1995: All the wrong moves
Richard Wolfe settles into a booth at a Regina pizza place wearing dark glasses, and orders a small Hawaiian pizza. In person, he is a large, imposing presence, though with a quiet demeanour. His extensive tattoos peek out from the sleeves of his black shirt, which is buttoned to the top in the style of a 1990s Los Angeles gangster.
Most young IP recruits start with a small tattoo on one hand, which they receive once they complete their first mission. Richard has four shields tattooed near his neck. Three shields is the sign of a captain, someone with roughly 25 people under him. He won't say what four means.
His personal downfall happened very quickly, he explains. In 1995, the owner of a Winnipeg pizza joint owed him $60,000 and wasn't paying. Word went around in criminal circles that Richard had no credibility. His reputation was at stake.
He called the pizza place and made an order for delivery: Hawaiian. He was expecting the pizza box to contain his $60,000, in cash. But he also decided to send a message: When the delivery car came, he ambushed it and opened fire. The driver survived, and Richard was arrested for attempted murder.
Before the trial, Daniel tried to come to his big brother's rescue. He took a sawed-off shotgun to the homes of two witnesses, threatening to kill them if they testified. They reported him and Daniel was sentenced to two years for attempting to obstruct justice. Richard got 19 years, an exceptionally long sentence for attempted murder. When he was led out of the courtroom, he recalls, a line of police stood and applauded.
The shooting was stupid, he says now. Normally underlings handle debt collection. “I lost my cool. There were lots of people mad at me for that.”
Daniel served his time, then soon wound up back behind bars. In 1999, he went down for armed robbery, sentenced to eight years.
Prison was nothing new for the Wolfe brothers. Daniel had first gone to jail in 1989, aged 13, and averaged nearly a sentence a year until he turned 19. Each time, he met people inside, and the force of his personality drew them to the Indian Posse. It's no wonder recruitment was good: Aboriginal people make up 22 per cent of admissions to sentenced custody (by 2007-08 numbers), despite being only 3 per cent of the population. They also make up 21 per cent of youth-gang members.
By the late 1990s, the Indian Posse had more than 1,000 members, perhaps as many as 3,000. And they weren't alone. The other large aboriginal gangs – the Native Syndicate, primarily in Saskatchewan, and the Warriors in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba – had several hundred each.
Prison officials tried to dilute the gang's influence in Manitoba jails by sending some IP members outside the province, including Richard and Daniel. But that only helped the gang expand nationally, first across the Prairies and then to B.C and Ontario.
Although the first IP members were all native, expansion brought cultural mixing. The first person to break the colour barrier was Ron Taylor, a black kid who knew the Wolfe brothers in Winnipeg. His gang nickname used the N-word – affectionately, Richard claims. (Mr. Taylor was murdered in prison in 2005.) Richard says he had no problem with letting in non-natives. Daniel wasn't so sure. In a 2006 letter, he wrote, “Every other family's numbers are up except ours [so]we had to swallow some of our pride and open the door. So now we got white, black, might as well say all nations … Bro I never thought this would happen.”
2007: A bloody day in Saskatchewan
In the summer of 2007, after Daniel was released from his latest round in prison, he moved to his mother's reserve, Okanese, just north of Fort Qu'Appelle, Sask. Police say he was on a recruiting mission.
On Sept. 20 that year, according to court testimony, Christina Cook, 61, returned to Fort Qu'Appelle from a trip to find her daughter and some friends at her home. A few minutes later, two men kicked open the front door. One wore a red bandana over his face. He held a .22-calibre rifle. Jesse Obey was sitting on a couch directly in front of the door. All he saw was the gun barrel, he later testified. The first bullet went through his cheek and blew out his teeth. The next hit the left side of his torso.