08/17/2011 06:00 EDT | Updated 10/17/2011 05:12 EDT

Jonathan Bacon's transformation was gradual, say B.C. high school associates

VANCOUVER - Jonathan Bacon wasn't always a bully or thug, say those who knew the notorious gangster back in high school, long before he embarked on a life of crime.

He was a mild-mannered youth, they add, a nice kid, an athlete with lots of friends.

Today, those same people are scratching their heads, wondering why the reputed leader of the Red Scorpions chose the life he did, a life that ended Sunday at age 30 in a hail of gunfire outside a Kelowna resort.

Jonathan Bacon was the oldest of three brothers the police have said form the nucleus of a gang heavily involved in drugs and guns trafficking. He and his youngest brother Jamie have survived assassination attempts in the past, but Jonathan's luck ran out over the weekend.

Police are searching for at least one gunman and have warned about reprisals, especially because a Hells Angels member and a member of another gang were in the same vehicle and were injured. Two women were also injured.

The Canadian Press tracked down a few of those who knew Jonathan Bacon in his teenaged years, when he was full of dreams and a student at WJ Mouat secondary school in Abbotsford, east of Vancouver.

Two people who knew him more than a decade ago agreed to talk but only on condition of anonymity.

"He seemed (like) a pretty nice kid," said one person who knew Bacon before he graduated in 1999. "He wouldn't be the type of kid you would expect to go down that road."

Back in the 1990s, he said, Bacon was a gangly student who wrestled, even though he wasn't particularly good at the sport.

He didn't even seem all that tough, the man said, but was instead just a "normal" youth. The acquaintance reserved the "bully" moniker for Bacon's middle brother, Jarrod.

Another person who knew Jonathan Bacon at WJ Mouat said the gangster's transformation was gradual.

He described Bacon as "mild mannered" and even kind of "small," big enough to be a good wrestler but not nearly big enough for sports like basketball.

He said Bacon was socially involved and outgoing and had two parents and money. He said most of Bacon's friends were athletes.

"I don't know if there was a turning point," he said. "There wasn't a particular instant. It was a gradual thing."

He said he doesn't know what motivated Bacon to embark on the path he chose but he wonders if it had something to do with notoriety.

He said that as the high school years began to wrap up, Bacon began to hang out with older, tougher kids, and the Abbotsford teen may have enjoyed the prestige those associations brought.

He said while he wasn't surprised by Bacon's violent death, he was saddened.