News 1130 Radio – October 2 2014 – First verdicts in Surrey Six trial expected today

First verdicts in Surrey Six trial expected today
Cody Haevischer, Matthew Johnston charged with conspiracy, first-degree murder

October 2, 2014

By Mike Lloyd – News 1130

Surrey (NEWS1130) – Almost seven years to the day after a bloodbath that shocked the entire country, the first verdicts are expected this morning in the Surrey Six trial.

On October 19th, 2007, six people were gunned down in a highrise in Surrey — two of them innocent bystanders — in a high-profile, multiple gang murder that has left its mark on Surrey and on organized crime across the region.

Two of the men accused, Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, are each charged with conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder in a large and complex trial that heard testimony from 73 witnesses, some of them gangsters-turned-informants.

“I guess you could say this is symbolic in the sense that if the verdicts do come in as guilty, that there has been a crackdown and the investigation did work — police were able to flip gang members so they could inform and testify against other gang members,” says author and gang expert Ranj Dhaliwal.

He believes the brazen Surrey Six murders initially boosted the profile of the gangs involved, allowing them to spread out and recruit.

“But when the charges were laid and we saw the mass amount of murders that were happening with the gang warfare out in the streets, I think things started toning down. During the time of the trial and the investigation — when we were finding out that people were being turned and becoming informants, and finding out what type of surveillance was being used — I think it was a learning experience for many of these gang members,” he tells News1130.

“Drug trafficking is just getting more sophisticated and better organized and seeing this trial was an eye-opener for many people out there, not just gangsters. But the real learning experience is for the gang members and the organized crime syndicates; they need better counter-surveillance. I think it means they will step up their game and hopefully, the police will be stepping up their game as well,” says Dhaliwal.

The trial has also left its mark on the city of Surrey itself, cementing a reputation — deserved or not — for violence and criminal activity.

“I think that gang violence is prevalent throughout the Lower Mainland, but I believe it is concentrated in our neighbourhoods,” says Doug Elford, a spokesperson for the Newton Community Association and a tireless safety advocate.

“We are constantly on alert and aware that there could be gang violence in our neighbourhoods at any time. There has been follow-up murders in our community as a result of the Surrey Six,” he tells us.

Should there be a guilty verdict today, Elford doesn’t believe it will send any kind of meaningful message to would-be gangsters. Nor does he believe things have improved since the murders in 2007.

“Well, one year we did set the record for murders after the fact and I believe we are up to an average of 13 in the community every year now. I don’t think that a conviction will deter gangsters or reduce the murder rate.”

If convicted, Haevischer and Johnston would get automatic life sentences with no parole for 25 years.

Corey Lal, his brother Michael, Eddie Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo were killed on October 19th, 2007.

Fireplace serviceman Ed Schellenberg and neighbour Chris Mohan, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, were dragged into the apartment and shot, as well.

Gang leader Michael Le pleaded guilty to conspiracy after the trial began and was sentenced to 12 years, while fellow Red Scorpions leader Jamie Bacon faces trial next May for conspiracy and first-degree murder.

BC Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge is set to deliver her judgment this morning.