B.C.’s anti-gang agency says a new Metro Vancouver firefighters biker club with links to the Hells Angels raises serious issues.
Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said Tuesday that the decision by some firefighters to form the Florian’s Knights and associate with the notorious biker gang puts themselves and other first responders at risk.
“The Hells Angels have a longtime involvement in both illegal marijuana grow operations and synthetic drug clandestine labs. This is troubling as well, given the dangers they pose to first responders, and firefighters in particular,” Winpenny said.
“The decision by a small group of firefighters to support a criminal organization involved in activities that endanger their brother and sister firefighters is concerning. By associating with the Hells Angels and other outlaw motorcycle gangs, they are potentially putting themselves and others at risk.”
Winpenny said CFSEU officers have spoken to some in the Knights to express the concerns of law enforcement.
Postmedia revealed Tuesday that some local firefighters had formed Florian’s Knights and attended charity rides and other events with the Hells Angels.
Knights founder Nick Elmes also posed for a photo with three Hells Angels.
Elmes defended his organization, saying they formed to do charity work and can’t help it if the Hells Angels attend some of the same public events.
But he admitted that he advised the Angels when he was forming his club and let them know the Knights would be adopting a three-piece patch for their leather vest — something police say can only be done with HA permission.
Winpenny said the events are not open to the public, as Elmes claimed.
“This is inaccurate and both presence and participation at these events, whether it’s funerals, OMG-sanctioned rides, or other rides are often the result of an invitation and represent support for the Hells Angels,” she said. “Money raised at these events flows to the Hells Angels.”
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said he has asked his staff to look into the issues raised by having public servants associating with a group the government considers a criminal organization.
Last month, Florian’s Knights attended a rally in Victoria as part of the B.C. Coalition of Motorcyclists.
Elmes and others in his group were photographed with Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark outside the B.C. Legislature.
Mark said in a statement that she “certainly had no reason to think that there would be anyone in attendance who associates with a criminal organization.”
“Anyone who associates with gangs and organized crime is putting themselves and their friends and families at risk,” Mark said. “We’re following up with the organizers to raise concerns.”
The BCCOM has held the MLA ride for 26 years.
Meanwhile, Postmedia has learned that the Knights have recently opened a clubhouse in North Burnaby.
Elmes and another member bought the house in the 5400-block Parker Street in January for $1.65 million, B.C. property records show.
Elmes advertised on Facebook in March hat his biker club would be hosting an event on the last Thursday of every month at the house, though he said people had to direct message him to get the address.
Elmes owns a second residence in North Burnaby a few blocks away from the new clubhouse, assessed this year for $1.76 million.
Hells Angels spokesman Rick Ciarniello did not respond to requests for an interview about his group’s relationship with the Knights.
Hells Angels expert Brad Stephen, a retired Vancouver police officer and one-time firefighter, said in an interview that firefighters are held in high regard in the community and that the Knights are damaging that reputation.
“There is a high degree of public trust and public respect that is bestowed upon your position as a firefighter in the community. You are required to respond to rescues, respond to medical emergencies in the middle of the night. You go into people’s homes. You go into people’s businesses. You are often required to go into secure facilities and you are exposed to confidential scenarios and confidential information,” Stephen said. “You work hand in hand with police agencies …. all of sudden now there is a group of firefighters who have decided to form the Florian’s Knights and to ingratiate themselves with the Hells Angels.”
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