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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Vietnamese-based organization known as the Catacutan Drug Crew.


11:11 |

An SUV is towed away from Arthur Street and McDermot Avenue Saturday afternoon after a shooting left one person dead.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

An SUV is towed away from Arthur Street and McDermot Avenue Saturday afternoon after a shooting left one person dead.

Winnipeg police believe a spate of weekend shootings that killed two young men -- and left a teen fighting for survival -- are all linked to the city's drug and gang subculture.

However, sources told the Free Press Monday there appears to be no common thread between the three incidents, which all happened in a 24-hour period and pushed the city to an all-time homicide record.

The 33rd homicide victim of 2011 was 20-year-old Oudy Phrakonekham, shot while riding in a car through the Exchange District at 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Sources say he was gunned down at point-blank range in what was believed to be a targeted attack. Court records show he has no prior criminal involvement. A source said Phrakonekham is believed to have connections to a Vietnamese-based organization known as the Catacutan Drug Crew.

A founding member of that organization was recently raided by the Drug Enforcement Agency and Homeland Security in the United States on charges of conspiracy to export cocaine to Canada. That has caused instability within the organization, the source said.

"It's hard to say right now if this could be connected to that, or if it's just the usual competition-type violence you see," the source said.

The 34th homicide victim was a man whose name has not yet been made public, found shot in the parking lot of the Lincoln Motor Inn on McPhillips Street around 4:40 a.m. Sunday. A source identified him to the Free Press as Mohammed Omar, a known associate of the African Mafia street gang. Omar has a prior criminal record for drug possession, which led to a conditional discharge in 2006, according to court records.

Omar was a father of four children and lived with his common-law wife and mother in a home in St. Vital, said one of his friends.

Omar had come to Canada from Somalia in 1993 and worked as a cleaner at a city hospital, the friend said.

"(He had) absolutely beautiful children," said the friend, who said the children are aged nine, four, two and one.

Omar loved music, the friend said.

"He, personally, had a very good heart," she said.

The third shooting fell between the two slayings and also has gang connections. A 14-year-old boy who is linked to an aboriginal street gang was shot around 4:30 p.m. Saturday near Selkirk Avenue and Salter Street.

There is another common connection between the three incidents -- no arrests have been made in any of them.

Police sources say it is likely just a coincidence to have so many gun-related attacks in a short window of time. It's also the grim reality of life on Winnipeg streets, where police and prosecutors have been warning for months about the increasing number of criminals who are carrying firearms and apparently unafraid to use them.

Six of the city's 34 homicide victims in 2011 have died from gunfire.

Police are probing whether the Exchange District killing has any links to two other unsolved incidents from earlier this year, the source said.

Three men were shot and seriously injured in August while sitting inside a garage in a Transcona suburb. A witness told the Free Press at the time the gunman calmly walked up to the victims and fired at least six shots before fleeing. A source told the Free Press the incident is believed to be connected to organized crime.

Police were also exploring the possibility it was connected to the Aug. 6 stabbing death of Baljinder Singh Sidhu, 27, outside the Osborne Village Inn. Witnesses described a chaotic scene that involved members of several different race-based criminal organizations brawling in the street, ending with Sidhu being fatally attacked.

This weekend's violence comes just after the one-year anniversary of a triple shooting in the North End that left two victims dead and a 13-year-old girl wounded. No arrests have been made, but police recently revealed they believe those three attacks are linked and may have connections to the drug and/or gang world.


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