DELTA, B.C. - Two brazen, targeted shootings of known British Columbia gangsters in less than a month may be the kindling that sparks renewed gang warfare in the Lower Mainland, say police.
The officer who heads the province's gangs task force issued an "unusual" alert Tuesday to anyone with links to two notorious crime families after a known gangster was shot and wounded last week in Surrey, B.C.
Supt. Tom McCluskie told reporters both that incident and the high-profile slaying of Red Scorpions' gang boss Jonathan Bacon in August amount to a high expectation by his 80 investigators that more attacks are on the way.
"We're anticipating retaliatory violence, yes," he said at a news conference held at an office of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in Delta, B.C.
"I'm not trying to instill fear in the citizens, but certainly there's enough tension in there that we're concerned there will be a retaliation, that there will be further violence."
The 24-year-old man shot in his car on Friday was a known member of the Dhak crime group, which police say runs an illegal drug ring throughout the Lower Mainland. One member of that family, Gurmit Dhak, was shot dead in his BMW at a suburban Burnaby mall last October, in another scenario police said was planned.
Anyone with ties to either the Dhak or Duhre crime families are currently believed to be in heightened danger, and hanging around with such people could result in peril, McCluskie said.
He said he's especially concerned for the members' girl friends and those who are simply connected on the social scene.
Members of both groups have been linked to criminal activity on numerous occasions by police in B.C. in the past.
While the public is not the intended target, McCluskie said, there's no telling where or when the tension will flare up again as gang rivalries rear their ugly head. It means bystanders could even get caught in the crossfire, he said.
Thirty-year-old Bacon was shot to death outside a posh hotel in Kelowna. The gunfire that put the latest gangster in hospital broke out on a city street.
"It's the fact these guys don't care where it is, they have no regard whatsoever for the general public," McCluskie said.
Officers are examining the possibility the two incidents are directly linked, although at this point it's too early to draw conclusions, he said.
"As of right now we haven't made any confirmed connection."
The news conference is the most vocal and direct police have been in declaring expectations around the possibility of more bloodshed since Bacon died.
Tit-for-tat clashes became a weekly occurrence for several months back in 2009, as turf battles played out in the Lower Mainland. There were at least four dozen shootings that year in the Vancouver area alone. Tensions were reduced to simmering, however, as police changed their strategy, made arrests of prominent players and conducted more behind-the-scenes enforcement.
Police say alarm bells went off for many dealing with the organized crime world when Bacon was unexpectedly taken out. A full-patch member of the Hells Angels and another alleged gang member were hit by the mid-day volley of gunfire on Aug. 14, while two others accompanying them in a luxury SUV were also wounded.
McCluskie said he's "pleased" with how his team is progressing in that investigation, but couldn't say when any arrests may be made.
McCluskie wouldn't give any details about the new "intelligence" his team has gathered suggesting people tied to the two families are in danger, in order to protect the investigation.
He said officers have already conducted several "duty-to-warns," telling known gang members they have reason to believe they might be next.
"I'm not confident it reaches all those individuals, I'm hopeful," he said, noting he's less concerned about giving the groups credence by putting out the warning than letting the public know the risks.
"Quite often the gangs don't listen to us very well."