There's plenty of mystery surrounding the violent death of one of Manitoba's highest-ranking bikers inside a provincial jail Sunday, but there's no doubt the issues of overcrowding, resources and correctional officer safety will again be put under a microscope.
Those who work closely in the system have often described it as a powder keg waiting to explode. Several justice sources say Sunday's incident at the Brandon Correctional Centre -- the second slaying in a Manitoba correctional facility this year -- may be the proverbial tipping point. There are also fears it could spark retaliation.
Jean Paul Beaumont was found dead inside his cell just after 10 a.m. under what police have called "suspicious circumstances."
Multiple justice sources have told both the Free Press and the Brandon Sun that Beaumont was stabbed to death, presumably with a homemade shank. Police would only say they await autopsy results.
"It was probably a hit," one source told the Free Press. "It will be interesting to see who did it. He was on the Rock Machine range. A turncoat?"
Beaumont, 39, was previously a member of the Zig Zag Crew, the feeder club to the Hells Angels, before he defected to the Rock Machine last year.
He was made the sergeant-at-arms and was a key player in several violent incidents during the summer of 2011.
"Live by the sword, die by it," retired Winnipeg police homicide sergeant James Jewell said Monday. He described Beaumont as "one of Winnipeg's most dangerous criminals."
The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union declined to comment on the incident Monday, citing the police investigation. Sources within the union say there is growing frustration about the current conditions within seven adult jails, including the Brandon facility.
"Overcrowding is the No. 1 issue," Lois Wales, president of the MGEU, told the Free Press earlier this year. A recent survey done by the MGEU found 82 per cent of the province's guards say overcrowding is their main workplace issue. Eighty-five per cent said the problem has worsened in the last three years.
The statistics back them up. From 2004-05 to 2011-12, the average population nearly doubled -- to 2,214 inmates from 1,184 inmates.
At the Brandon Correctional Centre -- where 341 inmates are living in space designed to hold 248 -- approximately 50 people bunked down in the gymnasium earlier this year. Double- and triple-bunking is the norm rather than the exception.
"At some point, with the overcrowding, (the guards) think there will be a riot," Wales predicted earlier this year.
She said overcrowding makes everything tougher -- from segregating rival gang members to offering rehabilitation programs, to helping ensure when prisoners are released they are less likely to reoffend.
Sources say Beaumont's death leaves a major void within the ranks of the Rock Machine, which is trying to create a foothold in Manitoba.
The Hells Angels formed the Redlined Support Crew in 2010 to stand up to other criminal networks that might muscle in on their former drug turf after many of their members were arrested and jailed following three recent undercover police operations.
At the top of that list was the Rock Machine, which waged war with the Hells Angels in Quebec during the 1990s but has only recently had a presence in Manitoba.
Beaumont was arrested in July 2011 after police gathered video footage of his home from a camera they had secretly installed in early May, court was told during a bail hearing.
Beaumont had a long criminal record, including a 1995 conviction for shooting at an employee during a robbery at a Little Caesar's Pizza outlet in St. Vital.
He was charged last summer with repeatedly breaching conditions of his previous bail and probation, including a curfew and driving prohibition. The hidden camera allegedly caught Beaumont driving away from his home on several occasions.
Crown attorney Mike Desautels filed a detailed report on the city's gang situation with the judge, authored by members of the police organized-crime unit, to boost his argument public safety is at stake.
He told court police closely monitored Beaumont, along with other gang members, because of the ongoing tensions in the biker world.
In June 2011, a member of the Redlined gang had a flare shot through the window of his Elmwood home. The following night, two homes linked to members of the Rock Machine were shot up.
Days later, Rock Machine president Joseph Strachan had the St. Vital home he shares with his parents hit by gunfire and Molotov cocktails.
In November 2010, Daniel Kachkan, a former high-ranking associate of the Hells Angels, was shot execution-style inside his home. No arrests have been made in the slaying, which was believed to have been connected to Kachkan's alleged role in a homicide.
-- with files from Mia Rabson
Violence behind bars
Deadly and near-fatal jailhouse attacks:
-- 2012: Damiano Cosmo Valente, 69, was stabbed to death inside Stony Mountain while he was serving time for trying to have his wife slain. Police charged Byron Alden Jacob, 24, with second-degree murder. His case is before the courts.
-- 2010: Daniel Richard Wolfe, co-founder of the Indian Posse, died after a brawl inside the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, near Prince Albert, Sask. Wolfe, 33, had just been convicted of killing two people and injuring three others during a Saskatchewan home invasion. Fellow Winnipeg gang member Keith Coutu, 32, was critically injured after being jumped in the same prison attack. The longtime IP member was sentenced to life in 2006 after going on a shooting spree at a Winnipeg house party, killing one man and severely injuring another. Sources said Wolfe and Coutu are victims of internal gang hostilities and were attacked by Saskatchewan members of the Indian Posse, who were being held in the same range at the prison. Six inmates were ultimately convicted of manslaughter.
-- 2009: A Milner Ridge inmate suffered permanent brain damage after members of the Indian Posse attacked him. The victim, Kent Wilson, 33, was being housed in a separate range from the attackers. When was taken for daily insulin treatments to treat him for diabetes, he would walk past the area where the attackers were housed. On the day of the attack, all of the accused were inside the gym when Wilson passed by and made an obscene gesture. A guard at Milner Ridge had inadvertently hit a button that unlocked the room and allowed the accused to charge the victim. He realized his mistake when it was too late. Wilson was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the head before guards could intervene. Seven people were convicted
-- 2006: Sheldon McKay, a two-time convicted killer who was a prominent member of the Indian Posse, was killed while incarcerated at the Stony Mountain Penitentiary. Staff discovered McKay, 30, dead in his cell after he failed to show up for a visit with his girlfriend and two children. An autopsy found he was asphyxiated. Fellow gang member Raymond Chartrand was convicted of second-degree murder and given life with no chance of parole for at least 15 years. Four others remain before the courts.
-- 2005: David Tavares, 40, died of massive trauma after being jumped by several gang members inside Stony Mountain in what was an initiation gone too far. Tavares was punched and fell to the floor near some pool tables, where he was repeatedly kicked in the head. He was found unconscious after the recreation centre was closed for the day. He was taken to the infirmary, where he was pronounced dead. Tavares was in Stony Mountain serving a 39-month sentence for driving-related offences. Jurors heard he became a member of the Native Syndicate while in prison but had angered fellow gang members. Victor Ryle, Alvin Cote and Charles Coaster were found guilty of manslaughter. Evan Myran was acquitted.
-- 2004: Indian Posse president Bradley Maytwayashing suffered critical injuries after being beaten with mop handles and socks filled with bars of soap while in custody at the remand centre. Police arrested 10 inmates. Most of the accused pleaded guilty.