New Brunswick

Murder not related to organized crime, says chief

Saint John police do not believe a murder in the city's south end over the weekend is connected to any organized crime or gang activity, despite ties to the Bacchus Motorcycle Club.

Victim not associated with Bacchus Motorcycle Club

The Bacchus Motorcycle Club on Pitt Street remained taped off on Tuesday as police continued to investigate the murder of Michael Thomas Schimpf. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Saint John police do not believe a murder in the city's south end over the weekend is connected to any organized crime or gang activity, despite ties to the Bacchus Motorcycle Club.

Michael Thomas Schimpf, 31, was gunned down near the Bacchus clubhouse on Pitt Street on Saturday at about 8 p.m. Several rounds were fired from a handgun.

The president of the local chapter of the Bacchus, Matthew Thomas Foley, 50, has been charged with second-degree murder in the case.

While the Bacchus have long maintained they are simply a riding club with no connection to organized crime, Criminal Intelligence Service Canada considers Bacchus an outlaw motorcycle gang.

'The investigation certainly doesn't tell us that the victim was associated to the motorcycle club, and he certainly didn't have any working relationship that we're aware of.'—Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid

The motorcycle club is suspected of being a front for the Hells Angels in Atlantic Canada.

Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid says Schimpf and Foley knew one another.

But "the investigation certainly doesn't tell us that the victim was associated to the motorcycle club, and he certainly didn't have any working relationship that we're aware of," Reid said.

"There is absolutely no evidence thus far to include organized crime, motorcycle gangs, or an affiliation to motorcycle gangs at this time. It just happens to be where it took place and who’s [allegedly] involved," he said.

"At the end of the day, it’s where two people have a problem and one person just happens to be the president of a motorcycle club and the other person is a citizen and then we have a confrontation."

Investigation continues

Criminal Intelligence Service Canada considers Bacchus an outlaw motorcycle gang. (CBC)

Police have spent the past few days gathering evidence from the Bacchus clubhouse, which remained cordoned off with yellow caution tape on Tuesday, but Reid says that's not unusual.

"Obviously in any investigation you would search everything nearby," he said.

Investigators, some of whom had their summer holidays cut short, are also still interviewing witnesses, Reid said.

"It unfolds slowly, but it certainly takes time and we front-end load it" with resources, he said.

"We're trying to glean as much evidence as possible to ensure our case is a very strong case when we ultimately find ourselves before a judge."

Club previously raided

Last year, police raided the Bacchus clubhouse, based on allegations it housed an illegal bar.

Alcohol, cash and other related items were seized and police suggested the club move.

The property was listed for sale, but has since been delisted, with no explanation.

Reid said police will continue to monitor the property.

"We have to show the community as well that once this issue is dealt with through the courts that we are not walking away from the community. And we will have a police presence there for sure," he said.

Bacchus expanding

Like the Hells Angels, Bacchus Motorcycle Club members are known to wear a one per cent symbol. (CBC)

Over the past few years, the Bacchus have expanded across the Atlantic region, adding chapters in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador to its long-standing New Brunswick presence.

Police said the expansion was to block a move by a Hells Angels rival club looking to establish a foothold on the east coast.

Criminology professor Stephen Schneider said these organizations also help the Hells Angels import drugs.

"We now know the Port of Saint John is becoming a significant entry point for the importation of drugs, and if you have members of a chapter in the locale, then you can not only facilitate drug importation, but you can make inroads into placing members within the port to facilitate directly the drug importation," Schneider said.

Foley has been remanded in custody and will return to court on Aug. 15 to set a date for a preliminary inquiry. 

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