Kelowna marks anniversary of gangland shooting

Kelowna residents will mark a grim anniversary this week, with no more clarity on what briefly turned the downtown into a war-zone than they had a year ago.

A hail of gunshots was released in front of the Delta Grand Hotel, shattering the usual calm of an Okanagan summer, late in the afternoon Aug. 14, 2011.

Full-patch Hells Angel Larry Amero and James Riach of the Independent Soldiers were shot and wounded and Leah Hadden-Watts, 21, whose uncle is the president of the Haney Hells Angel chapter, was paralyzed by a bullet.

Notorious B.C. gangster Jonathan Bacon, 30, was killed and Riach fled the scene.

Miraculously, no bystanders were injured.

All that information was laid out in the days following the shooting, but little has changed in the public view since.

"All we're saying is that the investigation is progressing. I can't give details on what we've done or or the investigation," said Sgt. Bill Whalen, with Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.

He also couldn't speak to what's happened to the survivors of the attack, noting that's a private matter, or who in particular the suspected gunman may be.

But, he said, there's no reason for locals to worry that there will be a repeat performance in the days to come despite last year's warnings that a reprisal may be at hand.

"People shouldn't be concerned, there's been nothing that's happened in Kelowna since that time," he said.

While there may be little gang activity related to that particular shooting in the city, many of those who were closest to the violence have had many concerns since that time.

Daniel Bibby, the general manager of the Delta Grand, said his employes have had their ups and downs in the aftermath.

"It's difficult to look back, even though it's been a year now since that tragic event rocked our community," he said.

"It's such an isolated incident that summer in Kelowna…but with that said, it took an emotional toll on us all."

Immediately after the shooting the hotel established  post-traumatic stress disorder counselling, and most were able to move on.

"We've had a couple employees— as is the case of anything of that nature, if affects different people in different ways—who have needed more support along the way," he said.

And, he said, there's been a silver lining.

"Sometimes it takes an event of this nature to bring a group together," he said. "If there's a silver lining to any event, it's that our team came together as a family  and the community outreach was amazing."

Bibby said the staff were comforted by the community support, and it taught him the value of this city.

"It would take more than event of this nature to convince me this isn't the most amazing community in the country," he said.

Bibby also wasn't dissatisfied with the police effort. Despite the fact  there's been no arrests from the brazen daylight shooting, he noted that they've been very helpful.

He's also been working with the mayor and the business community on the best practices for dealing with gang members, to ensure guests would be safe in the future.


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