An attempted armed robbery at a Calgary pawn shop on Jan. 5 led to a major seizure of guns, ammunition and drugs from two residences and a vehicle in Calgary, a Red Deer apartment, and two hotel rooms in Gasoline Alley.
Nine guns along with 12,159 rounds of ammunition, $14,400 cash, and almost 400grams of drugs with a street value of about $39,000 were seized as a result of the joint investigation by Calgary Police Service and Red Deer and area RCMP with Central Alberta’s Priority Crimes Task Force.
So far a Red Deer man and a Calgary man face 21 charges in connection with the drug trafficking ring.
“We believe the individuals who were charged are associated with an organized crime group that was in the process of transitioning from a street level group to a mid-level organized crime group that had an influence not only in the Calgary area but Central Alberta,” said Calgary Police Service Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta, during a press conference at Red Deer RCMP’s downtown detachment on Monday.
“We know through our investigation, which remains ongoing, that this group had ties to organized criminals in British Columbia.”
He said the number of weapons and ammunition found speaks to the level of violence these groups were willing to go.
In 2015, Calgary police and local RCMP partnered to investigate suspects involved in drug activity in both jurisdictions.
Calgary police started their investigation in March after a tip from the public about ongoing drug activity with connections to the Red Deer area.
Coincidentally, the Central Alberta task force, made up of officers from Red Deer RCMP General Investigative Section, Sylvan Lake, Innisfail and Blackfalds RCMP detachments, started its own investigation into drug activity regarding the same suspects as Calgary police in October.
In November, the two police forces combined their information and efforts with the assistance of Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT).
Task force members focused on two of the suspects who lived in Red Deer and Calgary and were extremely active in drug trafficking and violent crimes in the Red Deer area from October to the end of December.
The investigation progressed when Calgary police responded to an attempted armed robbery at the Calgary pawn shop. Suspects fled in a stolen vehicle that police believed was connected to the trafficking investigation.
Suspects were observed abandoning the vehicle and fleeing in another which was stopped during a high-risk vehicle stop in Calgary. Two suspects from the vehicle were taken into custody.
Over the next few days following the arrests, police searched a vehicle in Calgary, three residences including an apartment at 475 Lancaster Dr. in Red Deer, and two Gasoline Alley hotel rooms.
Items seized from the Red Deer area included a military-grade vest with a ceramic plate to protect against high power guns.
Red Deer RCMP Cpl. Bob Schultz said it made him wonder what caliber guns the drug trafficking ring possessed. It was also alarming that more types of ammunition were seized than guns that used them.
But tips from the public can help police seize significant amounts of ammunition and weapons like this, he said.
“The good thing is when we make a dent like this, they’re set back and they have to start over again. To collect this kind of arsenal, this amount of ammo, it takes a long time,” Schultz said.
Drugs seized from Calgary and Red Deer area included 203.2 grams of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $20,320; 181.1 grams of powder cocaine valued at $18,100; 4.7 grams of crack cocaine worth $470; and 75 millilitres of GHB.
Larger amounts of drugs were found in Calgary, with smaller packages ready for distribution seized in Red Deer.
Other seized items included a .22 caliber Archangel assault rifle and two sawed-off shot guns, a loaded 410 caliber revolver, several knives and a collapsible baton.
Three portable concrete saws stolen from the Calgary area were also seized in Red Deer.
Red Deer RCMP Sup. Scott Tod said the variety of items seized — drugs to weapons to property — and the reach of organized crime showed the importance of police collaboration.
“Organized crime groups don’t stick to a particular jurisdiction. They move. Not only do they move and work in different jurisdictions, you can see they work in different commodities,” Tod said.
Shawn Barry Steier, 30, of Red Deer, was charged with two counts of robbery, two counts of pointing a firearm, one count of possession of stolen property over $5,000, two counts of knowing possession of an unlicensed weapon, one count of unlawfully at large, and one count of having a face masked or disguised during an offence.
Wayant Donald Chapin, 37, of Calgary, was charged with two counts of robbery, one count of possession of stolen property over $5,000, two counts of possession of an unlicensed weapon, one count of possession of property obtained by crime, one count of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, one count of possession of crystal meth for the purpose of trafficking, one count of possession of body armor without a valid permit, one count of driving an uninsured motor vehicle on a highway, and two counts of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Steier and Chapin will appear in provincial court on Jan. 29. It was not yet known if it will be at court in Red Deer or Calgary.
Charges are pending against a 55-year-old Red Deer woman.