The news of arrests this week of three suspects in the August 2011 murder of Jonathan Bacon was greeted no with shock or relief by the people I know in the Lower Mainland weary of gang violence, but with shrugs of indifference.
To be sure, Bacon's murder was shocking and terrifying, and its perpetrators cold-blooded and indifferent to the danger they forced upon the public. But for those observing what has been a long and violent gang war in British Columbia, the arrests -- even if they lead to convictions and long sentences -- will do little if anything to slow the violence.
As Bacon was driving his Porsche Cayenne SUV out of the parking lot of the Delta Grand Okanagan resort, masked men leapt from a Ford Explorer and opened fire -- Mexican cartel-style -- with assault weapons. It was clearly a targeted assassination.
Bacon died on the scene. His front-seat passenger, Larry Amero, was critically injured but recovered. In the back, Leah Hadden-Watts was hit in the neck and became a quadriplegic, James Raich was grazed but basically unhurt and Lyndsey Black was, depending on who you believe, either unscathed or wounded in her foot.
The people in the Porsche were more than just friends. According to police and other sources, Bacon was in charge of the Red Scorpions gang, Amero was a high-ranking member of the Hells Angels, Raich was a member of an allied gang called the Independent Soldiers, Hadden-Watts is the niece of another prominent Hells Angels and Black was her roommate.
The alleged gangsters were said to be meeting in Kelowna -- which was far more lightly policed than their usual hangouts -- to organize a new gang, the Wolfpack, which police allege was formed to sell drugs acquired primarily from the Hells Angels. Amero has since been arrested in Montreal, where police say he was selling drugs, filling in for Montreal Hells Angels who'd been arrested in an earlier operation.
Of course, selling drugs is a dangerous game. With so much money involved, friction between rival gangs often emerges, and disagreements over territory frequently erupt into violence. Because of this, gangs form alliances for mutual protection. In British Columbia, as with the rest of Canada, those alliances fall into two groups -- those aligned with the Hells Angels and those against them.
The primary organizations who oppose the Hells Angels in B.C. are the Duhre gang, the Dhak Brothers gang and the United Nations (although its members have strayed over the fence on occasion). So it's no surprise that the three men arrested for Bacon's murder -- my sources say a fourth suspect has since died -- have ties to them.
Jujhar "Gianni" Singh Khun-khun, 25, appears to be a definitive example of a contemporary gangster -- a kid who keeps flouting the law because no matter how many times he gets caught or hurt, he keeps going back to the life. He first made news in May 2006 at age 19 when, using a fake police badge and a fake gun, he held a transport truck driver at bay while an associate robbed the truck. He spent a few months in jail.
In 2007 -- a few days after receiving a suspended sentence for attempting to use a stolen credit card -- his 19-year-old fiancé, Sukhvir Kaur Grewal, died after she somehow fell out of a truck he was driving at high speed. No charges were laid.
In 2009, he was charged with armed robbery of an Edmonton jewellery store, but acquitted. In August 2011, police in Nanaimo stopped his Acura SUV because he was driving erratically. Using the scent of marijuana as a reason to search, they found 7.5 grams of weed, 27.5 grams of crack, 108 ecstasy pills, a scale, a radio jamming device and $1,700 in cash.
By that time, police were identifying him as a high-ranking member of the Dhak Brothers gang. In October 2010, he was present but unhurt when gangster Gurmit Singh Dhak was gunned down in Burnaby's Metrotown Mall. Khun Khun was shot 10 times, including once in the heart, on Sept. 16, 2011 when gunmen attempted to assassinate gangster Sukh Singh Dhak. The care of a combat surgeon fresh from Afghanistan saved his life. Unbelievably, he was shot again on Jan. 15, 2013 in Surrey when gunmen assassinated Dhak associate Manjinder Hairan. He managed to drive himself to a hospital.
Similarly, Jason Thomas McBride, 37, of North Vancouver, had a long series of run-ins with the law, starting with a break-and-enter arrest in Victoria in 1998 and moving on to weapons offenses. Little is publicly known about the other man changed, Michael Hunter Jones, 25, of Gibsons, but police allege that both he and McBride are tied to gangs aligned against the Hells Angels.
If they are convicted, the police will have managed to take three men they believe are capable of murder and endangering innocent members of the public to support their side of the drug trade off the streets.
But British Columbia residents -- who have seen bodies pile up as tit-for-tat shooting between the two sides have been intense since 2009 -- know it won't make much difference. As long as there is profitable territory to be fought for, and shootings that need to be avenged, there will be gang-related violence in British Columbia.
And, if they are guilty, putting these three behind bars will do no more to stop the violence than their bullets did when they took out Bacon and law enforcement arrested his brothers. The hard lesson learned is that there are plenty of young men who will kill for drug money.