Vancouver shooting deaths may be reprisals in gang war
Murders at Chinese restaurant linked to drug deal
Vancouver police say they are pouring resources and manpower into preventing a gang war in the aftermath of a shooting last week, in which masked gunmen killed two diners and wounded six others at a Chinese restaurant.
Sources familiar with the investigation said there were initial indications that the killings at the Fortune Happiness restaurant, in the city's Eastside district, were in retaliation for an unpublicised incident the week before the August 9 shootings. The earlier incident, said the source, was over a drug deal that went sour.
'We are launching probably one of the largest investigations in our history,' said police chief Jamie Graham. When asked about the possibility of retaliation, he said police would consult sources for information.
Police have refused to identify the victims, but friends and family said 19-year-old Zachary Ferland was one of the dead men. His adoptive parents have refused to discuss the incident, but a page on the Facebook website had been set up in honour of the man from Prince Rupert, British Columbia province.
One of the injured men was identified by Global BC television station as Son 'Sonny' Bui. One of the six injured men is in critical condition, two are in serious conditions.
Police have refused to discuss the motives for the shooting, but it has been widely presumed to be linked to Vancouver's thriving gang and drug culture.
Constable Howard Chow said that for the past few years the market in illegal drugs has been fairly steady among the different groups orchestrating the harvest, trade and redistribution of funds or goods in return for marijuana. But an influx of guns among Vancouver gangs has worried police because of the higher potential for bystanders to be injured during exchanges of gunfire.
'This is not the way it used to be,' said Constable Chow. 'Before we would see knives as the weapon of choice. Just a few years ago, when we seized a gun from someone off the streets, other police officers would come to the scene to see it because it was so rare.'
An estimated 80 gangs are involved in British Columbia, but three major players have dominated the sale and export of marijuana.
'There's always jostling for market share because the trade is now continent-wide with exports going south and east,' said Rob Gordon, the director of the school of criminology at Simon Fraser University.
'No one else is able to produce the quality of marijuana that [British Columbia] does and there are groups that are taking advantage of that.'
Professor Gordon said the illegal drug trade is chiefly operated by the Hell's Angels, the financiers who have the real estate and the cash to fund hydroponics operations. The 'growers' and 'harvesters' are mainly Vietnamese gangs, and the marijuana is then turned over to the 'transporters', the Indo-Canadian gangs, for distribution.
Rivals gunned down a well-known Indo-Canadian gang member at a Vietnamese restaurant near the latest attack two years ago.
The illegal drug trade in British Columbia, worth an estimated C$7 billion (HK$51 billion) annually, is the third biggest, albeit underground, business in the province's economy, ranking behind tourism and fishing.
Recently Canadian and US authorities tracked and arrested three British Columbia men after discovering a tunnel that ran underneath the border between the two countries.
The tunnel, shares of which were offered among criminals, was the first found between the Unites States and Canada. Tunnels had previously been found between Mexico and the US to transport illegal immigrants.
Transporting drugs through the tunnel, which was shut down before it could be operational, would have generated US$165,000 a day.