Saskatchewan

Oilpatch money, cocaine and murder

High oil prices and a booming economy have brought a flood of money into oilpatch cities like Estevan, Sask. — and with it a flourishing drug trade and all its violent side-effects.

A flood of money into the oilpatch could be helping to fuel the drug trade, police say

High oil prices and a booming economy have brought a flood of money into oilpatch cities like Estevan, Sask.— and with it a flourishing drug trade and all its violent side-effects.

A fatal shooting in Estevan last year highlighted the growing influence of cocaine, police say.

Dallas Mitchell, 32,pleaded guilty to second-degree murder last fall and was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years for thekilling of Garry Turnbull.

'Everything I ever wanted, I had. But it didn't take long to piss it all away.'-Dallas Mitchell

Mitchell killed Turnbull, a childhood friend, in January 2005 during a discussion about money Mitchell owed for drugs. Court heard hehad brought a riflealong he hoped could be used to settle the debt. Mitchell said his hand slipped and the shooting was an accident. Turnbull died of a single gunshot to the head fired at close range.

In an interview with CBC News, Mitchell said he fought his addiction to crack cocaine for years and was clean for a while, but the addiction came back and it got out of control.

"I lost everything I had, you know what I mean? Everything I ever wanted, I had. But it didn't take long to piss it all away," he said.

After losingajob, Mitchell turned to dealing cocaine himself. He recalledthat one time he made $7,000 in three hours.That was from employees of just one company, he said.

He wasn't alone in turning to trafficking. In Estevan, there were 36 reported cases of cocaine trafficking over the past year, while the year before that, there were only four, according to the RCMP.

Estevan police Staff Sgt. Del Block, who co-ordinates the city's drug unit, said the Mitchell case was a source of useful intelligence about the extent of the cocaine trade. Police learned about people involved in drug traffickingthey had previouslynot known, he said.

"Without a doubt, it caused us to refocus our strategies on drug enforcement," Block said. "Since that time, we have done some undercover operations in the city of Estevan. We have stepped up enforcement."

However, there's still a huge demand for cocaine and trafficking continues, Block said.

"If you take one pusher out, there'll be somebody take his spot within two days," he said. "Nobody's really going to go dry in this city for very long."

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