The shooting death earlier this year of the founder of a notoriously violent drug gang outside his Kamloops home has left a vacuum at the top of the local drug trade, according to police — a void that has resulted in a number of recent violent incidents.
But gangs such as the Red Scorpions, Independent Soldiers and United Nations are not established in the city, said Kamloops RCMP Supt. Brad Mueller, who took questions from reporters on Tuesday following what he called “a very busy and unprecedented 10 days.”
Police have dealt with multiple shootings and firearms incidents in the last number of weeks, many of which are connected directly to the drug trade, investigators believe.
“We’re very much aware of the recent increase in the number of gun-related calls in our community and the level of violence directed toward our officers,” Mueller said. “You ask me if I’m concerned? I am concerned. I am always concerned when there’s gunfire… . But I can assure the people of Kamloops that the Kamloops detachment has a good handle on our city.”
Konaam Shirzad, one of the founders of the Red Scorpions, the B.C.-based gang behind the Surrey Six slayings in 2007, was shot to death outside his Guerin Creek home on Sept. 21. Mueller said that slaying has resulted in criminals trying to “fill the void” at the top of Kamloops’ drug trade.
“It has let to some uncertainty and instability in the drug subculture in Kamloops,” he said. “Unfortunately, this has led to an uptick in violence. Ultimately, it has led to these conflicts.”
But Mueller said while there are associates of gangs such as Redd Alert, Red Scorpions and Independent Soldiers in Kamloops, those gangs are not established in the city as they are in Lower Mainland communities.
Mueller said nobody involved in the recent spate of violence in the city has connections to gangs, noting Shirzad — who told KTW in a January interview that he had left the gang life — had a number of people working for him in Kamloops, none of whom were linked to organized crime.
According to RCMP statistics, 2017 has been an unusually violent year when it comes to firearms in Kamloops. So far, police have tallied 10 shooting incidents this year in the Tournament Capital, up from six in 2016, two in 2015, five in 2014 and three in 2013.
“Certainly we’ve seen an increase,” Mueller said. “But that’s certainly consistent with what we’ve been seeing in other communities and across the province … These numbers are concerning, but they aren’t what I’d call alarming.
On Monday, police arrested Michael Boyer outside a Fortune Drive home. The 41-year-old is facing four charges in relation to an incident outside a Valleyview motel on Saturday in which he is alleged to have pulled a handgun on a police officer attempting to arrest him. The police officer opened fire on Boyer, police have said, but he escaped.
Earlier in the day on Monday, police searched a Nelson Avenue home looking for Boyer. The search turned up four firearms, but Boyer was not found. The home, 217 Nelson Ave., was the scene of a shooting that injured two people on Oct. 23.
No arrests have been made in connection with the Nelson Avenue shooting, but a related search warrant at a home on nearby Holly Avenue turned up one handgun, one rifle and two shotguns.
Bradley John Hartling, 28, is in custody facing four charges following a separate shooting on Saturday in an apartment on Holt Street. In that instance, a 24-year-old man suffered minor injuries after being struck by a bullet fired during an alleged robbery in a neighbouring suite.
Despite an apparent violent turf war being waged among local drug dealers, Mueller advised Kamloops residents to remain calm.
“The public should not panic. They should definitely be aware and there should be increased vigilance,” he said, noting investigators have nothing to lead them to believe more violence is imminent, but pointing out the “uncertainty” in the drug trade.
“At this point, there’s no indication there’s going to be enhanced levels of violence.”