Former Surrey gangster Jordan Buna is sharing his story with Surrey youth as part of a new gang prevention program, Shattering the Image. (File photo)

Former Surrey gangster Jordan Buna is sharing his story with Surrey youth as part of a new gang prevention program, Shattering the Image. (File photo)

Shattering the Image

VIDEO: A former Surrey gangster’s cautionary tale

THIRD IN A SERIES: Jordan Buna went from sports champ to drug trafficker, and shares his story with Surrey elementary students

This is the third part in a series on gang violence in Surrey, how youth recruitment is happening right now, and what the Surrey RCMP are doing to try to prevent it. Read part one and part two.

“What a cute kid, right?” Jordan Buna asked the young crowd with a chuckle.

A few feet away, a projector inside a classroom at Fraser Heights’ Erma Stephenson Elementary displayed a photo of him as a 12-year-old Surrey boy in full hockey gear.

“That kid is like any one of you guys in this room,” he said. “The kid in that picture could’ve pretty much gone and done and been whoever he wanted to.”

But that kid became a criminal – a gangster.

“So the whole point of this presentation – remember that face – is to see what turned that sweet, smiling innocent kid in that picture into that,” he said, pointing as the projector changed to show a police mugshot of Buna.

homelessphoto

The now-reformed Buna was at Erma Stephenson that day to speak to Grade 7 students, as part of a new program called Shattering the Image that aims to shed light on the realities of gang life. 

The presentation has been shown to thousands of Surrey students since its creation this fall, and is the first time a hard-hitting presentation being done in the city’s elementary schools, before they transition into high school.

Surrey RCMP say youth as young as 13 are being recruited into gang life, and this program is an effort to stop it.

With tattoos peaking out under his sleeves, Buna began his part of the presentation by detailing his childhood.

He showed more photos of himself from when he was the same age as those sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of him. In a poignant recount of his troubled youth and his road to redemption, Buna told his tale about how he went from a happy boy in elementary school, to a man who trafficked drugs across Canada.

“Those are two very different pictures of the same person,” he said of his youthful photos, and his mugshot. “It was nothing more, nothing less than the people I chose to surround myself with, and the decisions I made every single day.”

Buna’s road has been a bumpy one. Elementary school was normal. It’s a time when Buna described himself as a “good kid,” who got good grades, was a Science Fair champ, and a well-rounded athlete.

His first stumble came in Grade 7, when he admittedly became defiant and thrill-seeking, which landed him in a doctor’s office and ultimately ended with a diagnosis of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). He was put on Ritalin.

“A month or two later, all the sudden it’s so much easier for me to focus, to sit still, to pay attention, to get my work done,” he said. “It took a lot of the pressure off for me. I’m not getting into as much trouble, and things started to get easier. And I kind of went more back to being that good kid I was.”

Then high school happened.

Buna recalled wanting to impress all the kids, many of whom were older and cooler to the wide-eyed Grade 8 child.

He decided to go off his meds, unbeknownst to his parents or doctors, because he felt it was making him “boring” and a “zombie” and “making no one notice him.”

It was also a time when he met a group of new friends.

One day, while out with these “negative” friends, he shoplifted for the first time.

He got caught.

Buna said he was handcuffed and taken home in a police car, and by chance, his “more positive, elementary school” friends were playing street hockey on his block when he rolled through.

“What do you think those parents said to their kids? ‘Don’t hang out with Jordan, he’s bad.’ At first when I heard that I thought, ‘Whatever, they’re not going to listen.’ But it hurt when they actually did…. I lost almost all the positive people in my life overnight,” Buna said.

He quickly got closer with his negative group. His defiance returned, as did his thrill-seeking behaviour which slowly became criminal. He was breaking into cars, smoking and selling drugs, and fighting became a “weekly event.”

A tragic end to a school fight near LA Matheson Secondary was a turning point for Buna. A scrap against kids from another school ended with his friend being run over, dragged and killed. Afterward, he saw the pain his 16-year-old friend’s death left behind.

