HOW SAFE ARE YOU REALLY?
‘Public continues to be at risk because of frequency of gunfire in the streets, in public places’
BY RATTAN MALL
“MY heart goes out to family & friends of the innocent boy caught up in the violence of the Vancouver shooting Saturday.”
That is what Premier John Horgan tweeted on Monday referring to the innocent, 15-year-old boy from Coquitlam who died after being injured in the Saturday night shooting in Vancouver while he was travelling in a vehicle with his parents. He was identified as Alfred Wong, a student at Pinetree Secondary in Coquitlam, on Tuesday.
Former solicitor general Kash Heed, who was a Vancouver police officer for decades and West Vancouver police chief, told The VOICE on Wednesday: “The Premier, if he wants to hold true to his words of being saddened by what has occurred on the weekend, needs to take some aggressive action to make sure that we have a strategy in place and law enforcement officials are held accountable to deal with this.”
He added bluntly: “I can tell you right now if John Horgan were to say to [Deputy Commissioner] Brenda Butterworth-Carr, Head of E Division of the RCMP [Commanding Officer of the B.C. RCMP], that you have two years to deal with this problem – if you do not, the RCMP are out of British Columbia, out of our provincial policing and municipal policing. He has the power. Whether he has the will to do it, remains to be seen.”
Heed said only Horgan could initiate changes because “the local mayors do not have, unfortunately, the ability to do it or the drive to do it.”
WHEN I asked Heed about police always asserting that the public is not at risk after every shooting and homicide, he shot back: “Probably one of the most ridiculous comments we hear from police public information officers is the fact that the public is not at risk. This [Saturday night’s shooting] is a clear indication that the public continues to be at risk because of the frequency of gunfire in the streets, in public places in the region.”
He added: “Law enforcement have had to deal with this for many, many years and they are not as successful as they should be and Saturday night’s incident is a clear indication that we have a lot to be concerned about.”
I asked Heed, with whom I have been in touch for well over 15 years now, what steps should the authorities take to deal with this ongoing menace.
He replied: “Well, it’s nothing new from what I’ve said to you over the years … we do not have a comprehensive strategy to deal with gang violence and drug issues in British Columbia. There is no comprehensive long-standing strategy …  one that deals with suppression of the problem,  one that deals with intervention in the disputes that are taking place between individual groups, and  the third one is the prevention part of it, because as you know from many, many years of covering this that when one of these individuals is taken out whether it’s from a law enforcement putting that individual behind bars or the fact that the person has been killed, the void is so easily filled by up-and-comers that want to be part of this activity. So the comprehensive strategy is critical if we are going to have any success in this.”
Heed added: “And the second part that attaches to that comprehensive strategy is accountability. We still do not have one person we can hold accountable to ensuring that that strategy is put in place and that we are dealing on an outcome basis rather than a process-driven basis [to get results].”
I asked Heed his opinion on what the CFSEU-BC [Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – British Columbia] that, in my opinion, has been doing a pretty good job in dealing with gangs.
Heed pointed out: “Again, I want to point out many enforcement agencies, especially those that are attached to the RCMP, are process-driven versus outcome-based.
“So they may have all of these processes in place that are supposedly supposed to deal with this problem, [but] they do not, because if you look at the results … and look at the results here – the frequency of gunfight on our streets and in public places – look at the incident that just occurred. And this is not the only incident that has occurred here.”
Heed than listed some of the incidents since 1994 where innocent victims were killed or injured. These included:
* “Glen Olsen during the Dosanjhs-Johal dispute.” [This was during the gang war between brothers Ron and Jim Dosanjh and Bindy Johal in the early 1990s. In April 1994, Johal’s neighbour, Glen Olson, was shot in a park behind his home while walking Johal’s dog. Police said the killers had mistaken him for Johal. Both the Dosanjh brothers were killed in separate incidents.]
* “You’ve got Rachel Davis at the Purple Onion.” [Imran Sharif was found guilty in 2006 of killing Richard Hui and Rachel Davis outside the Purple Onion club in Gastown in 2004. Sharif went on a shooting spree after getting involved in an altercation outside the club. Davis was trying to protect a teenage boy from being assaulted by a group of men.]
* “You have an individual that was shot in Loft Six, an innocent party.” [In 2003, rival groups inside the Gastown nightclub started shooting at each other. John Popovich, a DJ originally from Windsor, Ontario, was killed in the crossfire and Steve Stanton, a dance instructor from Los Angeles, was wounded.]
* “You had a lady in Port Moody who was sitting in her condominium when a bullet came through the wall.” [In 2005, Laurie Tinga, 42, was critically wounded while watching TV in the living room of her Port Moody townhouse. Bullets also struck two other apartments, but no one else was hurt.]
* “You go back to Chris Mohan and Ed Schellenberg murdered in the Balmoral Towers.” [Innocent victims Chris Mohan, 22, a South Asian, and Edward J. Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford as well as four other victims who police said led criminal lifestyles were executed in typical gang-style fashion at an apartment in the Balmoral Towers at 9830 East Whalley Ring Road in Surrey on October 19, 2007].
KASH pointed out: “You look at others that have been caught up in this gunfire and in this gunplay that take place almost nightly or daily in the region.”
He added: “I am frustrated in trying to ensure that accountability is put in place and I have said this for the last almost 20 years of trying to deal with this particular problem and we have little responses to it and then we kind of forget about it and then an instance like this occurred and all of a sudden it’s high profile.”
He concluded: “But I can tell you unless government and John Horgan take some assertive steps here to deal with it, we are going to be unfortunately be faced with the same set of circumstances that we had on the weekend.”