Two men on trial for the murders of six people, including two innocent bystanders, in a Vancouver-area high-rise 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 on Monday.
The woman, who can be identified only 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, who pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy to commit murder. Jamie Bacon, another alleged gang leader, 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 intended as a hit on a rival drug trafficker. Mr. Haevischer, Mr. Johnston and a man who can’t be named are alleged to have been directly involved in the killings.
K.M.’s testimony Monday did not 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 and spoke in a soft voice, testified that she met Mr. Haevischer in 2003, when she was working at a McDonald’s restaurant and he and Mr. Johnston were frequent drive-thru customers. Mr. Haevischer – who she knew by his pseudonym, Blake – asked for her telephone number and they began seeing each other.
Before long, K.M. became aware that Mr. 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,” K.M. said.
K.M. said she hadn’t heard of the Red Scorpions until the spring of 2004, when she went to a house where Mr. Haevischer was with a number of other men. She saw crack cocaine, police-style batons, 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 Mr. Haevischer to his drug deliveries, she testified. It paid about $150 a day and she accepted.
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.”
Mr. Le was in charge, handling the money and buying new product to sell, she said. The drugs were distributed to “work houses” and 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 Mr. Johnston for help. K.M. said she saw Mr. Johnston and Mr. Haevischer assault people who caused problems. “People really didn’t want to mess with us,” 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.
The Crown’s theory is that Mr. 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 Mr. Haevischer, Mr. Johnston and the third man went to the Balmoral Towers to murder Mr. Lal, but ended up killing five more to eliminate potential witnesses.