A murderous turf war between biker gangs has sent citizens scurrying for cover in Canada’s second-largest city, with parents pulling their children off the streets and tourists packing their bags for safer sightseeing destinations.
The fear and outrage are most palpable in Montreal’s east end, scene of a bomb blast and shooting last week that killed two people and wounded seven. The murders brought the death toll to at least eight in the year-old battle between Hell’s Angels and the Rock Machine motorcycle gangs for control of the lucrative drug trade in southern Quebec province.
On Wednesday, a car bomb exploded in a residential neighborhood near Olympic Stadium, home of the Montreal Expos. The blast killed a reputed drug dealer affiliated with the Hell’s Angels and wounded several passersby, including an 11-year-old boy who remains close to death with massive brain injuries.
On Thursday, a man wielding two pistols opened fire in a motorcycle parts store operated by the Rock Machine, killing a customer and wounding a rival biker. Although the killer was not wearing gang “colors” or insignia, police believe he was a revenge-seeking Hell’s Angel.
The slain customer was not a member of either gang, police said.
The bomb blast and shooting marked the first time that bystanders have fallen victim to the escalating biker violence, which last week appeared to be spilling into Ontario as several Toronto bars frequented by gang members were firebombed.
Quebecers flooded radio talk shows with demands that the police shut down the biker organizations.
But police offered little hope that the gang war could be contained.
“I would be lying if I said there would be no more bombs and no more victims,” said Deputy Chief Pierre Sangollo, head of the special investigations section of the Montreal Urban Community police. “Even if we put 100 more cops into the streets, the biker war will not end tomorrow.”
At Montreal’s Dorval airport, Suzanne Watanabe, 20, and two friends were boarding a flight for home. The three young women, all college students from the Boston area, had decided to quit the city after only a day because of fear.
“I thought Canada was the safest country, but all we’ve heard about is bombs and killing since we came to Montreal,” said Watanabe, who lives in Brookline. “We got kind of scared - too scared to go out at night and enjoy the cafes.”
Most of the violence, however, has occurred well off the beaten tourist path.