REAL SCOOP: Burnaby investigates firefighter bikers

I have done a couple of follow-up stories on the Florian Knights, the firefighter bikers who’ve been going on rides with the Hells Angels.

Now the City of Burnaby has launched its own investigation into the municipal employees who are in the Knights.

Here’s my latest story and one I filed yesterday, but didn’t post:

Burnaby investigates firefighter biker club

Burnaby has started a formal investigation into a local firefighters motorcycle club linked to the Hells Angels, city manager Lambert Chu said Wednesday.

Chu said the investigation follows Postmedia revelations about the Florian’s Knights attending events with the notorious biker gang.

Postmedia also obtained a recent photo of one of the Knights’ founders, Burnaby firefighter Nick Elmes, posing with Kelowna Hells Angels president Damiano Dipopolo and two other full-patch HA members.

Burnaby firefighter NIck Elmes, right, with members of the Hells Angels

Elmes said he and other firefighters founded the Knights to go on charitable rides and raise funds for various causes. He said there should be no reason for the public to be concerned about his club.

But he also admitted he advised the Hells Angels before starting the Knights because his group is using the same style three-piece patch on their leather vests that the HA wears and exercises proprietorial rights over.

Earlier this year, Elmes and another man purchased a house in the 5400-block Parker Street in North Burnaby for $1.65 million to serve as the Knights’ clubhouse.

Chu said he has “put together an investigation team to look into this matter.”

Three-piece “patch” of new firefighters biker club called Florian’s Knights

While the city had some details about the formation of the Knights several months ago, Postmedia’s stories provided additional information of concern, Chu said.“The information you had in your two stories that you wrote shed additional light on this matter,” Chu said. “It is of tremendous concern to the city and to the city organization. That’s why we are undertaking a full investigation.”

He said a city lawyer is on the newly formed committee.

Burnaby Fire Chief Joe Robertson said earlier this week that he had raised concerns about some of the Knights wearing their biker vests known as “colours” as they rode to work. He said he got a legal opinion indicating there was nothing he could do about it at the time.

Chu said that city workers have “freedom of choice to wear certain clothing to work, so we have to make sure that we get all the legal grounds covered.”

“The fire chief at that time took it upon himself and spoke with the individual and he said this organization is doing all the charitable activities and doing a ride and doing good for the communities,” Chu said. “So there was no evidence whatever to suggest that there was even a loose connection between the Flroians’ Knights with the Hells Angels.”

But biker experts with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit have been documenting the association between the Knights and the Hells Angels at various “rides” this spring.

CFSEU Sgt. Brenda Winpenny said those officers have “had direct conversations with members of the Florian’s Knights regarding their associations with the Hells Angels.”

Chu said the city’s investigation will involve interviewing people, obtaining information from the RCMP and doing “a little bit of fact-finding.”

They hope to conclude the investigation within a few days, he said.

Three of Florian’s Knights are Burnaby firefighters, two are with the New Westminster Fire Department and one is a retired Vancouver firefighter, Postmedia has learned.

kbolan@postmedia.com

twitter.com/kbolan

blog: vancouversun.com/tag/real-scoop

 

Earlier story:

Anti-gang police concerned about firefighter

bikers

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.”

Advanced Minister Melanie Mark with Florian’s Knights at May 10th MLA ride of the B.C. Coalition of Motorcyclists. Knights founder Nick Elmes is to the left of Mark.

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.

Suit of armour inside the Florian’s Knights clubhouse posted on Facebook 

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.”

kbolan@postmedia.com

 

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