Joshua Dylan Petrin, 29, of Edmonton, Randy James Wayne O’Hagan and Kyle Darren Halbauer-- both 22 years old of Lloydminster – have all been charged with first-degree murder.
Kyle Halbauer, 22, is one of three members of the White Boy Posse gang charged with first-degree murder in the death of Lorry Santos.
O'Hagan and Halbauer are also charged with first-degree murder in an Alberta man's death just weeks after Santos was killed. Bryan Gower, 35, was found dead on a rural road near Kitscoty, Alta., on Sept. 25.
O’Hagan is charged with first-degree murder in a third case stemming from Lloydminster. Partial remains of Robert John Roth Sr. were found near Ranfurly, Alta., on Oct. 20. The 54-year-old’s head was found in Edmonton on Oct. 25.
All three men have been linked to an Alberta-based gang called the White Boy Posse, which has alleged ties to the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
“The way you need to look at it is there’s a giant pyramid scheme occurring in the streets of Canada right now, with multiple levels, with the top of the food chain (being) traditional organized crime, which includes the Hells Angels at the top, and multiple layers underneath it,” said Michael Chettleburgh, author of Young thugs: Inside the Dangerous World of Canadian Street Gangs and CEO of Astwood Strategy Corporation, a Toronto-based consulting firm that delivers gang intervention, prevention and exit programs.
Groups like the White Boy Posse are employed by larger organizations to commit crimes that would risk drawing police attention. Killings like those alleged to have been committed by Petrin, O’Hagan and Halbauer are one way that gangs lower on the chain gain credibility and hold onto their turf in the country’s drug trade, according to Chettleburgh.
“The currency on the street right now in terms of your ability to maintain your criminal markets, to maintain your relationships is violence. So it doesn’t surprise me that you see these sensational crimes including decapitation, designed purposely to get people to think twice before crossing the line.”
While Chettleburgh praised the efforts of police in tackling gangs, he said that violence and gang activity are likely to continue unless government and law enforcement re-think their approach.
“Until we begin to deal with some of the underlying root causes of why we have a gang problem, which to me is in part largely due to our position on drug prohibition which has been an utter failure, which has created what I call the ‘drug problem problem’ which is street gangs and organized crime and all that goes with it, we’re never really going to get on top of this problem. It’ll largely be a game of whack-a-mole being played out in the streets. We might take three others out, but three more heads will pop up as a result.”