Pissed off at their gang pal being maced and mugged by a rival banger, five people — all relatively young — elect to get revenge.
Their chosen method of retribution?
Storm out of their Furby Street safehouse armed with hockey sticks, head into a basement suite at a nearby Sherbrook Street apartment block and torch the place by stuffing paper, sheets, blankets — whatever — onto the hot stove. And then run.
“Gonzos,” a co-accused is reported as saying as he put stuff over the hot stove. “Everything’s on fire.” The entire building was destroyed. Many lost everything except the clothes on their backs.
“As soon as I saw the fire, I ran,” the youth said. “I couldn’t believe the smoke.”
What proof did the Bloodz gang have to show this apartment should be targeted?
They once saw a Mad Cowz member hanging out in there. So, nothing conclusive. Basically just a hunch.
One result: a $1-million dollar devastation, 40 people left homeless, 19 of those people [including a bunch of kids] hospitalized, a pregnant woman’s miscarriage, and a whole whack of terror and fear for innocents who to this day still have trouble sleeping lest they not get out alive again.
Another result? A 17-year-old ‘kid’ now entertaining the option of being able to run his own gang crew because of the notoriety his despicable act of arson gained him.
Another result: Three adult suspects likely to skate easy in court because it’s going to be difficult to prove who actually did what and when.
And the final result: A suspect on the lam for nearly a year now because family members are choosing to hide him from police on some reserve instead of doing the right thing and hauling him into the nearest police detachment to face justice.
Yes. Oh yes. There have been very few crimes in Winnipeg of late that have both intrigued me, sickened me and infuriated me like the gang-retribution arson at 577 Sherbrook St. — perpetrated Jan. 14 in the early morning hours when many of the children, women and men peacefully living out their lives there were likely sleeping and had to run like hell to save their skins.
I wonder how they’d feel today knowing one of the people who caused their misery — he’s 17 today — now stands to gain from it if he so chooses.
From the Crown, referencing the psych report conducted for the youth’s benefit after he pleaded guilty:
“I think the most jarring part of this is his gang membership and how he feels about it … when asked about his future plans regarding gang association, he states he’s not certain what else he wants to do. On one hand, he says he’s considering quitting the gang association. However on the other hand now he could be a leader, have his own gang or crew,” Ericka Dolcetti, quoting from the report.
“And he added as an exclamation: ’I never had that kind of power!,’“
“He’s not learned from this at all. In fact, maybe this has given him some street cred,” Dolcetti said.
“… He is absolutely a danger to the public,” Dolcetti said today. “He uses his fists and he doesn’t use his words.”
When the group fled the scene, they returned to the safe house and continued partying.
“Yeah, we got them!,” “I lit up the kitchen!,” and “I lit up the couch,” were their happy cries.
When cops arrived a few minutes later, the officers themselves heard though the door:
“I burnt the whole fucking place down — go check it out!,”
The party ended when cops came through the door at gunpoint. The jig was up.
Since the age of 6, the offender in question has been bounced from CFS foster placement to CFS foster placement — as many as 15 times in a decade.
He drinks, yes, but weed is his daily drug of choice (although he’s experimented with cocaine, morphine, ecstasy and Restoril).
“Weed is my best friend … I can’t answer if I’d ever stop,” he told a probation officer.
In recent years, he’s had several family members die. That’s been hard on him.
Due to the constant shuffling around, he has major attachment issues, feels “frequently worthless and has been diagnosed with PTSD due to his upbringing. He lives “vividly in the moment of past trauma,” a leading youth psychotherapist says. He has an “overreaction to threats, real or imagined.”
He says it was a female cousin who “pressured” him into tagging along with the group that morning — pushed him out the door, telling him to go back up his brothers.
“He is remorseful,” his lawyer says.
The youth gave an oddly-worded apology for his actions in court. Odd in the sense his words seemed so careful and structured that one couldn’t help but question their sincerity.
“[I] take responsibility on my part — [I] burned down that apartment building. I know it’s irreversible what I’ve done. I’m very remorseful for the people I hurt, the pain I caused and damage I caused [to] people in that apartment building.
Alcohol and drugs had a really bad effect on me that night. I plan to work on that during my stay at the Agassiz Youth Centre. I also plan to work on my social skills, my employment skills and other skills that are available to me at the Agassiz Youth Centre.
I’ve suffered lots, lots of deaths in my life — losing my mom and dad [is a] big problem for me … depression, overwhelmed with anger … I still have major thinking errors.”
At the time of the arson, the youth was on probation and had been AWOL from his latest group home for just shy of a month.
Prior to that, he breached conditions of his probation on Dec. 5, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. It wasn’t stated in court why he wasn’t breached and put back in lockup after he came back on the 6th.
Prior to that, between October 21-29, he also breached by not returning to his group home.
Prior to that, on Aug 22-23, he didn’t check in as directed to do so. He was arrested for this and got bail.
There’s no real point of presenting any of the above, except a certain professional satisfaction that there will be a record of this somewhere — a record beyond the basic newspaper retelling of what happened, and how such a major crime was dealt with by the system.
This kid is a mess, and you could with a straight face make the argument he never really had a chance to be anything but.
At the end of the day however, he’ll be free 27 months from now. And I hope, sincerely, we’ve seen the last of the worst he’s capable of doing.