EDITORIALS

The Wolfe Brothers – Founding Fathers or Forgettable Street Thugs?

Correctional Services Canada
Correctional Services Canada

I’ve watched with interest as respected journalists debate the relevance of infamous Indian Posse Street Gang founding fathers Richard Daniel Wolfe and his brother Daniel Richard Wolfe.

The Ballad of Danny Wolfe - Joe Friesen
The Ballad of Danny Wolfe – Joe Friesen

Globe and Mail reporter Joe Friesen, author of the book, “The Ballad of Danny Wolfe,” wrote a detailed account of the life and criminal exploits of Danny Wolfe in a literary exploit described on the Chapters Indigo website as;

“A gripping, fast-paced account of the life of the indigenous man who founded and led the Indian Posse, one of the most dangerous gangs in North America, into violence, power, and infamy.”

Reporter Paul Wiecek expressed a different perspective in a recently published article in the Winnipeg Free Press;

“The Wolfe’s were just thugs, and not particularly sophisticated ones at that,” he suggests.  

He goes on to say Richard Wolfe was an “utterly forgettable” gangster.

Richard Daniel Wolfe (RCMP)
Richard Daniel Wolfe (RCMP)

The contrasting articles made me ponder the question, “Were the Wolfe brothers “utterly forgettable street thugs” or were they men of important historical significance who had an undeniable impact on the criminal landscape in our Country?”

(Emphasis on the word Country.)

Much has been written regarding the birth of the Indian Posse Street gang. How founding fathers, Richard and Danny, started their “thing” in their mother’s north end basement in the summer of 1988.

People familiar with Indian Posse gang tags and tattoos know modern-day Posse gangsters often fly the “88” flag to pay homage to the gangs origin.  The ironic thing is, many of these gangsters have no idea who Richard or Daniel Wolfe were.

On May 27, 2016 Richard Daniel Wolfe (40), co-founder of the Indian Posse Street Gang, died of an apparent cardiac related event while serving time at a medium security unit at the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Penitentiary.

His death was reported by news agencies across the Country.

One of the articles featured a photograph of Danny Wolfe purporting it to be the image of Richard Wolfe.

The Canadian Press (Winnipeg Sun Article)
Photo of Daniel Richard Wolfe – The Canadian Press (Winnipeg Sun Article)

It seems modern-day gangsters aren’t the only clueless ones.

For those who haven’t followed the story, Daniel Richard Wolfe was killed at the same Penitentiary on January 4, 2010 where he was serving a life sentence for a double homicide.

He was thirty-three (33) years old at the time of his death.

A Life of Crime

Richie Wolfe was involved in crime long before he was old enough to face criminal charges in a Court of Law.

Once he turned twelve (12) he started amassing an impressive criminal record that included thefts, break & enters, robberies, drug trafficking, firearm offences and other violent crime.

I didn’t get to know Richard Wolfe, intimately that is, until he stepped off the cliff in the mid nineties.

On May 14th, 1995 at 3:50 a.m., I was called out from the warmth of my bed by the Division #23 Robbery / Homicide Supervisor who asked me to attend the Public Safety Building to assist with a shooting investigation.

When I arrived at the PSB I would learn Richie Wolfe and his crew robbed a Jumbo Pizza delivery driver and punctuated the crime with a shot-gun blast to the poor man’s torso.

Richie was the trigger.

There was no need for the violence.

The man gave up the pizza and cash with no resistance.

(I recall hearing stories from front line officers who said they found the victim screaming in excruciating pain with the majority of his internal organs splayed on the ground beside him.)

Later, in an act of chivalry, Richie would tell me, “I didn’t mean to shoot that guy man, the gun just went off. It went off by accident.”

It was Wolfe’s transparent attempt to set his girlfriend free by taking the rap for the heinous crime.

It didn’t work.

(The woman was charged as a party to the offence and later admitted to making the phone call to set up the delivery driver.)

Richard Wolfe was subsequently sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison for his part in the crime.

He would do fifteen (15) years before securing his release in 2010.

Danny Wolfe’s first major stint in prison came as a result of a poorly hatched plan to help Richard beat the robbery charges.

On May 15, 1995, just a few hours after the robbery, Danny Wolfe took a sawed off shotgun to the home of two crucial witnesses and threatened to kill them if they testified against his brother.

He ultimately caught a two (2) year sentence for attempting to obstruct justice and was off to the Stoney Mountain Penitentiary to serve his first Federal Sentence.

It was the beginning of the end for him…

An Unlikely Fan

I hadn’t heard much about Richard Wolfe since I retired from Law Enforcement in 2013.

Much like most modern-day IP gangsters, the majority of front line police officers I remained in contact with were far to young to know who he was.

On January 15, 2014, I logged into my WordPress account and found a comment posted by my former adversary;

“The life of being a gangster is not a life for any human being. It’s the road no one wants to take for himself and how it plays out, it’s a sad but true choice to make. James thank you for the story and I hope you keep it going. People need to know that it’s a bad road to go down. Oh by the way, this is Richard Wolfe. I now talk to youth about this life they’re trying to live. Keep up the good work.”

