VANCOUVER - Two men on trial for the murders of six people, including two innocent bystanders, who were found dead in a Vancouver-area highrise were full members of a gang that trafficked crack cocaine and used violence to take care of its problems, a former girlfriend told their trial Monday.
The woman, who can only be identified as K.M., is the latest witness at the trial of Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, who are each charged with six counts of first-degree murder for the October 2007 mass killing in Surrey, B.C.
They had been standing trial along with alleged gang leader Michael Le, but he pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit murder. Another alleged gang leader, Jamie Bacon, is set for trial next year.
Six people, including fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and 22-year-old building resident Chris Mohan, were shot dead in what the Crown has alleged was originally intended as a hit on a rival drug trafficker. Haevischer, Johnston and third man, who can't be named, are alleged to have been directly involved in the killings.
K.M.'s testimony on Monday didn't touch directly on the killings, but she offered a first-hand account of life inside the Red Scorpions gang, which, she said, ran dial-a-dope trafficking operations that expanded throughout Metro Vancouver and routinely resorted to violence.
The woman, who appeared emotional as she took the stand and spoke in a soft voice, testified that she first met Haevischer in 2003, when she was working at a McDonald's restaurant and he and Johnston were frequent drive-thru customers. Haevischer — who she knew at the time by his pseudonym, Blake — asked for her telephone number and they began seeing each other.
Before long, K.M. became aware that Haevischer sold crack cocaine as part of a dial-a-dope operation in Coquitlam, the suburb east of Vancouver where she grew up, she told the court.
Her friends from high school wanted nothing to do with her new boyfriend, she recalled.
"They all got scared and didn't want to hang out with Cody and his friends," said K.M.
K.M. said she hadn't heard of the Red Scorpions until the spring of 2004, when she went to a house where Haevischer was hanging out with a number of other men. She saw crack cocaine on a table, police-style batons in the room, and a newspaper article about a recent shooting in Vancouver, she said.
"They were joking around, they were saying how they did that shooting and that now that I knew that, they were going to have to kill me," said K.M., who was high on magic mushrooms that day.
"I think they knew I was on shrooms and they wanted to freak me out. I didn't really think they were going to kill me."
Not long after, Michael Le, who she said was the gang's leader, offered her a full-time job driving Haevischer to his drug deliveries, she testified. It paid about $150 a day and she took the job.
Over the next several years, K.M. ascended into the gang's inner circle, she said. She moved around the Vancouver area to different suburbs to work on other dial-a-dope lines.
"We were like a family; we were always together," she said. "If you needed somebody, they would always be there."
Le was in charge, handling the money and buying new product to sell, she said. The drugs would then be distributed to "work houses," where they were divided into smaller quantities to be sold, she said.
If runners had any problems — for example, if they encountered rival drug traffickers — they would call someone such as Johnston for help. K.M. said she saw both Johnston and Haevischer assault people who were seen to be causing problems.
"People really didn't want to mess with us," she said. "That (violence) was just part of it."
There were strict rules designed to avoid being monitored by the police, she said. They were to use nicknames on the telephone and speak in code, she said. For instance, heroin was referred to as "pants."
It was frowned upon to talk openly in vehicles, she said. Before speaking indoors, they would remove the batteries from their cellphones. Later on, in-person communication would be conducted using dry-erase boards and they bought encrypted BlackBerry smartphones, she said.
Drug runners were expected to swallow any crack cocaine they were carrying if they were pulled over by the police, she said, which she did more than once.
At some point in 2007, the court heard, the Red Scorpions gang merged with another group led by a trio of brothers: Jamie, Jarrod and Jonathan Bacon.
Johnston met one of the Bacons in jail, said K.M.
She said associates of the Bacons soon tattooed themselves with the initials of the Red Scorpions, "R.S." — an honour previously reserved for only the central, full-patch members of the gang.
The Crown has alleged that, after the merger, Le and Jamie Bacon shared the leadership of the Red Scorpions.
"I knew that Jamie and his people had Abbotsford and Langley and Mike (Le) and everyone just wanted to have control of the whole Lower Mainland, so coming together was a good idea," said K.M.
The Crown's theory is that Le and Jamie Bacon, who is scheduled to stand trial next year, ordered the killing of a rival drug trafficker named Corey Lal.
The Crown alleges Haevischer, Johnston and a third man went to the Balmoral Towers condominium complex to murder Lal, but ended up killing five more to eliminate potential witnesses.
Aside from Lal, the other victims were Schellenberg, Mohan, Lal's brother Michael, Edward Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo.
Jarrod Bacon is serving a 14-year sentence for drug trafficking.
His brother, Jonathan, was gunned down in a daylight shooting in Kelowna in 2011.
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