The Winnipeg Police Service Street Gangs Unit dealt a major blow to the Manitoba Warriors Street Gang last week after wrapping up Project Falling Star, a lengthy investigation targeting specific drug cells and the thugs who run them.
In all, Police seized a significant amount of crack cocaine, cash, firearms, ammunition, weapons, ballistic vests and gang paraphernalia.
When the dust settled Police executed seven (7) drug warrants, three (3) firearms warrants and arrested a total of fifty-seven (57) gangsters and associates ranging in age from sixteen (16) to fifty-one (51) years of age.
The Manitoba Warriors street gang originally formed in 1993 and distinguished itself by adopting an organizational structure similar to outlaw motorcycle gangs like the Los Brovos and Hells Angels. The gang subsequently attracted significant attention from Law Enforcement due to their heavy involvement in drug trafficking and the prostitution scene.
In 1998, Police initiated a lengthy investigation dubbed “Operation Northern Snow” to confront the gangs increasing illicit activities. The project resulted in the arrest of thirty-five (35) gangsters and associates who were charged with a variety of drug trafficking and related offences.
The thugs were to be prosecuted under new Federal anti-gang legislation in a custom-built multi-million dollar maximum security court-house designed to provide for the safety of witnesses and justice system participants.
In July 2000, the “mega-trial” collapsed under its own weight after a Judge ruled to sever several of the accused offenders to make the case more manageable. After serving two (2) years on remand, many of the offenders struck plea bargains for four (4) year sentences and simply walked out of the Remand Center after receiving 2-1 credit for time spent in pre-trial custody.
Suffice it to say, the Manitoba Warrior gangsters collared in Operation Northern Snow were not deterred by the result. In fact, the gang grew in both size and stature in the City and even spread to neighbouring Provinces. Police intelligence estimated the gang had over three-hundred (300) active members and associates.
The Manitoba Warriors evolved into a highly lucrative drug trafficking organization running dial a dealer crack lines and crack shacks to maximize earning potential. They became a force on the streets and participated in violent confrontations in their fight to control “turf” with rival street gangs like the Indian Posse.
In 2008, Police would learn just how “evolved” the notorious street gang had become.
It was the RCMP Intelligence Unit who alerted the WPS to the Manitoba Warriors exploitation of a Government funded “homeless” initiative called Paa Pii Wak. As one of the two (2) Sergeants in charge of the WPS Organized Crime Unit, I was assigned to direct the investigation subsequently dubbed “Project Octopus.”
On December 11, 2008 the investigative aspect of the project was launched. In a matter of days it was clear the Manitoba Warriors were using Paa Pii Wak to further their criminal enterprise. Investigative findings determined the Warriors were exploiting the organization by;
- Extracting sources of legitimate income for active gang members and associates (Some gang members were earning $32,000 annual salaries without ever showing up for work.)
- Extricating active gang members from the Remand Center
- Providing active gang members the authority to supervise gangsters released on court orders
- Amending court orders rendering them ineffective
Manitoba Warrior associated “staff” also permitted the use of alcohol and drugs in the “homeless” shelter and obstructed Police by altering record books and ignoring breach protocols. The investigation revealed the Government dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding to the gang controlled program.
In 2008, the Manitoba Warriors were central players in a frightening escalation of violence in the City of Winnipeg.
- On June 19, 2008, a residence at 257 Dorothy Street was shot multiple times as a result of an internal Manitoba Warrior gang dispute. Over thirty (30) shots were fired during the incident from a multitude of firearms. Four (4) Manitoba Warrior gangsters were subsequently arrested after a high-speed chase and were charged regarding the incident. Two (2) firearms were recovered. Police believe a Tech 9 fully automatic machine pistol was used during the incident.
- On October 23, 2008, a residence associated to the Manitoba Warriors at 310 Ellen Street was shot multiple times. A full patch Warrior gang member residing at the house refused to cooperate with Police and indicated he had no idea why the house was shot up.
- On November 8, 2008, a full patch Manitoba Warrior was shot in the leg at 310 Ellen Street. The gangster also declined to cooperate with Police, however, information received pointed to an internal gang dispute.
- On November 17, 2008, a notorious full patch Manitoba Warriors gangster was observed to drop a silver handgun at a restaurant on Main Street. A short time later four (4) shots were fired at a residence at 445 William Ave. Police believe the gangster was responsible for the shooting.
- On November 20, 2008, Manitoba Warrior associate Justin Favel (26) years, was shot and killed in the area of 310 Ellen Street. The case remains unsolved.
- On November 22, 2008, Police observed a Manitoba Warrior gangster point a handgun in the direction of the Sonar Night Club in downtown Winnipeg. The suspects were observed to enter a vehicle and were cornered in a high risk vehicle stop. One suspect fled on foot but was apprehended by a K9 Unit who conducted a reverse track and located the firearm.
Since 2008, the Manitoba Warriors have continued to wreak havoc on the streets of Winnipeg. Members of the gang still participate in drug trafficking activities, shootings, assaults and murders.
(A number of unsolved gang related murders have direct connections to the Manitoba Warriors street gang.)
After publishing the Police Insider story, “Project Guillotine – Police Operation Quietly Destroys Gang Infrastructure,” I was amused by a comment dropped on the story by a reader named, “Andy.”
“Good,” he said. “Now do the same with the Mad Cow, AFM, Warriors, Westside, Eastside, Backside assholes and all the other garbage and waste of human life out there.”
Sarcasm aside, Andy makes a valid point. Police officers working Organized Crime and Street Gangs often speculate how Police lack of focus on the Indian Posse in 2007 was at least partly responsible for gang leader Tyson Roulette’s rise to power. In the yin & yang of Law Enforcement, Police often do play a role in undermining one gangs strength only to empower another.
It was a question I posed to Street Crime Sergeant Wes Rommel who ensured me the sins of the past were not repeated during the nine (9) month investigation. “We made sure we didn’t take our eye of the ball,” he said indicating other street gangs were not ignored during Project Falling Star.
The long-term impact of Project Falling Star has yet to be seen and may be difficult to measure.
The elimination of the 2-1 dead time credit may help to increase the chances of a more meaningful outcome than was experienced in Operation Northern Snow. That of course, depends on just how sympathetic the Judiciary is to the fifty-seven (57) gangsters collared in the Street Crime Project.
Time will tell.
*To view gallery of photographs taken during Police press conference please go to The Police Insiders Facebook page – The Police Insider
In 2013, the Street Crime Unit & Organized Crime Units were amalgamated to reduce overlap, define mandates and eliminate competing interests. The move was long over due and was the subject of a formal recommendation I made to the Police Executive in the fall of 2008.
Unfortunately, that recommendation was ignored in favour of the status quo.
The philosophical approach by new Chief of Police Devon Clunis (Crime Prevention Through Social Development) and the amalgamation of these important Units can only be seen as progress in an Organization that, in my experience, has been historically intolerant of innovative ideas and change.
The Manitoba Warriors identify with the numbers 1323.
You will see these numbers tattooed on their bodies, arms and backs. You will also see these numbers on their clothing apparel and colours.
These numbers correlate to the alphabet and represent their gang moniker:
13th letter of the alphabet – M
23rd letter of the alphabet – W
This tradition is stolen from Outlaw Motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels who identify with the numbers 81.
8th letter of the alphabet – H
1st letter of the alphabet – A
THE FIVE D’S OF POLICE GANG INTERVENTION