sanjeev Mann this
year -- the man who along with Boychuk was hit in a 2007
shooting -- while some say he is laying low. Others insist
he walked away from the world of crime.
there is much debate about what started the bloody dispute
between the groups, there is none about what it has become
and the uneasiness it spawns for a city bracing for the
next instalment in an ugly real-life, often life-ending,
saga. "We just simply don't know how it started,"
Organized Crime Staff Sgt. Gord Eiriksson says. "It
may have morphed from a disagreement or a beef and spiralled
into this level of violence. "They can't even tell
you why it is the way it is, they have just come to accept
they may live and die by shooting. "It's a pretty asinine
way to live." The New Year's Day shootings this year
of three men -- one said to be a gang member, the other
a drug dealer and the third an innocent man having a meal
-- was a tragic reminder the deadly battle is still very
much alive. And only two weeks later police were investigating
a drive-by shooting that killed gangster Matt Chubak. Two
others -- including one said to be an associate of slain
gangster, Roger Chin, and who was previously shot last summer
-- survived. Since then, there have been no gang-related
murders in Calgary but police know better than to see a
few weeks of apparent peace as an indicator of a truce.
"People are either charged or have conditions against
them," Eiriksson says. "We've got people injured
and believe it or not they have to recuperate. It's a lull,
that's all it is." Deputy Chief Murray Stooke says
a slow but sure escalation of ongoing violence between the
factions is characterized by a bloodthirsty quest for revenge.
as it continues, others have joined the fray while many
names resurface. A former drug unit investigator sometimes
sees that when they hear of arrests in gang-related crimes.
"I bought dope off some of them when they were young
and then you see them evolve, they pop up," he says.
Years later, many of their lives still seem intertwined,
too. For many, so are their deaths. Online tribute sites
show many mourners know several of those slain, some getting
tribute tattoos. Robbie Jones, Adam Cavanagh and Kevin Anaya,
for instance, all knew one another and all lost their lives
to gang violence. Amid pain detailed on the sites is a call
for it all to end. "My friend was killed because there
was a beef between him and another person," says Alyx
Nanji, who set up www.stopthebeef.com
in February 2007 after a friend was killed in gang violence.
Eiriksson says he would rather see one man escape a gang
than put five in jail and applauds any who leave. "I
know a few who have left the city," he says. "Hopefully,
they turn their back on the lifestyle but if not, it's one
less criminal for us to deal with."
cops praise anti-gang legislation
want to tighten penalties for people involved in organized
SHAWN LOGAN, SUN MEDIA
cops are applauding tough new anti-gang legislation pitched
by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but admit it may do little
to get those responsible for slayings behind bars. The new
legislation announced yesterday would hand out a first-degree
murder charge for those accused of gang killings, create
a new offence and minimum jail term for drive-by shootings
and impose tougher laws on those who assault police officers.
while local police are happy the federal government is finally
getting serious about cracking down on the growing urban
scourge of organized crime, they admit the primary difficulty
is still convincing those with knowledge of gang activity
legislation doesn't change the fact that the cone of silence
that we've traditionally been getting is still going to
be a challenge," said Calgary police spokesman Kevin
Brookwell. "But these are additional tools to put in
our hands to help with the gang situation."
cops have yet to arrest anyone in connection with eight
gang-related murders in the city last year and have only
charged and convicted one person with a gang slaying since
2001 -- Vuthy Kong, who served seven years for stabbing
Adam Miu to death outside a nightclub.
said the laws, if passed, will grant police forces more
teeth when it comes to dealing with violent gang crimes
and that will make streets safer. "We got elected because
we know the people of Canada want us to take a tougher stand
on crime, want us to deal toughly with those who perpetrate
these crimes," he said. The proposed bills were welcomed
by Opposition parties, who expressed general support although
some complained the measures don't go far enough.
justice critic Dominic LeBlanc said the Conservatives should
also adopt three reforms advocated by the B.C. government:
A change in wiretap laws, a streamlined pre-trial disclosure
process to speed criminal cases through the courts and an
end to giving offenders double credit for time served in
said Calgary cops would also like to see an end to additional
credit for time already served along with reverse onus legislation,
requiring violent offenders to prove they deserve to be
released on bail. Staff Sgt. Gord Eiriksson of the city's
gang unit said while it's been tough to pin murders on gang
members, the new legislation will provide a large hammer.
