This is, in my estimation, gangs gone wild in Winnipeg," Winnipeg police Sgt. James Jewell said.Paa Pii Wak was supposed to be acting as an aboriginal treatment and healing centre, providing shelter to homeless people and teaching native culture, therapy and clean living to troubled residents who were sent to live there by the courts while their criminal charges were pending.
Instead, police say it became in effect a Manitoba Warriors clubhouse, a state that was unknown by Manitoba judges who let accused people stay there.
Police say that not a single homeless person was ever allowed to stay at the facility, despite their contract calling for 1,200 beds annually. Places such at the Salvation Army would occasionally call over on cold nights to see if they could send some of their overflow but were always turned down."It was like, sorry, unless you’re a friend of the Manitoba Warriors, you’re not staying here. If you’re just some cold homeless guy, beat it," said Det. Wes Law. He and Det.-Sgt. Roger Penner sat down with the Free Press this week for an exclusive look at what became known as "Project Octopus.""This was a multimillion-dollar corporation, over the course of its lifespan, being run by the Manitoba Warriors," said Jewell. "The Manitoba Warriors were using Paa Pii Wak to further their criminal enterprise."He cites the case of William Pangman, the longtime president of the Manitoba Warriors street gang, who walked into the lobby of the Winnipeg Remand Centre on May 15, 2008.
It was a familiar place for Pangman, who had left the facility exactly three weeks earlier after being granted bail on a string of violent gun-related offences that include a drive-by shooting.
The desk clerk appeared on surveillance video to be surprised to see Pangman, who was carrying identification that showed him to be an employee of the government-funded Paa Pii Wak halfway house.
She had no choice but to give Pangman what he’d come for — Manitoba Warriors associate Michael Ednie, who had been released on bail earlier that day with a condition that he be taken under the care of a Paa Pii Wak representative.Several months later, Ednie allegedly fled Paa Pii Wak — the breach wasn’t reported to police — and committed a violent sexual assault. Pangman would also be re-arrested in June 2008, after a high-speed police chase during rush hour in which guns were allegedly tossed from a vehicle.
"It is unbelievable taxpayers of Manitoba are paying for a gang member to act as a bail supervisor (on a fellow gang member)," said Jewell.The police investigation began last year following a tip from the RCMP and included several days and nights of undercover surveillance."The slogan here is it’s supposed to be a sharing of spirits... it’s more like the gathering of (expletive) gangs," one former Paa Pii Wak resident, caught on a police phone tap, is overheard saying to his girlfriend.
The man, who spent some time in the facility in 2007, was later charged with first-degree murder along with two co-accused with whom he’d spent time inside the facility. The trio is accused of beating a man to death in the core area."I met so many bad influences in there, people picking on me, saying they’re out of gangs when they’re not. I put myself in there to be a better person. But the only person trying in that house was me. That place is supposed to be a place of change. It’s not," says the accused killer. He also tells his girlfriend that residents like him were told to sign documents claiming they had taken treatment and programming when in fact nothing was done.Jewell noted Manitoba Warriors members had installed four surveillance cameras outside the property in what they believe was an attempt to watch out for police.Police could only find one example of a staff member calling to report a resident was breaching their bail conditions. Yet, dozens of examples were found where breaches were not only overlooked but covered up, either by allegedly fudging log entries and even one case where police say a phone call was faked to make it look like an AWOL gang member had just found a job (He hadn’t — he was actually in police custody at the time)Police also uncovered evidence of Paa Pii Wak staff members drinking on the job and regularly observed young women coming and going from the facility at all hours and often carrying alcohol."It’s clear to us there were lots of women, lots of drinking and partying going on," said Jewell.Penner said there don’t appear to be any success stories out of Paa Pii Wak."Everyone who has been sent there is back in jail," he said.
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