CANADA

In the cross fire

Gang-related, violence claims innocent lives

TOM FENNELL May 9 1994
CANADA

In the cross fire

Gang-related, violence claims innocent lives

TOM FENNELL May 9 1994

In the cross fire

CANADA

Gang-related, violence claims innocent lives

TOM FENNELL

ROBIN AJELLO

JOHN HOWSE

It was 2 a.m. and Timo the German shepherd was getting restless. And as he often did, Glen Olson, 29, obliged Timo by taking him for a walk. As they left their south Vancouver home, the air was warm and clear. But a few minutes later,

Olson’s neighbors were jolted out of their sleep by what some thought were firecrackers. They drifted off to sleep again, only to be awakened a few hours later by police, who had discovered Timo guarding Olson’s bullet-riddled body in a nearby laneway. The former office clerk had been cut down in a burst of automatic rifle fire, which police later said was the work of an underworld assassin who had mistaken Olson for another man. “This is an attack on all the citizens of Canada,” said Vancouver Mayor Philip Owen. “None of us will put up with this any more.”

Olson’s death was just one of several across Canada linked to g| gang-related violence last week.

On April 22 in Calgary, Jonarhey Olivo, an 18-year-old Filipino immigrant, was gunned down outside a mall in a drive-by shooting that police say may have been prompted by a feud between rival youth gangs. And in Chatham, Ont., residents expressed outrage last week when the savagely beaten body of seven-year-old Danny Miller was found in an abandoned brickyard. Jeffrey

Manley, an 18-year-old resident of the southwestern Ontario city, was charged with firstdegree murder.

According to Chatham Mayor William Erickson, the city of 43,000 has been terrorized

by a gang known as the Criminally Minded Corporation, which angry residents say has been responsible for a number of assaults in the town. Erickson said that Manley’s older brother, 21-year-old Melvin, who two weeks

ago was sentenced to 30 months on drug trafficking charges, was a leader of the gang. And Erickson said residents want something done. “People had better wake up,” said the mayor.

Like other recent murder victims, Olson, Olivo and Miller were killed through no apparent fault of their own. Olson, who was part native, had recently moved to Vancouver from the Yukon. His neighbors said he was a gentle man who loved computers and hoped to pursue a career in that area. But he had unwittingly rented a room in a home next door to Binde Johal, a Sikh whom Vancouver

police say is a suspect in the murders earlier this year of two Sikh brothers: Jimsher (Jimmy) Dosanjh, 27, and Ranjit (Ron) Dosanjh, 29. According to the police, Jimsher Dosanjh, also known as Big Jim, was a paid killer and

enforcer, while Ranjit was the brains behind an Indo-Canadian gang that operated a drug and protection racket in Vancouver. The brothers were intimidating: in 1991, murder charges against Jimsher were dropped after frightened witnesses refused to identify him.

The brothers conducted their violent spree with impunity, but on Feb. 25, Jimsher’s criminal career came to a violent end when he was lured into a downtown Vancouver alley. Two cars sealed it off and he died in a crossfire of bullets. Police say Dosanjh was murdered by a rival gang of drug dealers and that his brother fought back by sending armed thugs in search of the killers. On April 18, Ranjit Dosanjh was ambushed by his enemies, who shot him to death with a high-powered assault rifle as he drove his pickup truck along a busy Vancouver street. Police last week charged Sun News Lai, 24, with first degree murder in the death of Jimmy Dosanjh, after he was picked up with weapons in his car near the Dosanjh home.

Police questioned Johal following both murders, without laying charges. But in a television interview following Jimsher Dosanjh’s death, Johal demonstrated his hatred for the Dosanjh family, calling the slain man a “bum” who did not pay his bills. In response, Ranjit told reporters that he would shoot Johal “ between the eyes” if he came near his house.

As Vancouver police continued their search for Olson’s killer last week, 19-year-old Mao Huong Chan, a Vie t n am ese-C an ad i an, surrendered to Calgary police and was charged with second-degree murder in Olivo’s death. Police said that two groups of teenagers, including Vietnamese and Filipinos, had been involved in fights near the shopping mall in northeast Calgary where Olivo died. Police also said Olivo knew his killer, but his family and teachers insisted that he was not a member of any gang. Instead, Meryl Amott, who taught Olivo English at Crescent Heights High School, told Maclean’s that her pupil was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Last week, as his parents prepared to ship their son’s body back to the Philippines for burial, students in Olivo’s class tried to come to terms with his death. Said Amott: “There is disbelief at first.”

While the circumstances surrounding each murder differed, experts said that at least the Vancouver and Calgary incidents appear to have one element in common: the use of violence to impress fellow gang members. RCMP Sgt. Randy Crisp, of the Ottawabased Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, said that youth gangs are becoming more violent because members crave the status that flows from the use of guns. “Guns give people a sense of power,” he added, “even to the point of murder.” That sense of power turned the ground red with blood where Olson fell—a stain that was quickly covered with flowers by neighbors who came to say goodbye. For many of those who came to mourn, their peaceful neighborhood will never be the same again.

TOM FENNELL with ROBIN AJELLO in Vancouver and JOHN HOWSE in Calgary