"With the new legislation, if these criminals are convicted,
it's going to be 25 years and that's one person we're not
going to have to worry about for a quarter of a century."
lauds anti-gang plan
government is ready to move ahead with legislation aimed
at curbing violence
SHAWN LOGAN, SUN MEDIA
plans to get tough on gangs, set to be unveiled by Prime
Minister Stephen Harper today, are being welcomed but Mayor
Dave Bronconnier says they should go further. Harper will
be in Vancouver, which has seen a spate of recent gang violence,
outlining the government's plans to introduce strict new
legislation for gang-related crimes and drug offences that
will up the ante for those facing charges. Among the proposals
on the table are automatic first-degree murder charges for
gang-related killings as well as mandatory minimum sentences
for drive-by shootings and some serious drug offences. The
bills will be tabled in the House of Commons this week.
Bronconnier said while he's pleased to see some action from
the feds targeting violent criminals, he still wants to
see reverse onus legislation that would force offenders
with a history of violence to prove they are worthy of bail
instead continuing the current revolving-door justice system.
"We are still looking for tougher requirements for
those involved with the most serious of offences,"
he said, noting the government needs to include reverse
onus legislation in any crime bill. "When police spend
so many resources chasing them, we need to lock them up
for as long as possible." Bronconnier noted in one
case, a gang member was charged with shooting a firearm
at a city police officer "and was out on the street
before they finished the paper work," leaving city
leaders and police miffed at the lenient laws.
2008, at least eight of Calgary's 32 homicides were gang-related.
Since 2002, only one person has been charged and convicted
in Calgary with a gang murder -- Vuthy Kong, who served
seven years for stabbing Adam Miu to death outside a nightclub.
gang war claimed its first innocent life just this year,
with 43-year-old Keni Su'a, gunned down as he tried to flee
a shooting. Bronconnier said the legislation may help Calgary
deal with its escalating gang war. "I'm very supportive
of moving forward on this and I hope it gets royal assent
as quickly as possible," he said. "The legislation
is needed, more officers are needed and definitely need
War on gangs comes down to family
gang war has left dozens dead and city streets red with
blood. Calgary Sun crime reporter Nadia Moharib takes an
in-depth look at the raging war.
keep hearing families of gang members are afraid to speak
out and report on gang activity. This seems like a cop out
since there are 101 ways to reach out and not be caught.
How hard is it to make a call from a pay phone? Internet,
cell phones, snail mail, $&!, how about a message in
a bottle. Ya, family and friends are afraid alright ...
afraid they will have to give back their Benz, BMW, whatever.
They won't turn in their "such a good boy, couldn't
possibly be in a gang ..." he's driving a 50G ride,
has a Rolex and spends (money) on you and you believe he's
coming by it honestly? Let's start calling a spade a spade
and calling these family members out."
A local chat site posting
crimes threatening to flare up at a grocery store, cafe
or on city streets among innocent bystanders strike fear
in many Calgarians.
some people are tired and angry, venting in online venues
full of outrage, suggestions and questions. Many lay blame
with families for not stepping up to out their kin, and
amid all the warranted frustration, are quick to judge and
lay blame where it isn't always warranted. "Parents
are judged," says an investigator with years of experience
working on gang files. "Sometimes they should be and
sometimes they shouldn't."
much is said of those who end up with gangsters in the home
and much is assumed -- from accusations of laundering money
garnered from criminal offspring to being condemned for
turning a blind eye to bad behaviour. But some parents say
they, as much as anyone else, want the violence to end,
but instead feel accused of endorsing criminal behaviour
they are powerless to stop.In some cases, the allegations
are true. Other times they are not. And one parent says
his inability to do anything to stem the violence in no
way speaks to a lack of yearning to. "I've think I've
done as much due diligence as most," he says.
life we're living right now is not what I planned 25 years
ago." Some say the world of gangs crept into their
lives initially with unconfirmed suspicions.It wasn't until
police showed up, charges accrued and violence hit close
to home that they realized the hunches were right. One parent
can't isolate the exact moment his son took a wrong turn
towards violence. "They are dabbling in marijuana on
the weekends, a little E at parties and you think it's teenage
experimenting," says the man who, like other parents,
asked not to be named. "One minute you have a loving
family, you are doing things right and all of a sudden you
wake up and things are all wrong and you question yourself."
