Connected … and gang-related

Andrew Robinson
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RNC says shooters, likely linked to drug trade, picked wrong target in drive-by

Police believe a drive-by shooting in a St. John’s subdivision targeted the wrong house and is connected to a suspicious car fire and the local drug trade.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Chief Robert Johnston emphasized that officers are taking a proactive approach with the investigation and are already talking with potential suspects.

“We’re reading the riot act, and we’re telling them that we suspect they may be involved in these incidents. They know we’re being more overt than covert.”

Two homes and three vehicles were damaged during the drive-by incident on Dauntless Street, which is located in the Kenmount Terrace subdivision. Johnston said one of those homes was likely targeted, with the second inadvertently hit.

The RNC retrieved an assault rifle on the street following the incident, and reports indicate it was an AK-47. Johnston would not confirm whether it was in fact an AK-47, but he did speak about the unprecedented and brazen nature of the shooting.

“It was an assault rifle, and yeah, am I concerned? Right now what I want to say is that the people involved in this, they should be concerned, because we’re going to put the necessary resources into this, and we’re not going to tolerate it. As a community here in the province, this is an escalation of violence we haven’t seen before, and if it’s in the infancy stages, we have an opportunity right now to deal with it, and we’re going to deal with it.”

Resident’s reaction

Kenneth Neil was inside one of the homes mistakenly targeted during Friday’s incident. Bullet holes are still visible in the garage door of his home.

“I was just in there with a few of my friends watching TV, and we heard a couple of bangs, and originally we just thought it was my dad coming home banging on the side of the house, because they were in Florida getting back from vacation,” said the young man.

Once they went outside, one of his friends noticed a vehicle’s tire was losing air. Initially assuming someone had slashed the tire with a knife, Neil soon realized it was an entirely different scenario.

“I just thought it was kids or something like that, and then I looked and I saw the bullet holes in the truck and then I was like, ‘Oh, I guess it’s a little more serious than that.’”

Neil did not see any of the culprits, and his parents arrived home a few minutes later. While he found it scary to have his home mistakenly targeted in a drive-by shooting, Neil said, he still feels safe living in his neighbourhood. He also said Friday’s incident could be a sign of things to come for the city as a whole.

“You definitely didn’t expect a drive-by shooting in St. John’s, but I guess it’s getting bigger now and (there’s) more money, and I guess we’re probably going to expect more of that stuff in the future.”

Johnston was adamant in stating that residents of the homes damaged in Friday’s shooting were not the intended targets.

“I’ve had an opportunity to speak to some of the family members in the houses that were damaged by gunfire, and I can say clearly, completely and unequivocally, those people are just like the rest of us. They’re hardworking people that go to work every day. ... It was a targeted event, but they targeted the wrong house. There’s no question about that.”

Connected car fire

A fire on Hamilton Avenue was reported at approximately 3:30 a.m. Friday and the RNC suspects it was deliberately set.

A Mercedes-Benz and a Harley-Davidson motor­cycle were damaged, as were two homes.

Johnston said police believe that incident is connected to Friday’s drive-by shooting.

The RNC chief said investigators have learned through interviews that the two incidents may be linked to the Hells Angels.

“One person interviewed indicated that he’s in the process of establishing a Hells Angels chapter in St. John’s,” said Johnston, who would not confirm whether that person is a suspect in the investigation.

The incident has scared some residents of the area. One person who lives near Dauntless Street told The Telegram on Sunday that she expects it will feel different walking through the neighbourhood knowing what took place Friday.

Online comments posted by readers on Monday to a Telegram story about the shooting also expressed concerns about public safety.

Not welcome in city

Johnston said members of the Angels and other criminal organizations are not welcome in

St. John’s, and noted it was fortunate no one was hurt in either incident.

“Family homes where shots were being fired, it’s just not acceptable.”

Johnston expressed optimism about his police force’s ability to bring those involved to justice.

