DON SIPOS                                Bullets were everywhere after the Aug. 14, 2011 shooting of Jonathan Bacon.

DON SIPOS Bullets were everywhere after the Aug. 14, 2011 shooting of Jonathan Bacon.

Breaking: Guilty pleas in gangland slaying of Jonathan Bacon

Jason McBride, Jujhar Khun-Khun and Michael Jones appeared in Kelowna court Tuesday

The men who plotted and carried out the 2011 murder of B.C. gangster Jonathan Bacon were expressionless as they pleaded guilty to their crimes Tuesday, putting an end to a lengthy trial mired in red tape.

Jason McBride was one of two gunmen who masked his face and charged toward a Porsche Cayenne Aug. 14, 2011 while firing an AK 47 style gun, said Crown counsel Dave Ruse, reading from the statement of fact.

Within the Porsche were members of the drug dealing gang, the “Wolf Pack,” which included Larry Amero, who was driving, Bacon was in the front passenger seat and James Riach was in a back seat. They were with companions, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black.

McBride, who was seen in video footage shown in court can be seen approaching the Cayenne in white sneakers, was with now-deceased Manny Hairan, who shot the car with a glock style gun, while people walking dogs, children and elderly hotel guests ran for cover.

“It is difficult to imagine a more public place to attempt this murder than the entranceway of a large resort hotel in a tourist city in the middle of summer on a sunny Sunday,” said Ruse, describing the scene.

Forensic evidence presented in the trial showed that 45 bullet cartridges were found at the scene, 34 of which cut through the Porsche. Two went into a salon beside the shooting and another was found in the Kelowna Art Gallery where children and parents were taking part in Family Day.

Those bullets fatally sliced through Bacon, left Amero without the use of an arm and paralyzed Hidden Watts. Riach escaped without injury and Black has healed from wounds to her legs.

Michael Jones was in the driver side of the getaway vehicle, said Crown counsel Dave Ruse, and Jujhar Khun Khun conspired to weaponize the men after plotting out the movements of their targets, the “Wolf Pack.”

For committing second degree murder, Crown counsel along with defence reccomended that McBride get the mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, with eligibility to apply for parole reduced to 18 years. All three men were arrested Feb. 22, 2013 and served five years and two months, to date.

Khun-Khun and Jones are facing sentences of 18 years apiece for conspiring to murder. Khun Kuhn will be credited for eight years and two months of time served and Jones will be credited with five.

Inmates can apply for parole after serving a third of their sentence then they get statutory release at the two thirds mark. Ruse has requested that Jones and Khun Khun be forced to serve half of their remaining ten year sentences.

In all, it appears to be a somewhat insignificant end to a significant event — the optics of which were not lost on Ruse.

“The joint proposal was the culmination of extensive discussions between Crown and defence and considerable reflection of the Crown on the strengths and weaknesses of the case, as well as the public interest,” said Ruse.

Much of Crown counsel’s case was reliant on testimony from unsavoury witnesses, and that has caused a number of challenges, the most significant of which being delays.

“From the Crown’s perspective the primary consideration is the delay in completing this trial,” said Ruse. “The adjournment of this trial to accommodate disclosure of the witness protection programs was reaching the eight month mark. The Crown is not criticizing the work of the Attorney General of Canada. They worked diligently to assist the efforts of the court, however in spite of their efforts a significant delay has occurred to a trial that has already taken a log time to complete.”

In pleading guilty the accused gave up their rights to be charged on the merits of the charges.

“Significantly they gave up rights to forward charter arguments on delay,” said Ruse. “The resolution will be final.”

A judgement will be released on Wednesday.

UPDATE: 10 a.m.

Jason McBride has pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Jonathan Bacon and attempted murder, while Jujhar Khun-Khun and Michael Jones have each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder.

Crown counsel is recommending a life sentence for McBride’s second-degree murder charge with the eligibility of parole coming into effect at 18 years.

For his attempted murder charge, Crown and Defence are recommending a 15 year sentence, less five years and two months for time served.

Crown has recommended Jones serve 18 years in prison, less 10 years for time served.

Counsel also recommeded Khun-Khun serve 18 years in prison, less eight years for time served.

