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When Daniel Wolfe was just 12 years old, he co-founded what was to become Canada's largest criminal gang. (RCMP/RCMP)
When Daniel Wolfe was just 12 years old, he co-founded what was to become Canada's largest criminal gang. (RCMP/RCMP)

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The ballad of Daniel Wolfe Add to ...

“I was curious whether he was smart enough to disappear,” Mr. Fonkalsrud says. “Would he go, get across the border, never pick up the phone, never refer to himself as Daniel Wolfe again? Or would he end up back in Winnipeg? Well, we know what happened.”

Eventually someone betrayed him: An informer's tip led police to the Winnipeg house where Daniel was hiding. They nabbed him in a car in the North End. He went quietly.

A year later, there was a heavy police presence, including snipers on rooftops, when Daniel's murder trial began at the Regina courthouse. The gang's penchant for intimidating witnesses was by now well known. The Saskatoon police chief said it's not uncommon in Saskatchewan courts to see gang members gesturing that they're going to slash the throat of a witness as he or she takes the stand.

In delivering the verdict, the judge said Daniel convicted himself with his own words.

“This case is evidence of Wolfe's callous disregard for human life. There are no mitigating circumstances,” the judge said. “But for some luck, many more people would have been killed. It ranks as one of the worst of its type in the history of this province.”

Daniel received five life sentences.

2010: The last stand of Daniel Wolfe

In January of 2010, Daniel's mother was driving along a snow-swept prairie road when she saw a white owl perched near the shoulder. “In our spirituality, owls give messages,” Ms. Creeley says. “As I passed, he just turned his head and followed the car. I thought, ‘This is not good.' ”

She was worried about Daniel. He had called to say things were crazy in jail. She pulled over to the side of the road and made an offering of tobacco.

At 12:40 p.m. that day in the federal penitentiary at Prince Albert, Sask., a group of six prisoners launched a choreographed attack on two inmates. In the surveillance video, Daniel can be seen at the back of the room, apparently unaware of what was happening. Senior Crown Attorney John Morrall, who later prosecuted the case, says Daniel was obviously not the target.

But when he noticed the attack, Daniel moved to help one of the victims. He was physically blocked by another inmate. He approached a second time and one of the attackers lashed out at him. A single stab – Mr. Morrall calls it a “get the hell out of here” stab – pierced his chest. Less than a minute later, prison guards fired tear gas to break up the melee. The attackers retreated. As the gas cleared, the two targets lay on the floor bleeding from more than 20 wounds.

Daniel appeared calm on the surveillance video. He sat down at a table near the wounded men and sipped a cup of coffee. He put his slippers back on. After a few minutes, he slumped over and fell to the floor. The wound had sliced a coronary artery. He was dead at 33.

2011: Wrestling with Daniel's ghost

Daniel's death weighs heavily on his older brother. Richard questions the decisions he and his brother made more than two decades ago when they founded the gang.

“I keep going back, thinking, ‘If we didn't make this, would he still be alive?'” he says. “Sometimes I look back and it overwhelms me.”

But he also can't conceal his lingering regard for what they built. “We did feel pride, me and Danny. He always used to tell me, ‘Be proud of who you are.' And I knew what he was talking about, right away. No matter what, when we pass away, 50 years down the road, when they bring up the Indian Posse, they're going to remember our names.”

Pride, in the end, led Daniel to commit the murders that precipitated his downfall. He couldn't allow a rival gang member to disrespect him in public. His life revolved around reputation and ego, and using violence to get what he wanted.

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press in 1994, Richard offered a kind of manifesto of the Indian Posse, in which he compared the gang to native warrior societies and talked about spilling the blood of racists.

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