“When you die, you don’t pay the consequences of what happens after,” said Buna.

“I didn’t care about myself but I cared about my dad and my mom and my brother. I didn’t want my parents to go through that.”

See also: VIDEO: The inspiration behind a Surrey gang presentation in elementary schools

See also: How gangsters are recruiting Surrey teens on Instagram, Snapchat

Buna went back on his meds, and immediately his grades started to improve and things appeared to be back on track.

He attended an RCMP Youth Academy over spring break, and was inspired to become a police officer. He applied and was accepted into a criminology university program.

“All it took was a year or two of focus, and being down for myself, instead of my friends who, in the end, didn’t care about me anyways,” he told the students.

But things took another dive when he began to party in the summer after high school, and when university came in September, he found himself struggling and didn’t seek academic help. After failing all of his classes, he dropped out.

“I felt direction-less,” he said.

So, he sought a new goal, choosing to seek to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“After months of physical and aptitude tests, I was acing them. I thought I was in,” he said. “There was no plan B.”

But he was about to face the biggest blow yet.

Buna said he’ll never forget the words on the letter from the army: “Subject is not combat deploy-able.”

“They wouldn’t let me into the military because I was diagnosed with ADD and I’d been put on medication for it and I disclosed that,” he lamented. “It’s a policy they’ve now changed, but when I applied, it was just, ‘no.’

“I gave up on my dreams,” he added. “I once again allowed myself to get angry.”

He found a job cooking and busing tables at a Surrey eatery known to be a gathering place for gangsters.

“You want to know what gang recruitment looks like?… It’s going to come in an enticing, seductive way. Gang recruitment for me, was after I started to get to know these guys, and they’d say ‘Why do you wanna work here? You can make more money doing this with us.’” Buna said. “Gang recruitment for me, would be busing some of these tables and they’d hand you a $100 bill. They didn’t even have to recruit me, I wanted it.”

homelessphoto

Former Surrey gangster Jordan Buna speaks to a group of Grade 7 students at Erma Stephenson Elementary in Fraser Heights in May, 2018. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Like many young men in Surrey selling drugs today, he began as a dial-a-doper.

Buna said he had his fair share of “white knuckle moments” during his criminal life, but the scariest of all were during his dial-a-dope days, which Surrey RCMP say is the entry-level job for most youth who are successfully recruited into gangs.

“I was robbed at needlepoint before,” Buna told the students. “Not knifepoint or gunpoint. Needlepoint.”

He was later promoted from the dial-a-doper job.

A few years into his gang life, police raided a grow-op he was running. At 22 years old, he was charged and convicted of production of a controlled substance, and possession for the purpose of trafficking. Six months later, he was arrested again, this time for having a loaded gun. He was sentenced to a year in prison.

“(Jail) is a place where a lot of violence happens. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and a lot of sadness,” he said. “I spent Christmas in there, I spent my birthday in there. You want to see a sad place? Look at a place like jail on Christmas. No one’s siting around acting like a tough guy, they’re sitting around missing their kids, missing their wives, missing their parents, wishing they could do things over again.”

That experience spurred him to return to university, to get that degree he sought right out of high school, and today, he works as an outreach worker for the Surrey school district and also presents to children across B.C. as part of the province’s anti-gang unit, CFSEU.

“Ultimately, your guys’ lives are going to be what you make them,” Buna told the students.

“It’s going to be the people you spend your time with, the decisions you make every single day and that’s what’s going to determine if you become successful or if you unfortunately end up in a place I ended up.”

See also: OUR VIEW: All Surrey students should hear powerful gang talk

He told the kids their transition into high school “is going to be a milestone year.”

“You have a lot of important decisions to make,” he stressed. “Decisions like the kind of people that you’re going to surround yourself with when you get to high school. The kind of work habits you’re going to have. It’s going to take a lot of good choices to build something in your life. It only takes a couple of bad choices to wreck some the hard work you’ve put in.”

