Police stumbled onto an alleged gang-related robbery and kidnapping last year while monitoring a wiretap as part of an unrelated investigation, a judge has been told.
According to the file’s lead investigator, no 911 call was ever made and no crime was reported in the early-morning hours of Feb. 14, 2019, when police descended on a downtown Kamloops motel to start an investigation that would also take them to Kelowna and Falkland.
That information came from RCMP Const. Aaron Penner, who took the witness stand on Thursday (Sept. 24), the fourth day of Michael Mathieson’s trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Kamloops.
Mathieson is facing charges of armed robbery, unlawful confinement and kidnapping in connection with the string of incidents, which unfolded as Kamloops was in the midst of a gang war that saw three people killed and others injured.
Police responded en masse to the Acadian Inn on Valentine’s Day 2019 after overhearing information while listening to a wiretap.
“Information came to light that a robbery and kidnapping had occurred … through wiretap evidence related to a different investigation,” Penner said under questioning from defence lawyer Dustin Gagnon.
According to prosecutors, Mathieson was one of three men involved in a violent incident in which a man was lured to a suite at the Acadian Inn, then robbed.
Crown prosecutor Lindsay Pearce said a woman was then kidnapped and taken in a stolen truck to Kelowna, before being rescued hours later by police following a traffic stop in Falkland.
In court on Thursday, Penner acknowledged the woman who was allegedly kidnapped was, at first, adamant that she had not been taken against her will. Penner said the woman denied having been kidnapped multiple times during her first statement to police and did not change her story until an interview with him in June.
“Throughout this investigation, it’s been difficult to get the truth out of some witnesses?” Gagnon asked.
“Correct,” Penner replied. “In my line of work, it’s not uncommon. You have to build trust and rapport. Sometimes it takes time.”
The Valentine’s Day incident was part of a series of high-profile gang-related violence in Kamloops in late 2018 and early 2019.
Troy Gold, a man with ties to the city’s drug trade, was murdered in October 2018. Five men have been charged in relation to Gold’s death.
Two men, Cody Mathieu and Rex Gill, were gunned down in separate shootings outside hotels on Jan. 23, 2019. Police have said those murders were related to an ongoing gang conflict in the city, but no arrests have been made. Police say Gill’s death may have been a case of mistaken identity.
On Feb. 15, 2019, Justin Glover was killed and Kelly Callfas suffered gunshot wounds to her face in a gang-related shooting in Brocklehurst. Gordie Braaten and Hugh McIntosh have been charged with murder and attempted murder in connection with the incident. Both men are in custody.
The violence stemmed from a vacuum in the city’s drug trade left by the September 2017 murder of Konaam Shirzad, a co-founder of the Red Scorpions gang. No arrests have been made in connection with Shirzad’s slaying near his Guerin Creek home, but prosecutors have said police have “viable suspects.”
Mathieson is being tried alone, but he has two co-accused facing similar charges. Justin Daniels has entered guilty pleas and is slated to return to court for sentencing on Oct. 9, and Robert Rennie has been on the lam since he was granted bail earlier this year. A Canada-wide warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Mathieson’s trial, which began on Monday, is scheduled to last one month.