An organized crime expert says the weekend shooting of a former Hamilton Hells Angel on an east-end sidewalk has the hallmarks of a gangland “hit.”
James “Lou” Malone — a biker who had once been charged in a brutal beating at a Hamilton strip joint — was killed in a shooting on Kenilworth Avenue North just south of Hope Avenue around 1:20 a.m. on Saturday.
Det. Peter Thom, the lead investigator on the case, said on Saturday he believes the 49-year-old “was specifically targeted” and that the shooting followed “a bit of a foot race” through the neighbourhood.
Police have not made any arrests in the case.
Area residents report hearing a vehicle speed off after shots were fired.
Val — whose apartment is situated on top of a storefront on the east side of Kenilworth — said her two male roommates saw the shooting through a window.
“According to my roommates, they heard a truck stop and two gentlemen… jumped out of a silver truck,” said Val, who asked for her last name not to be published.
“There was a gentlemen walking on the street and about four shots were fired. And they jumped back into their truck and took off at a high rate of speed.”
Shooting likely 'thought out'
Peter Edwards, a veteran Toronto Star reporter who has written several books on organized crime, said the slaying “definitely looks like a hit” and said it raises questions about Malone’s standing with his former associates in the Hells Angels.
Edwards has conducted extensive research on the group and has a small file on Malone.
“There was nothing huge,” he said, about Malone’s role in the Hamilton chapter. But Edwards said the biker had the look of a “power lifter” and would have to have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to the group to become a member in the first place.
There are a number of factors in the shooting that lead Edwards to believe Malone’s death was far from a random act of lethal violence.
The fact that Malone was reportedly chased — and then shot multiple times with a gun — suggests the killing did not stem from a last-call bar fight, he said.
“If you’re pursuing the person after the anger should have passed, it’s a little more thought out.”
In addition, he said Malone’s imposing physique as well as his Hells Angels past would deter most casual assaults — and thus anybody attacking Malone would likely have been keen on causing him serious harm.
“It’s not generally a good idea to chase these guys,” Edwards said. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
It’s not clear when Malone left the formidable biker gang, nor the circumstances surrounding his departure.
Media reports suggest the Hamilton man was a Hells Angels operative as recently as 2008, when he and another member were acquitted of assault and weapons charges in a 2007 beating at a local strip club.
Edwards said he’s curious to learn whether Malone left the group in “good standing.”
If a member departs the Hells Angels on bad terms, “it’s like being shunned from religious community,” Edwards said.
'A lot of the attraction of being Hells Angels is that it’s like an extended family.' —Peter Edwards, journalist
Conversely, members who leave in good standing “can attend social functions,” but are stripped of the right to vote at meetings and are no longer tasked with carrying out group business.
Upon leaving the gang, Edwards added, outgoing members forfeit “all the protections that come with being in the Hells Angels.”
However, the possibility that Malone was still closely connected with the Hells Angels raises the spectre that his death will provoke an angry response.
“When they call it a brotherhood, they really mean it,” Edwards said. “A lot of the attraction of being Hells Angels is that it’s like an extended family.”
Homicide probe in 'very early stages'
Police have not announced any arrests in the case and have yet to identify any possible suspects.
On Saturday, homicide detective Thom said the probe was in its “ very early stages,” as investigators interviewed witnesses and gathered forensic evidence at the crime scene.
Thom confirmed that Malone was “previously a member of the Hells Angels,” and said the man had racked up “an extensive and violent criminal record.”
Malone’s past with the gang’s Hamilton contingent is telling, said Edwards.
The journalist described the Hamilton group as a “serious chapter” — one whose founder, Walter Stadnick, is believed to have been a key player in the expansion of the Hells Angels from Quebec into Ontario and beyond.
Stadnick is serving a 13-year prison sentence after he was convicted of murder conspiracy and drug trafficking charges in 2004.
“If he didn’t think someone was good, [Malone] wouldn’t have gotten in,” Edwards said, adding that to become a Hells Angels member, one has to have “credibility as a biker for an absolute minimum” of five years.
“To be Hells Angels, you don’t just show up.”