Erma Stephenson’s Vice Principal Shelley Stark said the presentation was “way more powerful” than she expected.

“I think it will resonate with the kids,” she said after Buna’s talk. “We just want to make sure they’re empowered and have the information they need to make wise choices, and that they realize they’re not invincible. That’s a very common feeling for young people to have.”

Stark said she intends to invite the RCMP and Buna back for another presentation, but this time for parents.

“It’s hard for teachers to keep up with all the changes. For parents, it’s that much harder.”

Fraser Heights is not immune to such realities, she said.

“For people who think because they live in a nice area, with a higher than average socioeconomic population, you think you’re immune to some of this. You think, ‘It’s happening in Newton, or Guildford,’ but it isn’t necessarily,” Stark said. “It just depends if they’ve decided to recruit at your school. There’s lonely, isolated kids at every school.”

For more information or to request a presentation, visit surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca or email the Gang Enforcement Team at surrey_sget@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

NEXT UP: In a series finale, we look back at previous efforts to curb gun and drug violence in Surrey, and at a bill tabled by Trudeau’s Liberal government that aims to impact the issue through new gun laws.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

teaser
Top-10 ‘Maxim’ magazine contest model got her start in Surrey

Kajal Kumar hopes to earn $25K cash prize and a cover photo shoot

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on B.C. highways – checkpoint at Manning Park

Four checkpoints are set up Thursday, May 6 around the province

A woman walks past a long lineup that snaked through the parking lot at the Cloverdale Rec. Centre April 27 after Fraser Health allowed people age 30 and over from “high-transmission neighbourhoods” to access the AstraZeneca shot. The temporary vaccination centre is located on the Cloverdale Fairgrounds. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Cloverdale now considered a ‘high-transmission area’

Anyone 30 and over can now register for a vaccine

Semiahmoo Rotary Club has announced the winners of its 2021 Service Above Self Surrey Youth (SASSY) Awards. (Contributed image/screenshot)
Surrey/White Rock SASSY Award winners announced

Six youth receive $1,500 for ‘service above self,’ including $500 for charity

This year’s PNE Prize Home is to be built in-place, in South Surrey. (pneprizehome.ca)
PNE’s first-ever built-in-place grand prize home to be constructed in South Surrey

Pandemic-related touring options prompts break from tradition

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Junior A team Coquitlam Express is offering all Tri-City residents who get vaccinated against COVID-19 a free ticket to one of their games. (Facebook/Coquitlam Express)
B.C. hockey team offering free tickets to hometown fans who get the COVID-19 vaccine

‘We know the only way to get fans back is people getting vaccinated,’ says Express’ general manager Tali Campbell

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s latest COVID-19 restrictions cost thousands of service jobs

Part-time workers set back again by spike in virus spread

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Leaked report shows detailed B.C. COVID-19 data not being released to public

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Abbotsford school board trustee Phil Anderson has stepped down after sharing an offensive image on Facebook. (File photo)
Abbotsford trustee temporarily steps down after sharing post relating COVID masks to slavery

Phil Anderson to receive training to better understand provincial mask mandate after posting picture

B.C. announced the launch of an app May 7 that connects youth struggling with mental health and substance use with “life-saving” social services. (Screen grab)
5 years in the making: Mental health app for youth and children launches in B.C.

The province provided $1.6-million to fund a virtual care platform

Rex, an elderly golden Labrador retriever, is surrounded by his rescuers in Golden Ears Provincial Park. (Special to The News)
VIDEO: Dog survives plunge over Gold Creek Lower Falls in Maple Ridge

Fire chief asks for visitors to be more cautious in Golden Ears Provincial Park

Amazon has announced the creation of five new facilities in B.C., to employ about 2,000 people. (Amazon/Special to Black Press Media)
Amazon adds new facilities in Langley, Pitt Meadows, Delta, Vancouver

The Vancouver port centre will be the first Amazon centre to feature robotics in B.C.

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Most Read