And he says while people are quick to judge, none offer
viable ways to intervene. "As a parent I can't take
my kids out into the horse shed any more," the parent
says. "One cop told me the only thing you can do is
change the locks on your door." But he refuses to go
the tough-love route, throwing a son deeper into the gang
world. "That's not an option," he says. "You
have to support your kids, no matter what." One organized
crime detective says he understands the plight of gang members,
ever so slightly, but more so can feel for the position
they put parents in. "I've sat across from them and
talked to them," he says of gangsters. "I don't
want to say I feel sorry for them but I guess you wish you
could help them get out. These are young kids, but if they
are beyond help then lock them up. "You can't blame
the family but you can't absolve them altogether."
homicide Staff Sgt. Barry Cochran says ultimately it takes
"growing up and becoming smarter" for people to
leave gangs, but parents shouldn't give up. "Those
parents who have the best intentions, I wouldn't suggest
they give up," he says. One parent says he hasn't,
but doesn't know what will stop the violence, either. "For
whatever reason they became hunted, it's the craziest thing,"
he says. "It doesn't have to happen, but the question
is how to stop it ... we don't need anybody more joining
the dead man's club. "Round up all the kids, maybe
it's against their Charter of Rights, so be it, and invite
them all to the remand gym, maybe 10 at a time, frisk them
and then have a serious heart-to-heart," he suggests.
"Maybe if parents of kids shot had a little meeting,
then whatever little influence we have might bring some
common sense to this, maybe we can solve some of this. "You
can't do anything about the lives lost but it's all about
the lives we can save."
AGAINST GANG VIOLENCE
justice to God. If they are caught or get a life sentence,
you will feel safer." Pastor Willy Reimer at a funeral
for Aaron Taylor Bendle, 22, shot to death in January "Please
don't let Matt's life be in vain. These senseless deaths
have got to stop -- we're begging for no retaliation."
Jeff Chubak at his nephew's funeral in January "This
stuff has got to stop, it's gone too far when it's innocent
people." Emby Kim, speaking after brother Sophorn was
killed in a drive-by in 2005 which cops called a case of
toll of innocent devastates families
names are lumped in with those of gangsters slain. And while
they share the same fate, several of those killed in gang-related
violence in no way courted deadly danger. For Gurjinder
Singh Dhillon's loved ones, the reality a good man's life
ended when he was stabbed in what police say may be a gang-related
attack, is devastating. "My parents raised us with
morals, to be good, to be kind to others," his brother
Gurminder says. "He was a good kid, an innocent person
at the wrong place at the wrong time."
stress the 25-year-old was not a gang member. On New Year's
Day, Keni Su'a, a 43-year-old man was eating at a restaurant
when gunmen opened fire at two people, including a gang
member, then chased him down and shot him. Tina Kong had
no gang connections but was gunned down while at a restaurant
last October. Sophorn Kim, 21, was said to be shot in a
case of mistaken identity and Tay (Jason) Dang fatally stabbed
in 2004 simply for dating a gangster's ex-girlfriend. "It's
so important, for his family, he is remembered as who he
was," Joshua Whiteley says of his friend Dhillon. "He
was the best person I've ever met, a good-hearted person,
from a good family."
say Dhillon's June 28, 2008, killing was unprovoked. His
friend was injured when he tried to intervene, but still
the pair were outnumbered by a group of assailants. "They
literally walked in and killed him and hundreds of people
have been affected," Whiteley says. "These people
were probably out to kill that night and ... for absolutely
no reason. "It just makes me question the world we
live in, if you can walk into a restaurant and kill someone
and no one is getting charged."
