Police are warning more retaliatory gang violence could break out here after the murder of a B.C. organized crime figure in Mexico.
Thomas Gisby was shot point-blank Saturday in a Starbucks in Nuevo Vallarta by two gunmen who then fled.
He had previously been the target of a Jan. 16 bombing in Whistler, where Gisby and another man camped in an RV escaped with minor injuries.
RCMP quickly issued a warning that Gisby’s slaying could trigger revenge attacks or violence between his gangland allies and enemies in B.C.
“We expect this would result in heightened tension between various organized crime groups in the Lower Mainland and, potentially, the province,” RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound said.
Gisby is said by police to have been a “high-ranking organized crime figure” who headed up his own B.C. gang – which they referred to as the Gisby Crime Group – but also had links to other B.C. groups involved in violent attacks in recent years.
“The criminal activity in which he was engaged extended across Canada and internationally,” Pound said.
There are reports the middle-aged Gisby may have had ties to Metro Vancouver’s Dhak and Duhre crime groups, whose members were targeted after gangster Jonathan Bacon was shot to death in Kelowna last summer.
Over the past two years at least two other murders of alleged gangsters are believed by police to be linked to the strife between the groups.
Police believe the body count may have been higher had it not been for past public warnings and officer efforts to caution people affiliated with gangsters about the risk.
Transit Police Const. Doug Spencer, a gang crime expert, said Gisby was “quite far up the food chain” dealing drugs and guns and never sided with other major players.
“Obviously, somebody felt threatened by him so they took a shot at his motor home and missed that,” Spencer said. “Then they were pretty much obliged to finish him off because they knew he’s going to come looking.”
He said it’s not clear whether the killing was ordered by B.C. rivals or a Mexican cartel.
Gisby reportedly left B.C. in late January to live in the Mexican town near the western resort city of Puerto Vallarta.
The RCMP has dispatched two B.C. officers to Mexico to support Mexican investigators, in addition to two liaison officers who were already based in the country.
Spencer said residents can help by keeping vigilant and reporting suspicious neighbourhood activity – like a young man who moves in with no job and is surrounded by visitors in high-end vehicles.
The Odd Squad member who talks to students about the dangers of drugs and gangs says youth education is key to reducing the violence over the long term.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”
– with files from CTV