08/16/2011 03:12 EDT | Updated 10/16/2011 05:12 EDT

Jonathan Bacon Murder: Slaying Likely A Crime Of Opportunity, Police Say


VANCOUVER - The summer sun was out as Jonathan Bacon strolled amongst holidaying couples and families in British Columbia's picturesque Okanagan, mixing business with pleasure at a lakefront resort.

Far afield from the Vancouver area, where gang warfare played out in bloody tit-for-tat strikes a few years ago, there was little to spook the Red Scorpions kingpin from unwinding with gangster buddies and two women friends.

Yet the easy-going scenario, laid out by a Mountie specializing in B.C.'s organized crime underworld, turned into a sublime setting for a daring drive-by hit.

"They simply capitalized on an opportunity," RCMP Supt. Pat Fogarty said Tuesday of the masked gunman who opened rapid fire on a luxury SUV two days earlier, killing Bacon and wounding up to four others in his company.

"Some people say they're (the gunmen) trying to make a statement. I don't believe that for a minute."

Police were aware that 30-year-old Bacon, a full-patch member of the Hells Angels and an alleged Independent Soldiers gang member had been getting together lately, said Fogarty. But they had no hint there was about to be a significant assassination in broad daylight.

"It's not like we would let something like that happen," he said, noting officers had warned Bacon and the other men several times there were threats on their lives, though he wouldn't say how recently.

"We're not perfect. ...This one kind of slipped by us."

Various RCMP detachments and officers within the combined forces' special enforcement unit, which includes the task force, are now investigating the high-profile slaying and working to find out whether any gangs might be mounting a counterattack.

Police and experts say reprisals could be likely, or even spark a renewed war.

Late Monday night, a man with apparent gang connections was shot at up to eight times as he was entering the driver's side of a vehicle in Surrey, police say.

Sgt. Peter Thiessen said the 32-year-old man suffered only minor injuries. He had been with three other men, including his 28-year-old brother, when the targeted hit outside a night club.

But investigators said Tuesday it's too early to know if the gunfire is linked to the Kelowna shooting. Fogarty noted there are some 120 gangs in British Columbia and police have said in the past that the violence is part of several gang wars, not just one.

Deadly shoot-outs marred Vancouver-area streets for several months in 2009, in part based on the rivalry between the United Nations gang and the Red Scorpions, which police have long said was controlled by the three Bacon brothers.

Jonathan Bacon and his youngest brother Jamie have escaped attempted assassinations in the past.

No arrests have been made in the new violence so far, and Fogarty wouldn't say who police suspect.

Witnesses say at least one man in a balaclava emerged from a silvery-green SUV on Sunday afternoon and sprayed the Porsche in front with bullets. The assailants took off, and officers were examining a burnt-out vehicle found later that day.

One man in Bacon's vehicle fled, and police haven't picked him up.

It's not yet known who was the shooter's intended target, or even if it was all three men. Shared business interests allegedly based on the illegal drug trade — in particular, cocaine brought up from Mexico and South America — is what most likely brought the group together, Fogarty said.

Such a business-based alliance is common in the gang world, he said, especially when members aren't raking in the kind of cash they'd like to on their own.

"They're not as tight as you think they are, there's no loyalty here," Fogarty said.

He noted a moniker calling the trio "the wolf pack," may have been used by an informant once to describe the alliance, but police intelligence doesn't suggest it's their official title or that their association is anything more than a loose affiliation.

It's not likely that the gathering signifies any sort of merger between groups into a super-gang, agreed Julian Sher, a Montreal-based gangs expert who is also a correspondent for the Globe and Mail.

But he said the drive-by shooting was meant to send a message.

"We have the guts to go after big names and big targets," he said, noting the show of force was just as important as the killing itself.

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