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Brittany Giese and Garrett McComb were lucky to escape death when their SUV was riddled with bullets during a gang-related gun battle in downtown Prince George this summer, but their luck ran out this month.

That's when the 19-year-old woman and 23-year-old man were found shot to death in a home in the southwest corner of Prince George, near the main campus of the University of Northern British Columbia.

For the first time yesterday, RCMP explicitly linked the gun battle and the double slaying.

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They appear to be part of a wave of gang violence that has rocked the city of about 77,000 people. Incidents since last Christmas have included everything from a brawl at a major shopping mall to a fatal shooting outside a popular restaurant to the beatings and torture of those who have not paid their drug debts.

"It means they missed [Ms. Giese and Mr. McComb]the first time; they got them the second time," RCMP Constable Gary Godwin said.

He said he could not comment on who "they" referred to. "I can't speculate on that, and I don't know, and I don't know if we know yet," he said.

But the RCMP have identified at least four gangs in conflict in Prince George, notably the Crew, the Independent Soldiers and a splinter group of the Soldiers; there are also the Renegades, an offshoot of the Hells Angels.

The gangs are largely local, but have links to affiliated organizations in the Lower Mainland. Gang activity has been a part of Prince George for years, but has heated up dramatically.

Constable Godwin said yesterday that most detectives in the Prince George detachments' major-crimes case are trying to crack the latest killings.

"It's a double homicide. We have everybody working on it in our plainclothes section interviewing people, and talking to their informants," he said. "I've been on the radio stations all over here, saying to people, 'We need information; please call.' "

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On Aug. 6, members of rival gangs opened fire on the streets of downtown Prince George just before 6 p.m.

A 19-year-old man sitting in a Lincoln Navigator with Ms. Giese and Mr. McComb was wounded and remains in hospital. Police have not yet identified him, but suggested they expect he will co-operate with investigators.

On Sept. 12, police raided the house that would later be the scene of the double slaying, looking for illegal weapons and seizing three illegal handguns. Two were semiautomatics.

Ms. Giese was among five people arrested.

On Oct. 7, police were alerted by phone to something happening at the house, where Ms. Giese and Mr. McComb were found dead. They have declined to detail what drew them to the home, which was being rented out.

The bullet-riddled SUV caught in the gun battle was parked in the driveway.

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Constable Godwin said the general public do not appear to be at risk unless they are involved with the gangs, or even buying from members of the gangs.

"We're concerned about anybody being murdered," he said, referring to the latest victims. "These are young people. They could have changed their lives. That aside, we're concerned about the public."

Earlier this week, someone threw a working bomb into a clothing store that sells hip-hop style clothing. However, Constable Godwin said, investigators have not linked that incident to the gang war. "We can't draw any inference to gangs."

The device was removed and destroyed by a police demolition team. The RCMP are declining to say what kind of explosive was used in the bomb, but Constable Godwin said "it was capable and had the potential to function perfectly."

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