Hours after RCMP confirmed Red Scorpions leader Jonathan Bacon was the man slain outside a Kelowna hotel and said retaliation was a possibility, shots rang out in Surrey in what police called a targeted attack against a man with gang connections.
Mounties said they had not come across any evidence the two events were connected. But the Surrey incident highlighted the heightened tension in a province that was plagued by a bloody turf war and near-daily shootings two years ago.
RCMP in Kelowna – the Okanagan city where Mr. Bacon was gunned down outside a posh waterfront resort – said little about their investigation Tuesday.
But organized-crime experts weighed in on what the 30-year-old Mr. Bacon may have been doing inside a white Porsche SUV with members of two other gangs, the Hells Angels and the Independent Soldiers.
The men had formed an unprecedented alliance of the three crime groups, called the Wolf Pack. One gang expert said that may have been their undoing.
"It's a blending of some pretty powerful guys from three different groups – just for business. But at the end of the day, that probably served to be their downfall," said Inspector Andy Richards of the Port Moody police. Mr. Richards has led investigations into all three gangs in a decades-long career with Vancouver police and the Organized Crime Agency of B.C.
Mr. Richards said the three men were not planning to form some sort of new super-gang – it was more of a business arrangement. He said he had never seen such co-operation among former rivals. Gang loyalty is fierce and it is extremely unusual, for example, for a full-patch Hells Angels member to be seen cavorting, let alone co-operating, with rival gangs.
But Mr. Richards said the attack might well have come from another B.C. gang that felt threatened by the alliance's prospective success.
Mr. Bacon was the oldest of three brothers who controlled the Red Scorpions gang. The brothers became well known in B.C. a few years ago when police warned the public to steer clear of them, for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.
Superintendent Pat Fogarty of B.C.'s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, which fights organized crime, said information has started to come in regarding the Kelowna shooting.
"That doesn't mean it's accurate. You have to weed out what's seriously reliable information and what isn't. Sometimes people phone in and they speculate what happened, but they don't know," he said, adding information can come from sources such as informants and social networking websites.
The B.C. government said more than 200 organized-crime members have been arrested since its gangs-and-guns strategy was brought in two years ago, during the last prolonged wave of violence. Funding for the initiative continues until the end of the year, and a spokesman for the ministry of public safety said the province is committed to maintaining its investment in future years. The spokesman said Ottawa must also maintain its funding so the program's progress isn't lost.
Mr. Fogarty expected the initiative would continue.
"I'm confident that the government – whether it's local, provincial, federal or a combination thereof – will continue to support the CFSEU gang and organized crime program in all the communities that they have established," he said.
"I can easily default to saying I'd like 100 more people. But I try to take a balanced approach. I want to make sure that we are using our resources to the best of our ability and make sure that we're streamlined."
Kelowna RCMP asked for the public's help Tuesday in identifying a vehicle of interest, a silver and green Ford Explorer. A similar vehicle was spotted fleeing the scene of Sunday's shooting. It was found charred a few hours later. Police have not confirmed the vehicle's connection to the incident.
The Surrey shooting occurred Monday night. Police received numerous 911 calls and located a 32-year-old man who was shot at six to eight times while entering the driver's side of a vehicle. He was not struck by any of the bullets and the only injuries he received were as a result of flying glass.
RCMP said the victim appears to have gang connections and was targeted in the attack. Police are attempting to determine whether the shooting is linked to other incidents or killings in the province, but said there's no evidence it's linked to Mr. Bacon's death.
No arrests have been made in either case.
"The gang-related violence that we see and have seen occurs in cycles. We may experience periods of relative calm followed by several violent and very public incidents," Sergeant Peter Thiessen, an RCMP spokesman, wrote in a statement.