It's been 10 years since Jonathan Bacon was gunned down in Kelowna

10 years since Bacon killing

Ten years ago to the day, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, two men dressed in black jumped from an SUV outside Kelowna's Delta Grand Hotel and fired a number of bullets into a white Porsche SUV.

Jonathan Bacon, the eldest of the three notorious Bacon brothers, was left dead, while three others in the vehicle were injured. Miraculously, no one else near the busy downtown hotel was hit by the dozens of bullets that were fired.

The gangland shooting during a busy summer weekend, which stemmed from the ongoing gang war in the Lower Mainland, rocked the Okanagan city.

Hells Angel Larry Amero was seriously injured while two women with the group, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black, were injured. Hadden-Watts was shot in the neck, leaving her paralyzed. Meanwhile, Independent Soldier James Riach escaped the shooting unharmed, but in 2018, he was sentenced to life in prison in the Phillipines for drug trafficking.

The front drive of the Delta Grand Hotel was packed with tourists on the Sunday afternoon, and surveillance video from the shooting shows people running for cover as the bullets start to fly. One family was caught between the targets and the shooters, but they survived.

A 9-mm bullet went through the front window of the Kelowna Art Gallery across Water Street, while two other bullets went through a nearby wall and into a hair salon.

“That no one else was injured or killed, but for it being true, would seem unbelievable,” Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton later said.

The burned-out shell of the getaway vehicle was found later that day near Lake Country, after the fire had spread to the nearby brush, and several months later, one of the firearms used in the fatal shooting was found in a bush three kilometres away.

A year and a half later, Jason McBride, Michael Jones and Jujhar Khun-Khun were arrested and charged with first-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder. A fourth man, Manjinder (Manny) Hairan, was also involved in the killing, but he was killed in a shooting in Surrey just one month before the arrests were made.

While charges were laid in 2013, the high-profile case didn't make it to trial in Kelowna until May 2017.

Due to the nature of the case, new security features were installed in the Kelowna courthouse, including metal detectors and large glass barriers separating the gallery in Courtroom 1 from the trial itself.

Throughout the lengthy trial, the court heard how the Lower Mainland's Dhak Group gang had been hunting the Red Scorpion's Bacon, along with Riach and Amero, for several months. Sukh Dhak believed they were responsible for the 2010 murder of his brother, Gurmit Dhak. Sukh Dhak was later killed in a 2012 shooting in Burnaby.

Bacon and his two brothers Jared and Jamie had taken control of the Red Scorpions gang in the Lower Mainland around 2006, and were part of the escalating gang war in the Lower Mainland at that time.

While the Kelowna trial took four years to begin, the delays didn't end there. The longest delay, from the fall of 2017 to spring 2018, was due to the defence challenging the testimony of several of the Crown's witnesses, who were all former associates of the accused.

In March 2018, frustrated with the delays, Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton said “we are chasing our tails here.”

On April 20, 2018, Crown prosecutor David Ruse surprised the court and those following the case by announcing the three accused had struck a plea deal with the Crown.

Jason McBride pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted murder and was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 18 years, while Khun-Khun and Jones pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder, and were sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.

In explaining the reasoning for the plea deal, Ruse pointed to the delays the trial faced, along with the Crown's reliance on “unsavoury witnesses.”

The police investigation of the shooting, described as “one of the largest and most complex in B.C.'s history,” cost $9 million. That price tag doesn't include the cost of the prosecution.

Gang violence continues to plague the Okanagan 10 years later. Just two weeks ago, a gunman opened fire on Kelowna's Pandosy Street, on a busy Saturday evening. While the target, Kyle Gianis survived, he died less than a week later from what police called "self-inflicted injuries." No arrests have been made in the shooting.

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