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Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Columbus's reputation as a biker bar led many to assume the fire was gang related


11:30 |

The investigation into the Columbus Hotel fire is still in its earliest stage, but you can be sure police are well into considering the first thing that was on the mind of a lot of people Tuesday.
The Columbus's reputation as a biker bar led many to assume the fire was gang related -- with one gang striking at the other by torching one of the places some of its rivals were known to frequent.
It had been only two weeks since the last public violent encounter involving the local underworld took place, that being the downtown shootout allegedly between rival factions of the Independent Soldiers.
If people's assumptions are correct and the Columbus fire is the work of gang members, it escalates an already tense situation that has become increasingly and frighteningly public.
Two men, residents of the hotel said to be unconnected to any gang, are feared dead in the charred rubble where only three brick walls still stand.
If the Prince George Fire Department determines arson is the cause, the police investigation takes on a double-homicide element. Those intent on misspending their youth by succumbing to the allure of being a drugged-out minion, a gang footsoldier, might want to consider the grave consequences. They're damned if they do carry out their masters' wishes and damned if they don't.
Among those watching the scene in disbelief Tuesday were several youths with at least a passing familiarity with street life in Prince George. One rode his bicycle downtown to place a resume at the Centre for Learning Alternatives, directly across Second Avenue from the still-smouldering remains of the Columbus. He hadn't heard about the fire by Tuesday afternoon and couldn't believe what he saw.
"It's probably gangs," he said without prompting, getting back on his bike after finding the centre closed for the day because of the fire.
"I was going to meet a guy down here. We were both going to try for (job) placements. He used to be in a gang and I read that he got out.
"They should all do that," he said as he rode off, still clutching his resume.
The young man was close enough to street life to know how things work, but smart enough to know it's a dead end, sometimes literally.
Oh, for more like him.


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