(If you were thinking this kind of exchange must be rare, you’d be correct.)

Wolfe dropped the comment on a story I wrote called, “Winnipeg Gang Life – The False Promise.”

At the end of the article I quoted Winnipeg Crown Attorney Carla Dewar who offered her assessment of gang life during a gang related homicide trial;

“This case illustrates exactly what happens when a gang turns on itself. This should send a message to all gang members: Do not trust anyone, even each other. The boys you think are your bro’s will throw you to the wolves in a second.”

It seems her words resonated with Wolfe.

(Media reports confirmed Wolfe tried to stay out of trouble and did in fact give anti-gang presentations to at risk youth.)

People in the game know its much easier getting into a gang than it is getting out.

For people like Wolfe, who spend the majority of their lives in prison, the real test would be staying out of the system.

Wolfe’s ability to stay out of prison was profoundly affected by the death of his younger brother Danny, the loss of his father in 2011 and the loss of a stepson in 2013.

Reports suggest he turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain he suffered from these events.

On April 6, 2014 the wheels fell off.

Wolfe attempted to have sex with an intoxicated woman while she was asleep.  When she awoke she screamed alerting her boyfriend to the attack.  When the man came to her aid Wolfe brandished a baseball bat and viciously attacked the man delivering six (6) blows to his head and thirty (30) blows to his body.

Wolfe caught a five (5) year sentence for the violent attack.

There would be no inspirational ending for Richard Daniel Wolfe.

I often write that life in a street gang results in one of two potential outcomes – prison or the morgue.

How ironic both of these realities collided for the notorious Wolfe brothers.

Utterly Forgettable Street Thugs

It was sometime in the late 1980’s as I recall.

I was dispatched to back up a Patrol Unit in the North End who was involved in a car chase with a stolen vehicle.

As we arrived on scene I observed the vehicle had been hastily abandoned.  All four doors were swung open and the heavy stench of burning rubber filled the air, but that’s not what left an impression on me.

It was the blaring music I will never forget.

It was NWA blasting out of the speakers with their controversial hit “F**k the Police.”

I remember standing by the driver’s side door thinking, “What the f**k do gangbangers in Winnipeg have in common with African-American gangsters in Compton.”

When I did the analysis it ultimately made sense.

A major cultural shift was happening in our City and the evidence was becoming more and more obvious.  The problem was the danger signs were essentially ignored by everyone who may have had the power or authority to do something about it.

Enter the Wolfe brothers.

Richard Wolfe and brother Danny are not “utterly forgettable thugs.”

The Wolfe brothers were the founders of one of the most feared and violent street gangs in the history of our Country.  The Indian Posse has significant representation in several Provinces and Federal Institutions across Canada.

I’m not suggesting we should hold Richard or Danny Wolfe in any kind of reverence but I don’t think we should simply dismiss them either.

The fact is they started something that became larger than anything they could have ever dreamed of, something they couldn’t control, something that ultimately destroyed them.

They Wolfe brothers showed us that racialized poverty, disenfranchised youth, lack of education, lack of employment and lack of opportunity can have serious consequences for our society.

It was a wakeup call.

(Richard Wolfe estimated it cost tax payers over a million dollars to incarcerate him during his lifetime.  I suspect the number is much higher.)

We should not undermine the Wolfe brothers historical significance nor the impact they had on the criminal landscape in our City, Province and Country.

There are compelling lessons to be learned from the lives, and more importantly, the deaths of Richard and Danny Wolfe.

Their story should be told.

It should be told for its truth.

It should be told for its sadness.

It should be told for its reality.

It should be told in every Indigenous community and school where street gangs do their thing.

“It is not often that we learn from the past, even rarer that we draw the correct conclusions from it.” – Henry Kissinger

2 Comments

  1. I THINK THE WAY THS CITY SEES AND TREAT ABORIGINALS HAS MORE TO DO WITH IT! POVERTY NOTHING TO STRIVE FOR IN LIFE! THIS RACIST ASS CITY GAVE UP NATIVES A LONG TIME AGO TO THE FOUNDING OF THIS SICK COUNTRY AND NOW CAN TRY HALF HEARTLY TO SAY WE CAN CHANGE THIS BUT THE DAMAGE IS TOO GREAT! THE LINES ARE MORE PRONONCED THEN EVER! AS IT GETS WORSE WHICH IT WILL! R U LOOKING TO FEEL COMFORT IN A WASTED LIFE OR R U ACTUALLY TRYING TO DO SOMETHING? SIT BACK WATCH AND DIE AS I TELL YOU IT WILL GET WORSE AND WORSE UNTIL PPL R TREATED RIGHT! ITS THAT SIMPLE OR HARD !

  2. What an awesome article, sir! The damage street gangs have caused on our city has been severely undervalued for decades. The story of the brothers as significance because of the role it played in grabbing youth off the streets of the north end and all over the city and showed them the ropes into a life of crime. Drugs, prostitution, robbery, stolen cars, murder. A violent cycle of crime!

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