British Columbia’s anti-gang police unit has confirmed that it warned a B.C. man with gang links that he was under threat before he was gunned down last week in Mexico.
While refusing to give details about the timing of the warning to Thomas Gisby, a pair of senior Mounties told The Globe and Mail police routinely warn gang members when specific intelligence indicates they are in danger.
Mr. Gisby received such a warning. After the unsolved January bombing of his Whistler-area motor home, Mr. Gisby – who had risen to a position of prominence in the drug trade – fled to Mexico, where he was shot twice in the head while at a coffee shop in the resort town of Nuevo Vallarta. On Thursday, a Mexican police spokesman said they have no suspects and no idea how many people were involved in the shooting.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Mark Fleming said he regretted the way things turned out.
“It’s still a tragedy that anybody, any Canadian, would be killed, whether it’s here in Canada or abroad,” he said in an interview. “Some Canadians would say, `So what?’ That’s not what the police think.”
Given a rise in gang tensions, police expect to issue similar warnings to other members of gangs. “Any time we get information about any individual whether they be suspected or known gang members, we warn them there’s a risk to their life or their safety,” said Chief Superintendent Dan Malo, in charge of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
Gang conflicts in B.C. are flaring up. Within days of an RCMP warning about renewed violence over Mr. Gisby’s death, a high-profile gang member was shot dead as he got into his car at his parents’ home near an elementary school in Vancouver. Police confirmed Thursday that Ranjit Singh Cheema was the victim of that shooting.
Police say rival gangs are fighting for ascendancy in B.C.’s lucrative drug trade, fuelling fights that are now being settled with bullets. Vancouver is the port of entry for cocaine from Mexico, guns from the U.S., and B.C. is a major producer of potent marijuana, supplied from a network of grow-ops spread across the province. It is considered a multi-billion-dollar business.
Supt. Fleming and Supt. Malo said gang violence is down as a proportion of overall homicides, but fights are continuing among a small cluster of motivated gangs. Perceived slights, disputes over control of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, and retaliation, are fuelling violence.
Mr. Gisby was known to associate with the Duhre brothers, and Gurmit Singh Dhak, who had his own gang. The Dhak and Duhre groups have been in a war with the Red Scorpions, Independent Soldiers and Hells Angels.
Since 2010, there has been a cycle of disturbing violence in very public places, ranging from a shopping-mall parking lot in Burnaby, B.C., where a gang leader was shot while he sat in his BMW SUV at about 6 p.m., to the front door of a resort hotel in downtown Kelowna last August where Jonathan Bacon, head of the Red Scorpions, was gunned down by a masked gunman.
In January of 2011, veteran gang member Sandip Duhre was shot in the face as he sat in a restaurant in the Sheraton Wall Centre, located in the downtown core of Vancouver across the street from St. Paul’s, one of the province’s largest hospitals.
Following the killing of Mr. Gisby, police called a press conference to warn B.C. residents that gang violence, which in the past has included shootings in bars, nightclubs, restaurants and in city streets, could be erupting in public again.
Supt. Malo said gang members are often blasé about police warnings because they believe they can beat the odds. “Many of them think, at the same time, as they know the risk, it’s not going to be them,” he said.
With a report from Anna Mehler Paperny