“I think it’s important for the public to understand that in the past we’ve seen this kind of organized criminal activity trying to set up here, involving the drug trade, and we’re very fortunate that we’ve detected, disrupted and dismantled two organized crime groups in the past — one being Operation Roadrunner, and the other one being Operation Razorback. And I have confidence in the investigators.”

Johnston said investigators are still looking to speak with the occupants of a small silver or light-coloured car reportedly involved in the drive-by shooting.

Ward 4 Coun. Debbie Hanlon told The Telegram Sunday that the Kenmount Terrace subdivision is a nice neighbourhood with lots of young families.

New homes are still being built in the area, with For Sale signs in the windows of completed houses on land where grass has yet to grow.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: Hells Angels, Mercedes-Benz, Harley-Davidson

Geographic location: Dauntless Street, Newfoundland, Florida Hamilton Avenue

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Recent comments

  • Kemosahbee
    June 04, 2013 - 17:55

    AK-47 - excuse me but I was under the impression that the Gun Registry was supposed to lead police to the owners of such weapons. It would be a restricted firearm if it were a semi-auto, or a prohibited firearm if it were an automatic - correct. Imagine, the bad guys don't register their weapons. So we appear to have assault rifes shooting holes in homes, cars and motorcycles in our capital city. Maybe the RCMP in Miriamichi should close shop and come to our capital city to see what is going on. Maybe even line-up a 1000 or so law abiding gun owners to check their paper-work - less risky than the assault rifes. I can still hear the proponents of the gun registry telling everyone that it would make Canada a safer place - what a joke!

    • Tim Jamison
      June 05, 2013 - 12:12

      I like the overall gist of your post, but it has some problems. Problem number one is I bought an SKS (semi-auto and almost identical to an AK-47) with my non-restricted, non-prohibited PAL. I did this at a gun store. It was perfectly legal. Problem number two is we shouldn't even be talking about law-abiding owners here. Until proven otherwise, this was done with an illegal, smuggled weapon. This is the Angels afterall, the same Angels that are responsible for all the illegal, smuggled pistols in Toronto. You can buy an AK-47 at the local gun store ($900, but they have to order it), but it's selector knob isn't there and the mags are restricted to five rounds. The articles have stated little in the way of details about the offender's firearm. They do not talk about it's action (full auto? semi?) or it's mag size, though I suspect by the sheer amount of bullet holes that it was an illegally large magazine, which you can smuggle in or which you can manufacture yourself (like Jason Loder)

  • doug
    June 04, 2013 - 12:58

    This from mcleans mag for those of you that think marijuana is a small part of the drug industry. "Hard as it may be to believe, Canada's biggest agricultural product is an illegal plant. Various estimates peg this country's cannabis trade at considerably more than $7 billion in annual sales--twice as much as pig farming brings in, and almost three times more than wheat does. Even the mighty cattle industry, at $5.2 billion a year in revenue, lags behind the marijuana business for sheer size. There is no formal market and cultivation has to be done surreptitiously, and still, nothing brings in the green like grass does."

  • doug
    June 04, 2013 - 12:07

    Just thought I would throw this out there: "Back in 2001, Portugal had the highest rate of HIV among injecting drug users in the European Union—an incredible 2,000 new cases a year, in a country with a population of just 10 million. Despite the predictable controversy the move stirred up at home and abroad, the Portuguese government felt there was no other way they could effectively quell this ballooning problem. While here in the U.S. calls for full drug decriminalization are still dismissed as something of a fringe concern, the Portuguese decided to do it, and have been quietly getting on with it now for a decade. Surprisingly, most credible reports appear to show that decriminalization has been a staggering success" I would post the source, but don't know if they allow it here, just google it.

  • seanoairborne
    June 04, 2013 - 11:13

    Legalize pot!What for?In Adam ,Holland, pot has been legalized for eons and there is a higher rate of hard drug usage in Holland then there is anywhere else in the world.That's no accident.The Dutch legislature screwed up years ago and legalized pot,but they have had a change of heart recently. They have been trying to roll back the law for the last 10 yrs,and have made some drastic changes.Now you are no longer allowed to use any illicit drugs in public,especially drugs that use needles,of which the parks where the kids played were strewn all over the place on any given day.Eventually,Holland will repeal their liberal drug laws.It's the old case of live and learn by our own idiots who are cackling about legalizing pot.Be careful what you wish for!Holland has found that out a little late and so will those of you who wish to push the legalization myth down the throats of our young people.

