July 20, 2019

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'Hell broke loose': Johnny G's owner believes shootout was gang-related

The owner the Main Street restaurant that was the site of a double homicide this week believes the incident was a targeted gang-on-gang hit, similar to a murder at the late-night eatery in 2013.

“They’re gang guys. They were no boy scouts. They ran into each other and, before you know it, people start shooting and hell broke loose,” Johnny Giannakis, owner of Johnny G’s restaurants at 172 Main St. and 177 McDermot Ave., said Thursday.

Two men were gunned down inside the Main Street location early Wednesday, in a brazen shootout one eyewitness described as a “scene out of a movie.”

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The owner the Main Street restaurant that was the site of a double homicide this week believes the incident was a targeted gang-on-gang hit, similar to a murder at the late-night eatery in 2013.

"They’re gang guys. They were no boy scouts. They ran into each other and, before you know it, people start shooting and hell broke loose," Johnny Giannakis, owner of Johnny G’s restaurants at 172 Main St. and 177 McDermot Ave., said Thursday.

Two men were gunned down inside the Main Street location early Wednesday, in a brazen shootout one eyewitness described as a "scene out of a movie."

Police tape and cruisers surround Johnny G's Wednesday. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

Police tape and cruisers surround Johnny G's Wednesday. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

Giannakis said the two men shot one another — something the Winnipeg Police Service has yet to confirm, aside from saying "no shooter left the premises."

Police said a third individual, who is not a suspect in either homicide, has been charged with assault causing bodily harm. Additional information is expected at a news conference Friday.

An eyewitness, who asked not to be identified, described Thursday the dramatic scene that unfolded shortly after he entered the restaurant with a group of friends around 1 a.m.

The group sat down at a booth near the front and ordered food and drinks. Shortly after, he said, two "sketchy-looking" men walked in and headed for the back of the bar.

He said the first man appeared Indigenous, in his late-20s or early-30s, and was wearing a blue winter coat, while his companion appeared to be black and in his early-30s.

"The one guy gives me a really long, kind-of-a-hard look. Both of the guys’ swagger as they walked to the back of the establishment... very gangster-esque," he said.

He pointed the two men out to his friends and, as they were in mid-conversation, gunfire rang out. It came in two bursts, the witness said — an initial shot, followed by a series in close succession.

"Within a minute after them coming in we hear, bang! Ba-ba-bang, bang, bang, bang. It was like a sequence of firecrackers being shot off," he said.

Giannakis said the two men involved in the shooting exchanged words at the back of the room near the bar before the gunfire broke out.

One employee, a female waitress, was hit in the foot with either a bullet that ricocheted or a piece of shrapnel while hiding behind the bar. She was treated with a few stitches and released.

John Giannakis, owner of Johnny G's.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

John Giannakis, owner of Johnny G's.

When the shooting started, the eyewitness said he dropped to the floor behind the booth.

"My entire table, they were kind of frozen and shocked, not really knowing what was going on. So I yelled, ‘Get down!’ They all kind of get down and snap out of it," he said.

"Then I yell, ‘Run!’ And I run out and then five of them follow me out. Two of the girls, I guess, they were so far in the booth we were crammed into they were stuck and they ended up hiding under the table."

Outside the restaurant, the group ran until they saw a WPS cruiser stopped at a nearby red light on Main Street. While one called 911, others flagged down the car and directed officers to the restaurant.

Minutes later, two women from the group who had remained inside came running out.

"I was certainly scared, but you’re more worried about your friends. Is everybody OK? Did anybody get shot? It was wild," the witness said. "We all were pretty shook. We had a sense of panic and anxiety.

"It was definitely a relief when upwards of 15 to 20 police vehicles showed up and they’re pulling out (what looked like) assault rifles and heading into the establishment."

The witness pointed the two men out to his friends and, as they were in mid-conversation, gunfire rang out. It came in two bursts, the witness said — an initial shot, followed by a series in close succession. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

The witness pointed the two men out to his friends and, as they were in mid-conversation, gunfire rang out. It came in two bursts, the witness said — an initial shot, followed by a series in close succession. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Free Press files)

While waiting to talk to police, the witness said he saw police lead out one of the two men he had described as "sketchy" in handcuffs.

On Feb. 15, 2013, Dylan Chatkana, a 15-year-old member of the Mad Cowz street gang, walked into the same Johnny G's and opened fire in a targeted hit.

The first bullet narrowly missed a waitress and the second fatally pierced the neck of 24-year-old William Edward Moar, a member of the rival B-Side gang. Chatkana was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years.

Giannakis said his employees are shaken in the aftermath of Wednesday's violence. He has since permanently changed the closing time for his Exchange District location to 1 a.m. from 4 a.m. — and if the Main Street spot reopens, he’ll do the same there.

"I want to reopen. We’re hoping to, but I mean, this is the second time it’s happened. We won’t stay open until 4 a.m. anymore, but our struggle now is will people come back? Where do you go from here?" he said.

"You cannot shut down the whole city at midnight. We’ll no longer be part of that world, but maybe they go someplace else. The yellow tape might be in some difference place in the future."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 12:12 PM CST: Updates headline

12:28 PM: Updates copy

4:56 PM: Writethru.

5:37 PM: Update

12:02 AM: Removes extra word

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