Crime Stoppers at 1-800-822-8477 if you have any tips in
the unsolved gang-related slayings.
bonds of love and loyalty make organized crime fight tough
While hatred between duelling groups is palpable, some say
something akin to love bonds the gangsters. Some are bonafide
relatives, some friends, but many are family, not by blood
but allegiance. Those are the opponents police are up against,
groups with a twisted but unbreakable brotherhood, men willing
to die for one another in a culture where you take care
of business yourself. "The main reason police haven't
cracked this is because they have got so much love for one
another," says a person who knows several gang members.
"They have a wall nobody crosses.
people don't look at themselves as being in a gang, but
basically as buddies who have got each other's backs."
Tight as those bonds appear, one gang detective says he
has seen how fragile they are with "example after example
where personal gain will trump loyalty." One man who
chose to leave the lifestyle says he saw how fickle promises
can be. "When I got out of jail, I noticed a lot of
people turning their back on me," he says.
thought, 'I'll go straight,' and then they started to think
I'm a snitch." Organized Crime Staff Sgt. Gord Eiriksson
says gang life can seem glamorous, but, "Let's call
it what it is: They are animals, they're worthless,"
he says, just weeks after four men were killed in two separate
gang-related attacks. "Yeah, they are someone's son
or brother, but these people don't have a place on our streets."
Still, police know it's easy for the entry-level gangster
wannabe to make a few bad choices. And they know how ugly
it can be once they are in. Sources say two men shot in
recent years -- one survived -- were targeted for being
behind a rival's killing. "I don't think some of them
even know why they are doing it, someone has directed them
to do it," a veteran gang detective says. "If
you don't have to get your hands dirty then why do it, who
better to do it than the New Kids on the Block?"
it's because he's a father, because he's not jaded or because
the contradictory truths are tough to reconcile. Whatever
the reason, the gang investigator concedes he sees both
sides. And when they are pitted against each other, one
seeking information, the other concealing it, he says it's
frustrating, heartbreaking and infuriating. "You realize
these are kids like any other kid who took a severely wrong
turn," he says. "I think any time a member is
co-operative and engaged in a honest conversation then you
are one human to another. I don't want to sound soft and
sympathetic, but you're seeing another side of them."
He also knows the flip-side is others pay for the choices
they make --from families of people hurt, to innocent lives
taken down and chaos unleashed on a city. "It's hard
to balance empathy for the person with the danger they put
themselves and people in," he says. And when gangsters
seem to barely care about their own fate, some question
how much respect they can give others. Some have been given
numerous "duty to warns," of imminent violence,
for instance, and "more often then not they shrug it
off," Eiriksson says. "It's very fatalistic,"
he says. "You are 22, what is the big attraction to
being dead at 23?"
when it does turn deadly, someone who knows several gang
members, while not endorsing violence, questions what anyone
might do. "How can you tell people, 'I want no revenge
in my brother's name?' " he asks. Police may not have
an answer to that, but keep pushing to find ways to convince
people not to resort to violence. Fear and revenge and all
that brotherhood fuel the violence. One young man had his
own company and a crime-free existence, but turned to the
lifestyle after his brother was slain, says a detective.
In recent years many young men, after joining those same
ranks, have been shot not once, but twice. Some sport battle
scars, some perpetuate the violence and others are buried.
And then there are the fringe players who haven't really
committed to the lifestyle but make choices pitching them
deeper into the gang realm. There are people involved because
they have to be, then there's kids who want to be involved,"
says a gang member who claims he's left that life behind.
"The only way to be involved is to prove themselves."
them back where they came from or stop allowing immigrants
in. It's all been said and will be said over and over again.
Despite rampant anti-immigrant rhetoric, the reality is
the term 'Asian gangs' is a misnomer in Calgary. Most of
those identified by police as members, and many slain in
the battle between two high-profile gangs, are landed immigrants
or home-grown Canadians, Organized Crime Staff Sgt. Gord
Eiriksson says. "I read all these blogs and people
think we are dealing with immigrants," he says. "People
say they can be deported, that is so far from the truth.
"The vast majority are born and raised in Alberta,
a good portion are Caucasian, they are second or third generation
Canadians and we can't deport them. "If we can do that,
we will make every attempt but they are not all Asian."
