On Tuesday, a Canada-wide warrant had been issued for the arrest of Kelowna Hells Angels member Robert Leonard Thomas, 46, one of seven men charged with the murder of Kelowna resident Dain Phillips.
“I suspect he’s probably pondering what his options are at this time,” said Supt. Pat Fogarty, who leads the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit.
Wednesday at 3 a.m., Thomas opted to turn himself in at the Kelowna RCMP detachment.
Six others have already been arrested and charged with second degree murder of Phillips, 51.
Phillips is being remembered by friends and family on a memorial web site as a “gentle giant who never had a bad word to say about anyone.”
It’s a description that makes his violent end, allegedly at the hands of a pack of Hells Angels and their associates, all the more confounding to police.
“This is a senseless murder over a dispute for what?” said Fogarty during a Tuesday afternoon press conference where he announced full patch Hells Angels, Norman Cocks, 31, and Thomas, 46, are accused of the second degree murder of Phillips. They’re the first full patch-wearing Hells Angels charged with murder in the club’s 28-year history in B.C.
Five others with connections to the notorious biker gang also face the same charge. Robert Cocks, a 52-year-old president of the support club, the Throttle Lockers, and club associates Daniel and Matthew McRae, Anson Schell and Thomas Vaughan all appeared in Kelowna provincial court Monday and were remanded in custody until July 21.
While Phillips’ accused killers are all known to police and in some cases have lengthy criminal records, Fogarty insisted that the father of three wasn’t embroiled in any gang or criminal activity June 12, when he was beaten to death at the intersection of McCurdy and Gibson roads.
In fact, the fatal series of events that, initially, appeared to be part of little more than an outdoor brawl, now seems to be that Phillips was attempting to “do the right thing” for his family.
“This is a sad and tragic event involving a father simply trying to protect his kids,” said Fogarty.
“Dain Phillips’ sons were in a dispute with the McCrae brothers who were associated with Norm Cocks of the Hells Angels…(they) were ordinary citizens in a dispute with the wrong people.”
While there’s no information on what prompted the dispute, police say Phillips set up a meeting so both parties could discuss and work out their differences and put an end to threats that had been escalating in recent weeks.
That plan went off course when, en route to the meeting, Phillips car crossed paths with the other two other vehicles and a decision was made to pull over at the vacant intersection.
“Mr. Phillips comes up with his hands raised and everyone gets out of the vehicle,” said Fogarty, explaining there were two vehicles with seven passengers on the McCrae brothers side, and there were three from the Phillips in one car.
The six-foot-three man then faced a torrent of blows from bats, hammers and other weapons that police have chosen not to disclose.
With the 51-year-old on the ground, suffering from his injuries, the seven men piled back into the two cars.
Phillips was transported to Kelowna General Hospital and died the next day as a result of his injuries, with his wife and family at his side.
While no one from the family has made a statement, Phillips’ obituary reads; “Dad could be best characterized as a hard working man with a lust for life, and he was a family man in every sense of the term. Dad served his family with all of his huge heart up until the minute he died.”
However, as the Phillips family faced their struggles in the days following the deadly beating, investigators got a break.
“We had 60 investigators working on this case,” said Supt. Bill McKinnon, noting that it was when Combine Forces investigators realized a crossover from one of their files and the RCMP case, things came together.
One of the seven alleged killers, police revealed, is believed to be connected to the gangland style, drive-by shooting last year on Leon Avenue and Abbott Street.
Last September, in what appeared to be a failed hit on a 27 year old Edmonton man witnesses reported seeing an older, dark coloured SUV pulled up beside a Grey Nissan sedan, firing numerous shots.
By the time Mounties arrived both vehicles had fled, but police located the Nissan a short while later at Kelowna General Hospital, where the 27-year-old driver was being treated for a non life-threatening gunshot wound.
The victim, who was known for criminal code and drug related offences, and was later released, offering little information to police.
The suspect vehicle was later recovered, burned, in West Kelowna and, from a public perspective, little has happened since.
It may have faded further into memory, but to get the Phillips case squared away police had to show a bit of their hand.
“Throughout the province, CFSEU’s chief objective is to preserve public safety and to disrupt organized criminal activity that negatively impacts the lives of ordinary citizens whether that’s in Vancouver or Kelowna,” said Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit’s chief officer, Supt. Doug Kiloh. “The final outcome here is that our communities are safer as a result of these latest arrests.”
The Kelowna Hells Angels was the most recent chapter sanctioned in British Columbia.
The club was officially established in 2007, although members were active in Kelowna prior to that date.
The Throttle Lockers is considered by law enforcement as a support club to the Kelowna Hells Angels. They received their “patch” in 2009.