- Street gangs with outside muscle, targeting the Hells Angels, have sparked the outburst of violence that's left five adult businesses in flames and two people shot, London police said Wednesday.
Police vowed to end the violence, even as organized-crime analysts and criminal sources disputed if the Hells had the clout in London to battle back.
Late Wednesday, three of the men police arrested -- two from London, one from Brampton -- appeared in court by video to answer early charges related to the shooting. All three men are black, giving credence to the police theory biker gangs -- which don't usually allow black members -- aren't responsible for the recent violence.
Whoever is responsible for the fires and shootings, they'll have to answer for it, Chief Brad Duncan vowed at a news conference.
"You are priority No. 1," Duncan warned. "We will not tolerate this open display of violence. This shooting has taken place in a residential area, in close proximity to a public school, and notwithstanding the time of day that it occurred, it has put our citizens at grave risk."
The weapon involved in the shooting hasn't been found, police said.
Police held the news conference partly to quell rumours the violence was a result of a battle between the Hells Angels and their traditional rivals, the Outlaws, another biker gang.
"There is not information at this time to support such an assumption," Duncan said.
But street gangs "can be every bit as dangerous as the more traditional outlaw motorcycle clubs," he warned. "They are associated with the drug trade. Guns and firearms are involved. They are every bit as organized."
Street gangs have no fear of the Hells Angels or any outlaw motorcycle club, biker analyst Yves Lavigne told QMI Agency.
In London, the street gangs have taken over the drug-trafficking market because traditional biker clubs lost their power, said Lavigne, author and co-author of several books about outlaw bikers and drug trafficking.
In December, the revived Hells Angels chapter in London began leaning on the street-gang members to start working for them, he said.
"What you've seen the past five days is the street gangs telling the Hells Angels, 'Screw you.' "
Full of new members with little hardcore experience, the London Hells Angels don't have the backbone to retaliate, Lavigne said.
"They don't have what it takes."
But another organized crime analyst and author, James Dubro, disagreed.
"The Hells Angels have to hit back. It's a total lack of respect," he said. "There has to be retaliation and serious retaliation."
Dubro said the news that a street gang, not the Outlaws, is targeting the Hells Angels could spell even more trouble in London.
"In the end, it leads to more violence and more chaos in the underworld," he said. "Hells Angels has it all. You couldn't possibly take them on."
Two sources with knowledge of London's criminal world said they're expecting the London Hells Angels will bring in supporters from out of town to deal with the matter.
"You've got all the boys coming in. It's going to go on until someone gets killed," said one long-time associate of bikers.
The outburst of violence began Saturday morning, when a tattoo parlour on Hamilton Road owned by a member of the Outlaws, was set ablaze. That was followed by fires at a strip club owned by a Hells Angels leader, and two massage parlours, Sunday morning.
The sequence of fires suggested the Outlaws and Hells Angels were in the early stages of a war.
The violence escalated Wednesday morning, just after midnight, when two people were shot outside a purported clubhouse of the Hells Angels on Grey Street.
A female victim was treated for gunshot wounds and released. A male victim remains in hospital in serious condition, police said.
Police wouldn't release the names of the victims, but said the man was a known member of the Hells Angels and the woman an associate of his.
Sources told QMI Agency the male victim is Diamond Ialenti, a full-patch member of the Hells Angels.
The victim "has had ongoing issues with street gangs," Duncan said.
Asked if it's unusual for London street gangs to hire outside muscle, Duncan noted many other shootings in the city have involved drug dealers and gang members from the Greater Toronto Area and other areas.
"In many of our previous investigations, shooting investigations and homicide investigations, that fact has come out fairly clear."
Duncan said police were still trying to figure how an Outlaws-associated business got mixed up with a battle between street gangs and the Hells Angels.
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