In recent years, there have been white men, Asian men, East
Indian men and a young man whose body was flown back to
El Salvador after a quiet memorial here -- all killed in
March 1, 2009
prove to be silent as the grave
voices just one of many roadblocks frustrating police in
ongoing gang war
Calgary's gang war has left dozens dead and city streets
red with blood. Calgary Sun crime reporter Nadia Moharib
takes an in-depth look at the raging war.
well is the best revenge."
man said $1 million would buy his testimony.
said if police moved him, his family and girlfriend and
offered protection, then "maybe" he might co-operate.
third young man said there was nothing they could do to
trump the fear that stood in the way of him helping catch
in mind, this was their best friend," the detective
says, years after working on the murder investigation.
is still baffled by witnesses' refusal to talk.
was clear to me we need to come up with other strategies.
We need to listen to what people tell us."
everyone has an opinion or a suggestion on how to end the
mess gangs have created in this city and the path of destruction
and pain they have left for so many.
lobby politicians for more money to bolster police resources.
demand a system that better metes out justice for gang crimes,
with tougher penalties for everything from dealing drugs
to carrying guns and being involved in drive-by shootings.
Crime Staff Sgt. Gord Eiriksson says there is ample evidence
criminals move in a dizzying circular route -- "a revolving
door" from the streets to jail, back and forth -- just
one of many frustrating realities facing police trying to
keep a lid on the violence.
they continue with dogged persistence to try to solve gang
crimes and keep tabs on members, they are also increasingly
ramping up an attack on the prevention end of the spectrum
-- taking the anti-gang message to the community as often
as they can to battle the blight on all fronts.
the gang-related slayings that are the most glaring symptom
of the scourge are still a formidable challenge.
feds recently said they are introducing legislation to get
tough on gang members accused of shootings, for instance.
as it is, that doesn't do much to bring them to court in
the first place.
Calgary, there has been just one arrest in a killing linked
to the two high-profile gangs, taking up so much police
attention and causing such real concern for law-abiding
say it is in large part because witnesses refuse to speak
and if gang members are victims, their buddies would rather
seek revenge than see a courtroom conviction.
for investigators, gang slayings are unique and tough investigations
rather than the smoking-gun cases that deliver an obvious
short-list of suspects, someone found with a weapon in hand
or a confession on their lips.
time and again, as another gang slaying investigation opens,
doors to any one who might co-operate are closed.
often than not, they are slammed shut.
again and again, each killing spawns a flurry of explanations,
of finger-pointing among people on the street as much as
police try to find out who is to blame.
shot Mark Kim," says a former gang member, his words
laced with sarcasm, referring to the gangster gunned down
Dec. 31, 2007.
top of all the rumours, there are people taking credit for
things they didn't do," he adds.
want their time in the spotlight."
still, day after day, hours of police investigation are
put into the cases.
At times it is so frustrating, it can seem like a losing
battle, says former homicide Staff Sgt. Barry Cochran, who
saw at least a half-dozen gang killings hit the unit before
he retired in recent years.
rather than seeing allies to help solve the gang problem,
the job for investigators is instead "compounded"
by several factors, including "the inability of the
justice system to be effective with these gang members"
and "court appeals and sentencing appeals" that
often "whittle away the consequences," he says.
there are challenges every step of the way, says Cochran,
adding it is often tough to convince the courts they are
dealing with a credible witness when one is also a gang
people are of no value. They become a resource-grabbing
cesspool of egotistical, greedy individuals focused on their
own interests and not the interest of their neighbours,
their community or their city," Cochran says.
amounts of resources are spent trying to bring someone to
"We are just continually dumping resources into a sinking
ship ... at some point there has to be success in a (gang)
from being entirely hopeless, however, there is progress
being made on the gang front by police.
are seized, drugs found and arrests made.
members are put behind bars, or at least, forced into good
behaviour by being under the close eye of police, while
others vanish to hopefully start new lives without their
are many successes citizens never hear about -- the close
calls where police manage to intervene before a scenario
escalates, the small daily coups.
