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Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Jayme Norman Russell and Thomas Crawford, the alleged No 1 and 2, respectively, of the Kamloops' cell of one of Western Canada's most powerful gangs,

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The arrest outside of Kamloops's most notorious strip club last March was was sudden, loud and dramatic.With guns drawn, members of the RCMP detachment's elite emergency response team detonated concussion grenades then swarmed the parking lot of the Rendezvous Hotel before hauling off two unidentified men. Police refused to release names or charges and the city's media soon became impatient for answers.
Expectations were high when, two days later, a news conference was called at the downtown detachment on Battle Street.Cameras flashed inside the packed room as Insp. Yves Lacasse, along with Supt. Jim Begley and Kamloops Mayor Terry Lake, announced that city police had dealt a decisive blow to the Kamloops chapter of the Independent Soldiers gang by arresting the men they suspected to be the gang's top two leaders.Arrested on drug and weapons charges outside of the Rendezvous Hotel two days earlier, Lacasse confirmed, had been 26-year-olds Jayme Norman Russell and Thomas Crawford, the alleged No 1 and 2, respectively, of the Kamloops' cell of one of Western Canada's most powerful gangs, said to have connections with the Hell's Angels.Body shots of both men, on display in the room, showed the gang's name tattooed in script on their thick forearms.Lacasse explained their busts had been the culmination of a five-month undercover probe into the city's drug trade launched as part of the detachment's new crime reduction strategy. Initially targeting street dealers, he said the focus of the investigation moved to the "upper echelons" after police managed to shut down some of the city's more prolific drug houses.In total, he said undercover officers bought $60,000 worth of cocaine, crystal meth and other drugs from up to 35 other street- and mid-level dealers during the course of the probe.Russell and Crawford, he alleged, were at the top of the drug pyramid. Both were charged with trafficking cocaine while Crawford was also hit with a weapons charge for allegedly selling a .357 magnum handgun to an undercover officer.
They were later released on a bail.News of their arrests was met with applause from the city, with Lake taking the podium afterward to commend the RCMP for cracking down on the city's drug trade and
The fact Russell already had outstanding assault charges for allegedly holding a gun to the neck of a man outside of a Kamloops bar in 2006, added weight to Lacasse's statement that a severe blow had been dealt to the gang.
Further weight was added this January when Russell was arrested and charged with attempted murder for allegedly stabbing32-year-old Chad Porter three times in the neck outside of Cactus Jack's Saloon. Unconfirmed reports following the stabbing connected Porter to the notorious UN gang.Russell was denied bail on the new charge and held at the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre in anticipation of his upcoming trials.But a year after the dramatic arrest outside of the Rendezvous, Kamloops authorities are not much further ahead in their fight against the Independent Soldiers, due, largely, to unco-operative witnesses during the court process.

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