The BC Prosecution Service filed a new indictment April 19 and it is as follows:

“On Aug. 14, 2011, at or near Kelowna, in the Province of British Columbia, Jason Thomas McBride did commit the second degree murder of Jonathan Bacon. He is also charged with attempting to murder Larry Amero, James Riach, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black, by discharging that firearm at Larry Amero, James Riach, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black.”

The indictment also says that Khun-Khun and Jones conspired with McBride, Suhkveer Dhak and others to commit the murder of Amero, Riach and Bacon, throughout the months leading to the shooting at locations across B.C.

More to come.

—-

ORIGINAL:

Sharon Shepherd was well aware of the growing gang presence in Kelowna when gunmen opened fire at the Delta Grand hotel and killed a notorious gangster in plain view.

But that didn’t diminish the feelings she and many others in the city grappled with.

“It was actually very devastating to think and to feel that something like that could happen here,” said Shepherd, who was mayor in 2011.

“Certainly, I think from the perspective of the community, it made us feel very vulnerable. We were untouched by the drama of such crime and that was very out in the open. It was unsettling. You can put blinders on, but it’s insidious.”

READ MORE: RIVAL GANGSTER CELEBRATED

The only saving grace, said Shepherd, was that it happened on a weekend, where there were fewer people out and about.

It was Family Day at the Kelowna Art Gallery, and a bullet pierced through the glass that faces the Grand while children milled about, said art gallery executive director Nataley Nagy.

Nobody was hurt, and emergency protocols were effective, but it shook all involved.

“I think we tend to think we are in our safe little havens at the art gallery, but anything can happen — even a bullet hole,” said Nagy.

It was funny years later, that from her safe vantage point at the art gallery, Nagy watched the court process roll out giving her an opportunity to again consider how that moment of violence eroded the sense of safety in the city.

“It’s hard not to think of it,” she said. “We are following how the whole area has been fenced up. The city has put up large banners and they’ve pretty well fenced in the artwork and the side of the art gallery where you used to walk through.”

The feeling will linger long after fences come down.

READ MORE: GUNS HIDDEN

Their trial started in May of 2017 and is scheduled to reach its inglorious conclusion May 1.

Only Jason McBride is now charged with Bacon’s murder. He’s expected to plead guilty.

Jujhar Khun-Khun and Michael Jones are now facing a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

The BC Prosecution Service filed a new indictment April 19 and it is as follows:

“On Aug. 14, 2011, at or near Kelowna, in the Province of British Columbia, Jason Thomas McBride did commit the second degree murder of Jonathan Bacon. He is also charged with attempting to murder Larry Amero, James Riach, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black, by discharging that firearm at Larry Amero, James Riach, Leah Hadden-Watts and Lyndsey Black.”

The indictment also says that Khun-Khun and Jones conspired with McBride, Suhkveer Dhak and others to commit the murder of Amero, Riach and Bacon, throughout the months leading to the shooting at locations across B.C.

“The matter has now been adjourned to May 1,” said Dan McLaughlin of the BC Prosecution Service.

“It is anticipated that guilty pleas will be entered at that time to all charges on the new indictment and the sentencing hearing will proceed on the basis of a joint submission.”

It’s unclear what led to the change in charges, but the trial that has already taken 11 months of court time was expected to resume this spring after a lengthy hiatus.

In opening statements in May of 2017 Crown counsel Dave Ruse said he had evidence the Aug. 14, 2011 shooting was the result of Khun-Khun, McBride and Jones working together to execute an order made by rival gangster Sukh Dhak.

He told the court that Suhk Dhak—the lead member of the gang the Dhak Group— believed that his brother Gurmit Dhak had been killed by Amero, a member of the Hells Angels, and Riach, an associate of the Independent Soldiers and “their crew” which included Bacon, the leader of the Red Scorpions.

For that, he wanted revenge.

“Dhak said he wanted to target those people and he wanted them killed,” said Ruse, May 29, 2017.

Bacon, Amero and Riach travelling with Black and Hadden-Watts to Kelowna Aug. 12, 2011, said Ruse. Court evidence showed they had been stalked before the shooting where Bacon died from his gunshot wounds, Hadden-Watts was shot in the neck and rendered a paraplegic, Amero was shot in the face, wrist and chest and Black was shot through both upper legs.

Riach escaped injury.

To report a typo, email:
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@KelownaNewsKat
kmichaels@kelownacapnews.com

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