Sûreté du Québec and Montreal police team up in probe of gangland slayings

“We want to send a clear message to these individuals: we are going to find you and we are going to charge you.”

The new squad announcement echoes the 1995 creation of the anti-gang Wolverine Squad, set up after a bomb intended for a drug dealer killed a young boy. John Mahoney / From Gazette files

The gangs of Montreal are in open warfare.

As the Italian and Calabrian factions of the Mafia vie for control of organized crime in the city, bodies are piling up. Meanwhile, the Hells Angels are embroiled in their own violent power struggle — last month, an associate of the biker gang was gunned down in the parking lot of a South Shore gym and another was shot to death outside his Terrebone home.

Police say there have been nearly 20 homicides related to organized crime in the Montreal area this year and the attacks are getting more brazen. Hit men target their victims in broad daylight, littering crowded restaurants and hotel lobbies with shell casings in the process.

“It seems like they’ve thrown the rule book out the window,” said Chief Inspector Guy Lapointe, a spokesperson for the Sûreté du Québec. “The part that bothers us, as police officers, is the way these murders are being committed. We’re seeing killings in places where a stray bullet could catch an innocent victim.”

On Tuesday the SQ and Montreal police announced a plan to pool their investigative assets in hopes of reining in the string of gangland style homicides. It is a move similar to the one sparked by the rising death toll in the criminal biker wars that ravaged Quebec in the mid and late 1990s.

“Intelligence is the sinew of war,” said Lapointe, who added that such partnerships had proved their worth in the past. “We want to send a clear message to these individuals: We are going to find you and we are going to charge you.”

The new unit will see two SQ detectives stationed at the Montreal police’s major crimes unit, one Montreal detective will work out of the SQ’s South Shore branch and another has been assigned to the provincial police’s north shore division.

Intelligence sharing between the agencies led to the arrest of four people last month in connection to the 2016 killing of four Montreal mobsters. Two of the victims, Rocco Sollecito and Lorenzo Giordano, have links to the Rizutto clan.

In an earlier interview with the Montreal Gazette, Lapointe said the shooting death of Salvatore Scoppa — who was killed in the lobby of a Sheraton Hotel in May — was probably revenge for the Sollecito and Giordano murders.

“We want to shatter the myth that we never solve these crimes,” said Lapointe. “These four murders that we solved is evidence that — when we work together — we can find solutions and ways to arrest the people who committed these murders.”

Police say while they can observe broad trends in the criminal underworld, it’s more difficult to untangle the motive behind each individual killing. Police know, for instance, that the Mafia has been in disarray since the death of Vito Rizzuto six years ago. But investigating each homicide comes with one huge obstacle: It’s nearly impossible to get members of the Mafia to testify against each other.

“It’s omerta: the code of silence. That’s the toughest part about investigating organized crime,” said Insp. André Durocher, of the Montreal police.

Durocher said it’s still too early to establish if a recent eruption of violence in Montreal’s northeastern boroughs are related to turf disputes within the street gang world or if it’s somehow an extension of the Mafia power struggle.

Last month, a 23-year-old was shot dead outside a lowrise apartment in Montreal North. Minutes earlier, three men were gunned down in a dépanneur parking lot just a few blocks away. None sustained life-threatening injuries.

One week later, a crowd of about 20 people ran for cover outside a St-Michel apartment building after gunmen unloaded dozens of rounds toward them. The following day, a shotgun blast and three pistol shots were fired into a Rivière-des-Prairies home. No one was injured in the shootings but police have not yet identified a suspect in either attack.

“Sometimes, one may be linked to organized crime while the other one could be something as frivolous as fighting over a girl,” said Durocher.

The collaboration between the SQ and the Montreal police echoes the creation in 1995 of the Wolverine Squad (Escouade Carcajou), a unit also composed of provincial and Montreal police formed after the death of a young Montreal boy killed by shrapnel from a criminal biker bomb meant for a drug dealer.

“The model that really works here in Quebec — when you talk about organized crime — is partnership,” said Lapointe. “You can talk about Carcajou in the ’90s, you can talk about the mixed squads that we have. To fight organized crime and drug trafficking rings, it really works.”


James Mennie of the Montreal Gazette contributed to this report

This article was originally posted here