Crime Suppression Team Sgt. Quinn Jacques says he and his
crime fighting crew have seen many.
it isn't necessarily in arrests, it's in their presence
deterring gang members from bringing their brand of crime
to the nightclub scene.
when his team isn't monitoring those spots, they are visiting
gyms and restaurants, for example.
they go to hang out, we go, too, we see who they are hanging
out with, what they are driving," he says.
seems bizarre, but we have developed relationships with
these guys -- we know them by first name, they know us by
don't know if they respect us but they tolerate us and if
people with gang affiliations are comfortable enough talking
to me and texting me, that's an inroad."
each time violence erupts, it's a reminder of the opponents
police are up against are still very much active and a threat
to every good citizen in the city.
"They have no value for human life," Eiriksson
says, referring to the New Year's Day shooting of an innocent
then two weeks later, we have another homicide at two in
the afternoon with these idiots firing weapons -- the violence
is getting out of control."
Given a truce is hard to forge between the animosity-ridden
rivals, police can only continue to do their best to stem
crime at times wildly unleashed amid innocent strangers,
and try to limit the ongoing violence they breed.
They will also continue to search for that magic bullet
to stop young men from getting involved in the lifestyle
and pull those already in, out.
for now, what many call a deadly and senseless dispute continues.
calling it a gang war," one veteran cop says.
not a gang war, these guys are the most cowardly, cowardly
of men that are committing crazy acts ... they lie in wait
for their opponent.
is brave men and women fighting for their country, not these
fraught with collateral damage
many ways, it's even worse than it appears.
much of the more blatant gunplay makes the news, so much
never makes it to the public domain.
are drive-by shootings and incidents, such as a recent shooting
at a luxury SUV at a gas station, where police apparently
arrived to find shell casings but the suspects or victims
not like many of the players talk to police, so there are
events even they don't hear about -- people shot, threats
made, the daily violence that is part of the realm of gang
then there are cases police learn about later, such as one
where a gang member took a long, painful drive to Vancouver
to be treated for a gunshot wound to avoid the attention
of police. Amid it all, there is always collateral damage
such as the father hurt when his son's rivals shot up the
family home and the young man shot whom police say was left
battle continues between police trying to end the deadly
duelling with gangs that have no apparent intention of calling
shot end up being people charged with everything from weapons
to drug offences.
go to jail while their girlfriends have babies.
die and leave behind so many living.
least three gang members killed in recent years left behind
young children, including one the father never had the chance
gang detective, who asked not to be named, says the strange
thing is some gang members are actually among those wanting
an end to it all.
think some legitimately want the violence to stop,"
said that -- but they are not prepared to step up and be
And a detective who, so many years ago, couldn't get any
of the friends of a young man slain to talk and help find
the killer says even gang members know the solution to stop
the chaos they cause is still so elusive.
told him as much.
said, 'Whatever we are doing, it's not working,' "
the detective says.
told me that several times.
wasn't telling us something I didn't already know, but he
didn't have any credible solutions.
not saying we're going to get rid of gangs," he adds.
we need is to rid the violence associated with gangs."
ads seek funding
alderman question billboards' effectiveness
NADIA MOHARIB AND SHAWN LOGAN, SUN MEDIA
police have missed the bus for nearly a year on an opportunity
to spread the anti-gang message. Police say they had to
shelve advertising inside and outside public transit last
April because there wasn't $35,000 in their 2009 budget
to place the ads. They also spent about $10,000 placing
the ads at places like movie theatres to target younger
crowds. Spokesman Kevin Brookwell said the Get a Life campaign
is still alive with its successful website, which provides
information for parents, youth and gang members in several
languages, and brochures. The police service also has a
gang hotline manned 24 hours a day. But the posters, including
one which features a man's foot with a toe tag and the message
"Gang Life is a Dead End", are no longer on transit.
approached the city with the cost dilemma and were referred
to Pattison Sign Group. The company gave police some discounted
rates but ultimately it was decided limited funds would
be better spent on the operational side of fighting gangs.
