VANCOUVER - British Columbians should brace themselves for potentially violent reprisals in the wake of a targeted shooting in Kelowna that apparently killed a high-profile alleged gangster, say experts in the province's long-running gang violence.
Police have refused to say who was killed Sunday in a hail of bullets while leaving a glamorous hotel in the heart of the city's waterfront tourist district. Several media reports have said the dead man is Jonathan Bacon, the eldest of three brothers who police say control the Red Scorpions gang.
"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 needs to be alarmed by the brazen scenario that wounded five others, including women, as the group was gunned down in an SUV mid-afternoon by at least one masked suspect with a high-powered weapon.
"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 can't speak to the specifics of the Kelowna case, in part because RCMP haven't yet confirmed the identity of the man killed.
"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 reprisals 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 any thing 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.
RCMP say the general public isn't believed to be at risk.
Const. Steve Holmes in Kelowna said Sunday that's because the afternoon attack was directed only at the group of people sitting inside the Porsche SUV. Mounties aren't yet confirming most other facts, but plan to give an update Monday afternoon.
Witnesses reported spotting suspects dressed all in black brandishing what looked like semi-automatic weapons and then hearing a volley of gunfire, leaving a splatter of blood and the vehicle dappled with bullet holes.
The clamour unfolded outside the front entrance of the 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.
Kelowna RCMP Serious Crime Unit is working the case, with the assistance of officers from several other RCMP sections.
Raw video footage from the hotel and adjoining casino is being reviewed and police are asking any witnesses who may have filmed the incident to come forward.
No arrests have been made.