    • doug
      June 04, 2013 - 12:21

      Actually seanoairborne it is not really legalized in the Netherlands as shown below. "In The Netherlands the substances which are commonly seen as ‘illegal drugs’ are divided by law into 2 groups: harddrugs (List I) and softdrugs (List II). Cannabis is seen as a softdrug. Within the Netherlands there is no active prosecution against the individual users of softdrugs, but the substances itself maintain illegal. The Dutch created for this their own official ‘Policy of Tolerance’ (in Dutch: ‘Gedoogbeleid’). The government formulates it way more difficult, but in streetterms you can just explain it as an official ‘closing of the eyes’. This Policy of Tolerance does have its limits: - It's not allowed to possess more then 5 grams of cannabis in a public area or 30 grams in a private area. - For cultivation you may not exceed the amount of 5 plants. When you exceed these limits the tolerance stops and there will be some legal charges against you, when busted of course. So if you just follow these limits above you won’t have to worry about legal troubles at all." People should get their fact straight before commenting, I can do this all

  • Calvin
    June 04, 2013 - 10:30

    Sorry Doug but I have to disagree with you here. The amount of pot that is distributed around St. John's is nothing when compared with the value of the cocaine being distributed. A pound of pot goes for around $4000 depending on quality. A pound of coke goes for tens of thousands of dollars. Go to one of the gentleman's establishments around and ask a dancer to go home with you for a bag of weed, then when she turns you down ask her to go home with you for a couple grams of coke. What you outlined concerning weed takes place on larger scales than NL. Not to mention pot has been available here forever and this crime is only now showing up with the increased amounts of harder drugs.

    • doug
      June 04, 2013 - 11:46

      Sorry calvin but I disagree with you, you see 80% of cocaine comes from south America, where as marijuana can be grown anywhere, ever hear of busts where people are growing coca plants, didn't think so. I am not blaming marijuana totally for the increased violence/crime, but it definitely plays a role.

  • doug
    June 04, 2013 - 08:29

    RE: steve Marijuana is definitely a fact with regards to this event, marijuana is traded for harder drugs, weapons and sex slave trade. If marijuana were legalized it would become cheap as dirt as a price would not have to be paid for taking the chance of growing/transporting/dealing it. I have known small time dealers who are for prohibition as it keeps the price high and don't kid yourself there are people in government/law enforcement that are there to ensure it stays ILLEGAL. The marijuana trade is a multi billion industry, it should be legalized and the population allowed to grow their own personal, if someone were arrested for growing a couple of plants they should be commended as they are not purchasing from dealers, thus promoting the trade...amen brother

  • What Next
    June 04, 2013 - 08:01

    If the Police don't catch these guys who shot up innocent homes them I hope the MC's deal with these morons themselves!!!

  • Phil E
    June 04, 2013 - 07:43

    It's just not acceptable?? Sorry, but It's going to take more than strong words form the police to fix our problems. Excuse me if I am not put at ease by the words of our chief of police. If Leo threw them for a loop then how are they goign to handle the "professional" criminals??

  • Anon
    June 04, 2013 - 06:44

    Legalize and you'll eliminate half of these thugs' revenue.

    • Steve
      June 04, 2013 - 07:53

      Anon, Legalize what? Meth? Crack? Thats what this was about. Its not weed. The angels although involved in the Marijuana trade get much more of their revenue from the harder drugs. Pot is just a drop in the bucket for them. I personally believe in legalizing pot but I don't see how legalizing it will hurt the Angels or any other criminal organization. It will just force them to expand into other areas like hard drugs and weapons. The last thing Newfoundland needs is more access to harder drugs and assault weapons.