New Brunswick

Ex-Saint John Bacchus president denied day parole over concerns of 'active association' with gang

Matthew Thomas Foley is serving a 10-year manslaughter sentence for the brazen daylight shooting of 31-year-old Michael Thomas Schimpf in July 2012.

Matthew Thomas Foley is serving a 10-year manslaughter sentence for a daylight shooting in 2012

A man wears Bacchus patches at a gathering in January 2017 in Charlottetown. (Mathieu Bernier/Radio-Canada)

A biker who gunned down a man in the middle of a Saint John street has been denied day parole because of his "active association" with the Bacchus Motorcycle Club.

Matthew Thomas Foley has served six years of a 10-year manslaughter sentence for the brazen daylight shooting of 31-year-old Michael Thomas Schimpf in July 2012. 

At the time, Foley was president of the Saint John chapter of Bacchus, but police have said the shooting was unrelated to club business.

​Foley told prison officials he "cut ties" with Bacchus at the beginning of his sentence and his membership had been retired "with honour," according to Parole Board of Canada records from the spring.

"But file information indicates you did not disassociate yourself and plan to remain loyal to the group," the parole board decision says.

Foley told the parole board he wanted to move to an unspecified city in central Canada, where he planned to "disassociate" from Bacchus on his own terms.

But community-based residential facilities in that province "were not supportive" of letting him live there because of his "continued loyalty" to the biker club.

"Police in that city expressed concerns that your [outlaw motorcycle gang] is rumoured to be establishing itself there and would be competing with other motorcycle clubs in the area for territory," the parole board wrote.

Biker club pushing into Ontario

Forensics officers with the Saint John Police Force collect evidence at the scene of Michael Thomas Schimpf's shooting in July 2012. (CBC)

Bacchus has mostly operated in Atlantic Canada since it was founded in Albert County in 1972.

But the club has been making a push into Ontario over the past several years. The Bacchus website shows active Ontario chapters in Hamilton, Woodstock and Chatham.

Since 2015, members have been wearing a Canada bottom rocker, indicating national dominance.

That's according to a recent Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision that deemed Bacchus a criminal organization with "a reputation for violence."

The judge found three members of Bacchus in Nova Scotia guilty of uttering threats, harassing, intimidating and extorting a man who wanted to bring a chapter of another motorcycle club to Nova Scotia without approval from Bacchus in 2012.

At the same time as Bacchus tries to expand beyond Atlantic Canada, the Hells Angels and Outlaws Motorcycle Club are trying to expand into Atlantic provinces.

Police have previously described Bacchus as the "Switzerland" of biker clubs for its ability to get along with other clubs, including the Hells Angels.

Used 'illegal, untraceable' handgun

Forensics officers marked this bullet hole in a building on Pitt Street, after Matthew Thomas Foley shot and killed Schimpf in 2012. (CBC)

Foley, now in his mid-50s, was a member of the old Satan's Choice MC in Ontario before moving to New Brunswick and "patching over" to Bacchus in 2000, court documents show. He was president of the Saint John chapter for two years before he went to prison.

The dispute with Schimpf began in July 2012 after the man threw rocks at Foley's Saint John tattoo shop. Foley reported the incident to police.

Schimpf returned to the tattoo shop again and threw rocks while Foley was inside.

That prompted Foley to arm himself with "an illegal and untraceable handgun," the parole board wrote.

The next day, Schimpf approached Foley outside the former Bacchus clubhouse on Pitt Street.

Fired at chest, not back

"You exchanged words with the victim, claim the victim was reaching around his back for what you believed was a weapon, and you opened fire on the victim outside in the public street, firing six to eight times," the parole board wrote.

Foley fled to Moncton after the shooting, tossing the handgun into the water over the Courtenay Bay Causeway.

In making his case to the board for day parole, Foley said he wanted people to know he shot his victim in the chest and not in the back as was reported in a victim impact statement.

"The board views this as an indication of your ongoing negative and/or criminal attitude, as your concern about this detail and how this is viewed by others reflects your limited insight or accountability for your crimes," the parole board decision said.

Members can't talk to police

This sign used to be posted on the old Bacchus Saint John clubhouse on Pitt Street. (CBC)

Foley admitted to the board that his club "takes care of things on their own" and has a rule against talking to police.

He violated that rule when he called police to report Schimpf was throwing rocks, the parole board wrote, causing the new president of Bacchus Saint John to throw him out of the club.

Foley later received a personal call from the national president of Bacchus, who reinstated him.

In denying his parole, the board wrote that Foley "would present an undue risk to society" if released.

"The board believes you have been deeply entrenched in a criminal milieu for a long time, through your association with gangs and [security threat groups] over many decades, an indication that you would have difficulty avoiding crime in the future, and aggravating in assessing your risk to reoffend."

Bacchus has New Brunswick chapters in Saint John, Albert County, York County and Charlotte County, according to its website.

There are also chapters in Halifax, Grand Falls-Windsor and on Prince Edward Island.

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About the Author

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Send your tips to NBInvestigates@CBC.ca.