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Gang infighting leads to boost in city crime

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An ongoing power struggle between a splintered Winnipeg street gang is being linked to another spike in violence.

Police and justice sources tell the Free Press the M.O.B. has broken into two factions that have been targeting each other for several weeks. And while police have made a handful of arrests, there are many more gang members still out on the streets and posing a serious public safety risk.

The most serious incident connected to the M.O.B. infighting occurred on July 17, according to sources. A 15-year-old boy was shot in the stomach outside a Burrows Avenue gang hangout just after 5:30 a.m. and suffered life-threatening injuries. He remains in hospital but is now expected to survive.

Police began an investigation which was complicated by several reluctant witnesses, sources said. They arrested an alleged M.O.B. gang leader on Aug. 9 and charged him with several offences including aggravated assault.

But the accused, Jonathan Catcheway, is back on the streets after being granted bail earlier this week. The Crown was opposed to his release, but provincial court Judge Robert Heinrichs agreed to free him on several conditions including a nightly 8 p.m. curfew and $10,000 surety posted by family members. He is also barred from having any contact with fellow gang members.

A court-ordered ban prevents specific details of the case against Catcheway, 23, from being published at this time. None of the allegations is proven, and he is presumed innocent.

Police are searching for links between the feuding gang and two other recent shootings. A 25-year-old man was seriously injured outside an Alexander Avenue home on Aug. 4 and remains in hospital. Police arrested 24-year-old Thomas Halpin this week and laid numerous charges including aggravated assault. He is being held in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

Another Winnipeg teen was hit with gunfire on Thursday night during a home invasion in the 800 block of Aberdeen Avenue. Police said several people forced entry into the home about 8:40 p.m. and fired a gun at the fleeing group, striking the boy. The victim’s age was not released Friday, and police are asking anyone with information to call 204-986-6219 or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.

Sources told the Free Press there are believed to be other M.O.B-related attacks which haven’t even been reported to them as gang members prefer to try to settle scores among themselves rather than involve the authorities.

Internal strife in a street gang is not new to Winnipeg. Other outfits, such as the Mad Cowz, have periodically turned on each other as they deal with issues such as drug profits and leadership structure. And Winnipeg police have certainly had their hands full in recent years dealing with gang tensions of all kinds.

At least five shootings and firebombings earlier this year were blamed on renewed hostilities between members of the Mad Cowz and their long-time rivals, the Manitoba Warriors. The main issue between them was drug turf and the lucrative profits that come from selling their product. Sources say tensions between the Mad Cowz — a predominantly African gang — and the Manitoba Warriors — a predominantly native gang — began to rise following an unsolved shooting death late last October in the parking lot of a McPhillips Street hotel.

Associates of the Hells Angels and Rock Machine have also been trading bullets and firebombs, with more than a dozen incidents last summer and fall. Police and justice officials publicly declared a biker war was brewing and warned citizens to be vigilant. Officers took the unusual step of going door to door in some neighbourhoods, warning people of the potential for violence.

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