The fraught landscape in the Kamloops underworld that has erupted violently in recent weeks, leaving three men dead and many more injured, can be traced back more than a year to a brazen murder outside a Guerin Creek home.
Kamloops This Week spoke with multiple justice and law-enforcement officials — police officers and others — for this story about the violence unfolding on city streets. Most of them were not authorized to speak on the record and KTW has agreed not to name some of them in the interest of informing the community.
Prior to the murder of Konaam Shirzad on Sept. 21, 2017, three groups are believed to have essentially controlled the city’s drug trade.
One was Shirzad’s crew aligned with the Red Scorpions, the gang he founded a dozen years earlier with four friends.
Another was believed to have been an operation helmed by well-known alleged gangster Jason Robertson, an organization that sometimes worked alongside Shirzad’s network.
The third was an organized crime group backed by outlaw bikers and allegedly operated by a pair of Kamloops men who have been well known to local police for more than 10 years.
Each group had its own slice of the pie, justice officials said, and things were generally calm.
That changed with Shirzad’s murder.
In the aftermath of the slaying, believed to have been the result of gang infighting, control of the Kamloops drug trade was in flux.
Shirzad had two high-ranking lieutenants willing to take over the group.
One had just been targeted by police in a sizeable drug bust, though, and the other had recently been released from prison.
Neither was in a position to assume control. Both men are still trying to assert themselves, KTW has been told.
One is Erwin Dagle, believed by sources to be attempting to pull strings from behind bars, where he’s been since December 2017. The 24-year-old was sentenced last week to a decade in prison after pleading guilty to drug charges stemming from a raid weeks before Shirzad was killed.
The other, still active in the city’s drug trade, is the chief suspect in the October 2018 murder of Troy Gold, who is believed to have been killed after working for opposing criminal organizations.
The biker-backed crew took advantage of the power vacuum following Shirzad’s 2017 murder, KTW has been told, and filled the void.
For most of 2018, KTW has learned, the group was essentially controlling the drug trade in Kamloops.
That changed when one of the organization’s operators left B.C. The instability created by his departure from the community, sources said, led to increased violence — culminating in a string of deadly gangland shootings.
On Jan. 23, two men were shot to death at separate Kamloops hotels. Cody Mathieu was killed at a Valleyview motel and Rex Gill, who police believe was killed in a case of mistaken identity, was gunned down at an Aberdeen hotel.
On Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, a number of low-level Kamloops drug dealers are believed to have been targeted in violent robberies.
Michael Mathieson, Justin Daniels and Robert Rennie are all facing charges in connection with the incidents.
Court documents state a number of men were beaten and robbed. Police say a woman was kidnapped and taken from Kamloops to Kelowna.
She was eventually found by police inside a vehicle near Falkland.
The same day, two people were shot at a Brocklehurst apartment building. Jason Glover was killed and Kelly Callfas was injured.
Two men, Gordie Braaten and Hugh McIntosh, have been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder. McIntosh was located by police last week and Braaten was arrested on Monday.
Kamloops RCMP Staff Sgt. Simon Pillay would not get into specifics about the local gang landscape when asked by KTW.
“There’s very little we can refute or confirm,” Pillay said, noting the groups involved are changing constantly.
“Allegiances and violence, they cycle on a weekly basis in these types of groups. So, to say that one [event] led to another is very much an over-simplification.”
RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky, the city’s top cop, acknowledged the violence could be traced back to Shirzad’s murder.
“There is a lot,” he said.
“There’s things going back. You can go back to Konaam Shirzad, that was a big event. Certainly in the drug culture, that was the start of when these things began.”
Pillay said gangs are active in Kamloops even when violence is not making headlines.
“There is provincial-level organized crime groups that have an impact in Kamloops,” he said.
“I can’t confirm or refute what line they are from. … Organized crime is always a threat to any community. By their very nature they resolve conflict with criminal activity, which is typically violence.”
Pillay said gang co-operation can give the appearance of safety, but it is often short-lived.
“When that violence is happening in public spaces, that’s when it affects your average community member,” he said. “So, the community is going to be safer when there is no violence, but you can never rely on one organized crime group operating with another organized crime group.”
Pillay acknowledged that the recent spike in violent gang-related crime is likely the worst Kamloops has ever seen.
