A recent flare-up in Winnipeg street violence is being blamed on renewed hostilities between two long-standing city gangs.
Members of the Mad Cowz and Manitoba Warriors have been at odds for several weeks as they battle for turf and the lucrative profits that come from selling drugs, sources told the Free Press.
The two groups are believed responsible for several shootings this week that have residents of the West End and North End on edge. Police have beefed up their resources in the neighbourhoods as they struggle to predict and prevent the next attack.
Between Sunday morning and Thursday morning, there were five reported shootings and/or firebombings of homes on Aberdeen Avenue, Victor Street and Simcoe Street. Sources say the residences all have ties to gang activity and were deliberately targeted. There have been no reported injuries and no arrests.
"This is strictly to do with impeding each other's crack sales," a justice source said Friday.
Police are still probing whether there is a connection between those incidents and a New Year's Eve shooting on Selkirk Avenue that left a 46-year-old man dead. A 30-year-old woman also suffered serious injuries after being shot in the eye inside the home, which sources say was a known drug house with connections to gang activity. No arrests have been made.
"As of late, we've had several violent instances where firearms have been involved. Any time we have these types of incidents occurring -- whether it's days apart, weeks apart or months apart -- of course we're concerned," Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said this week.
"There's a concern for public safety and there's a concern that these incidents may repeat themselves, but we're making every effort to investigate these matters thoroughly."
Sources told the Free Press 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.
Mohamed Ali Omar, 28, was gunned down as he stood outside the Lincoln Motor Inn. Police say a man in an SUV pulled up and opened fire on a group of people, killing Omar and injuring a 17-year-old.
Omar's family have described him as a loving father of four who worked as a hospital cleaner. But police have confirmed he had ties to gang activities, and sources say that gang was the Mad Cowz.
No arrests have been made, but there is speculation on the streets that the Manitoba Warriors may have been involved.
"That's always a tricky area for police when we're describing gang associations. I don't think we're prepared to go any further than stating that they do have associations to a local street gang," police Const. Natalie Aitken said at the time.
Winnipeg has seen its share of gang battles play out in public, most recently with associates of the Hells Angels and Rock Machine trading bullets and firebombs. There were more than a dozen incidents last summer and fall, including several where people narrowly avoided serious injury or death.
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. Relations between the two gangs have calmed in recent months, but a source warned there might be more violence to come.
"There are a lot of scores to be settled," the source told the Free Press last month. Now, it appears, the Manitoba Warriors and Mad Cowz have decided to stir things up.
Sunday morning, Jan. 1
Shots fired at a home on Aberdeen Avenue.
Monday evening, Jan. 2
Shots fired at a home on Victor Street.
Wednesday morning, Jan. 4
Shots fired at the same home on Victor and a fire set at the home.
Thursday morning, Jan. 5
Shots fired at home on Simcoe Street.