Brookwell said the hope is to see the poster campaign resurrected
as part of a province-wide anti-gang plan. "It was
coincidental when our advertising stopped on transit, there
was a noticeable drop in activity on the gang lines -- whether
or not there was a correlation or not is speculative,"
he said. The task with limited dollars, however, is to balance
between preventive and reactive efforts. "While it
is disappointing, we are hopeful, even with a partnership
with the province or within our current operating budget,
we will find the funds to re-initiate the ad campaign,"
city hall, aldermen have varying opinions on whether public
dollars should be used to keep the stark advertising campaign
breathing. Ald. John Mar, who sits on the Calgary Police
Commission, said the marketing campaign has been very successful.
"Calgarians right now are very sensitive to any expenditure
of money but the best thing we can do is prevention and
if we're talking about $35,000, we can find that money somewhere,"
he said. "If one kid stays out of a gang or one life
is saved, then it's worth it." Mar said there is likely
some surplus cash either through the city's protective services
or police commission that could be used to pay to get the
advertisements back on billboards and buses. But not all
aldermen are on board with the scheme, noting the payoff
for the expenditure needs to be proven first. "It might
make the average citizen feel a little better but is a billboard
going to keep a kid from getting into a gang? We can't do
everything," said Ald. Bob Hawkesworth. Hawkesworth
said the city takes the issue of street gangs very seriously
but the bulk of dollars should be going to enforcement.
for a gang fight
OF PROPOSED ANTI-CRIME LAWS SHOULD COME UP WITH A BETTER
There's a gang fight raging on Parliament Hill. Prime Minister
Stephen Harper picked Vancouver to announce his government's
tough anti-crime agenda. A spate of gang-related killings
has brought the issue into blood-curdling focus for citizens
in that city. Calgarians, who've enjoyed a bit of a lapse
in the murder and mayhem wrought by our local gang population
lately, also have a big stake in tougher new laws. While
Harper suggested the opposition would attack the new anti-gang
measures, the Liberals, NDP and even Bloc Quebecois signalled
their support. They even went so far as to accuse the Tories
of not doing enough to keep the streets safe.
have to wait until the laws go before Parliament to see
if all this tough talk matches with their actions. New legislation
announced by Harper would make murders linked to organized
crime automatically first degree -- subject to a mandatory
25 years in the slammer without parole. Drive-by and other
reckless shootings would draw a mandatory four-year minimum
police would also like to see an end to criminals being
given additional credit for time already served. That's
a move backed, astonishingly, by the Bloc Quebecois, who
also want an end to the common practice of granting day
parole to prisoners who've served one-sixth of their sentences.
Mon dieu! The Liberals appear no less eager to get tough,
urging better wiretap laws and streamlining the justice
process to speed trials to court. Even the NDP are calling
for more police and programs to divert youth away from gangs.
Sadly the team effort on the crime-fighting front likely
won't last long. On Friday, the Tories announced tough new
penalties for drug dealers and grow-ops, the businesses
that fuel gang activity. The opposition parties have already
warned they don't support these laws, because the U.S. experience
has shown they don't work.
critics denounce the government strategy for ignoring the
root causes of the gang wars -- alienated youth and massive
demand for illegal drugs. As the Sun's in-depth three-day
series on gangs illustrates, this complex problem has evolved
over a number of years. The new laws, tough as they might
be, aren't an instant solution. Calgary police admit their
main challenge is getting those with knowledge of gang activities
to talk. In fact, no one has been arrested in connection
with the eight gang-related slayings last year and only
one person has been convicted of a gang killing since 2001.
Slowing or reversing this murderous trend is going to require
a multi-faceted approach involving police, social agencies
and federal and provincial authorities.
anti-drug legislation would allow for drug courts that encourage
an accused to deal with the addiction that motivates their
criminal behaviour. That's important, but putting these
trigger-happy thugs away where they can't harm anyone is
more urgent. "What we want to do is get some of these
people off the street," says federal Justice Minister
Rob Nicholson. "We want to break up this activity."
Those who say these get-tough laws are futile should come
up with some better solutions.
Justice Minister Alison Redford says she doesn't want "to
hear people say we shouldn't try because it might not work.
"I'd rather have the legislation on the books than
not have it on the books," she told reporters. "We
cannot let this culture develop where people think there
are no consequences for making decisions that are in violation
of the rules of society." That's a sentiment with which
few law-abiding citizens would disagree.