8 Calgary men arrested in connection to gang-war shootings that plagued city for months

Police have charged eight Calgary men — some of them on multiple charges of attempted murder — in connection with a series of shootings in the city's northeast last year that had many people on edge.

Some face numerous counts of attempted murder as police break up family-connected organization

Tarek El-Rafie was arrested at the Calgary Airport in November trying to make his way to Lebanon. He already faced charges with one suspected gang-related shooting. On Tuesday police announced he was charged in connection with five more. (Jim Wells/Calgary Sun)

Police have charged eight Calgary men — some of them on multiple charges of attempted murder — in connection with a series of shootings in the city's northeast last year that had many people on edge.

The arrests, made over the span of a week, are in relation to dozens of shootings that erupted in a conflict between two groups connected to organized crime and the drug trade, police said.

"We're hoping to send a message that 'we'll catch up to you at some point,' " said Insp. Don Coleman.

One of the distinct characteristics of Calgary's latest gang war is the family connection and these latest arrests highlight that feature. Four of the eight men charges are from the Amer family; Talal and Baraket are brothers. Their cousins Badar and Abdul are also brothers.

Last year, the guns and gangs unit compiled a list of about 60 people considered "high-level" participants in the gangs. The idea was to help front-line officers identify them.

On that list are several groups of between two and 12 men who share a surname — cousins and brothers. 

Those suspected gangsters are mainly of Lebanese descent; young men who were born in Calgary and grew up together in the northeast.

Though they remain in custody, most of the men facing new charges, are banned from communicating with each other.

'They can't shoot people when they're in jail'

Calgary saw 95 shootings in 2015 — twice as many as in 2014 — and investigators said more than half of those incidents were related to organized crime. Fifteen people were killed in those shootings.

The first three arrests came on Tuesday, May 3, when police executed warrants at three homes in the communities of Rundle, Sherwood and Pineridge. 

Calgary should see a reduction in the number of shootings on city streets as a result of these latest arrests, says Coleman.

"They can't shoot people when they're in jail," he said. "So the more people we can put in jail and keep in there, the less you're going to see rolling around the city."

'One night might lead to 25 years to life'

Although there is a sense of accomplishment in this latest round of charges, Coleman says the investigation is ongoing, and there are investigative roadblocks; witnesses and victims tend not to be cooperative. 

"It's clear that being shot or being shot at doesn't deter that activity like you'd think for most people," said Coleman.

Those factors mean police have had to use labour-intensive investigative techniques which often cause files to drag out for longer periods of time.

There are likely more than two sides to this gang war, according to police, but all of the arrests announced Tuesday as part of Operation Hybrid come from one group.

"What seems like something you might send a message and get away with one night might lead to 25 years to life at some point," said Coleman.

Of last year's homicides, 15 were gun and gang related and 10 are unsolved, but Coleman says the investigation remains active.

"This is only one piece of it, but it continues."

Those arrested are:

  • Barakat Amer, 20, who is charged with instructing the commission of offences for a criminal organization, along with eight counts of attempted murder.
  • Tarek El-Rafie, 24, who is charged with committing offences for a criminal organization, along with 10 counts of attempted murder.
  • Abdul Rahman Ali Amer, 19, who is charged with committing offences for a criminal organization, four counts of attempted murder and one count of intentionally discharging a firearm in a reckless way.

Then on Thursday, May 5, two men, who were already in police custody, were charged with additional offences. Those men are:

  • Talal Mohamad Amer, 23, who is charged with instructing the commission of offences for a criminal organization, along with six counts of attempted murder.
  • Bader Amer, 21, who is charged with committing offences for a criminal organization, discharging a firearm with intent to wound, obstructing justice by disguising a vehicle used in a crime, and accessory after the fact to murder in the death of David Quach last August.

Finally, on Monday, May 9, three more men were taken into custody in a series of coordinated arrests. They are:

  • Haitham Ramadan, 24, who is charged with committing offences for a criminal organization and fentanyl trafficking.
  • Saro Pireh, 19, who is charged with committing offences for a criminal organization and fentanyl trafficking.
  • Shaheen Assad Pireh, 18, who is charged with committing offences for a criminal organization and conspiracy to traffic drugs.

Police said anyone with information about additional crimes can contact them at 403-266-1234 or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously.

Investigators also noted more information for both adults and parents of kids at risk of becoming involved with gangs can be found at the Calgary Police Service's Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (GRIP) program.