“Typically what happens is there’s a conflict either between two competing lines or a conflict within a drug line, or even for personal reasons, and that ends up in violence,” he said.
“The violence comes in cycles and this is the worst violence we’ve seen in recent memories or ever for this community.”
Lecky, who assumed command of the city’s detachment last summer, said he doesn’t expect the violence to continue.
“I can’t say that it’s a new normal,” he said.
“I’m told this is unprecedented, certainly, what we’re dealing with in Kamloops.”
Konaam Shirzad was shot to death outside his Guerin Creek home on Sept. 21, 2017. The 34-year-old was one of the founders of the Red Scorpions gang, the criminal organization behind the infamous Surrey Six slayings. Investigators believe Shirzad was a major player in the Kamloops drug trade prior to his murder. Prosecutors have said recently police have “viable suspects” in the slaying, though no arrests have been made.
On May 7, 2014, police raided three Kamloops homes in relation to a lengthy investigation into Jason Robertson, alleged in court to be one of the city’s drug kingpins but not charged with any trafficking crimes. Robertson was sentenced last year to spend 18 months behind bars following his conviction on a number of weapons offences, but he is free on bail pending appeal. At the time of the raids, all at properties owned by Robertson, police showed reporters a stash of seized items. They said at the time the investigation was gang-related and some of the seized items were adorned with Hells Angels support decals. Robertson and his wife, Sarah, had been facing more than 50 serious charges, but the bulk of them were stayed by a judge. Robertson is believed to have been something of an ally to Konaam Shirzad in the Kamloops drug trade. In 2017, a judge ruled Robertson has been involved in the city’s drug trade despite him not being charged with trafficking offences. The ruling came after testimony from an RCMP expert on drug trafficking laid out a web of circumstantial evidence linking Robertson to the drug trade, including weapons, cash and stolen items seized from his Sahali home.
The group backed by outlaw bikers is believed to have been at the top of the Kamloops drug trade until recently. A man linked to the group is believed to have been involved in the Jan. 23 hotel murders. Associates or former associates of the group are also believed to be linked to the mid-February robberies and kidnappings and the Brocklehurst murder of Jason Glover on Feb. 15.
Weeks before Konaam Shirzad was killed, Erwin Dagle was arrested as part of a police raid at a Columbia Street hotel. Dagle had also been implicated months earlier following a bust at his Sun Rivers home. The 24-year-old is believed to have been a high-ranking lieutenant of Shirzad. He pleaded guilty last week to a number of drug charges and was handed a 10-year sentence in federal prison. At the time of his sentencing, federal Crown prosecutor Anthony Varesi described Dagle as a prominent player within the Red Scorpions organized crime group in Kamloops.
Troy Gold is believed to have been killed after being caught in the middle between two sides of Kamloops’ drug trade. His slaying is believed to have been somewhat accidental; sources have said Gold was targeted for a serious assault, but wound up suffering fatal injuries. No arrests have been made, but police have identified a high-ranking Red Scorpions gangster as a suspect. KTW is not naming the suspect because he has not been charged.
Police were quick to link a pair of Jan. 23 murders at Kamloops hotels to the city’s drug trade. First, Cody Mathieu was shot to death inside a suite at a Valleyview motel. Hours later, Rex Gill was gunned down outside a hotel in Aberdeen. Police have since said Gill is believed to have been killed in a case of mistaken identity. No charges have been laid in connection with the murders, but police said they have identified suspects. The murders prompted a specialized police gang team to descend on Kamloops.
On the afternoon of Feb. 15, gunshots rang out at an apartment complex in the 1900-block of Tranquille Road. Jason Glover was killed and Kelly Callfas suffered serious injuries, having been shot multiple times in the face. Investigators believe Glover had been working a drug line for the biker-backed group. Gordie Braaten and Hugh McIntosh are facing charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder in relation to the incident. McIntosh, 51, was arrested in late-February and Braaten, 35, was taken into custody on Monday by members of the RCMP’s emergency response team. In the days after the shooting, police urged Kamloops residents to exercise caution given the violent conflict playing out on city streets. “These are dangerous people,” RCMP Sgt. Nestor Baird told reporters on Feb. 20.