WINNIPEG — The war between emerging crime groups for control of the city’s drug trade is believed responsible for the shooting death early Thursday morning at the Salisbury House restaurant at Stafford and Pembina.
Jeffrey Lau was killed and a companion injured in a brazen shooting just before 3 a.m. inside the popular restaurant.
“Both (Lau and his companion) have ties to Winnipeg’s drug trafficking underworld,” a source told the Free Press. “There is a lot of turmoil in Winnipeg’s very competitive illicit drug market right now.”
Winnipeg Police are releasing little information about the shooting, only repeating that the attack was a targeted shooting and stressing that the general public was not at risk.
Police Chief Keith McCaskill said Thursday morning that while the investigation was still in its infancy, the victims are believed to have been targeted by the shooter.
“This does not appear to be a random shooting and it appears that the individual has fled the area,” McCaskill said.
Even though police had access to restaurant surveillance video and statements from several witnesses, no description of the suspect was released yesterday. Police did not release any information about the victims.
Six or seven bullet holes could be seen in the Sals windows, widely spaced from each other.
The gunman fled the restaurant on foot. Police found a semi-automatic handgun, a 9 mm. Glock, three blocks away, at Stafford and Hector Avenue.
Stafford Street between Pembina and Grant Avenue was closed for several hours, creating havoc for morning rush hour traffic, but re-opened by 9 a.m.
Paramedics worked frantically on Lau inside the restaurant and while they carried him on a stretcher to an ambulance he died from his injuries.
Police said Lau’s companion, also a man, was initially in unstable condition but had been upgraded to stable later in the morning.
No one else in the restaurant at the time was hurt. A spokesman for Salisbury House said interior surveillance video was given to police and staff and customers were providing witness statements.
Local residents and business operators had varied reactions to the shooting.
“It’s the nature of the beast — violence is all over,” area resident Scott Johnson said. “No part of the community is immune to violence. It could have been anywhere.”
Roberta Talmage, office manager for Sutton Realtors, located across the street from the shooting, said she doesn’t think the shooting is a reflection on changes occurring within the neighbourhood.
“We’ve been here for almost 20 years and this has never happened here before,” Talmage said. “I don’t think we’ll every see it again.”
Leanne Houlaston, another area resident, said she was upset with the shooting.
“Pembina is usually a quiet area. We never see anything like this except for traffic accidents. But this makes me think twice about where I live though. This is just — I don’t know — something I don’t want to see here.”
Mayor Sam Katz said the nature of the attack was surreal.
“It’s the kind of thing you might watch on TV or see in a movie,” Katz said. “It was targeted. It was a specific scenario that had taken place there. It wasn’t just a random shooting.
“We certainly hope the people are apprehended as soon as possible. I know the WPS will do their job to the best of their ability.”
Frank Cormier, a University of Manitoba criminologist, said the boldness of the attack was surprising.
“To walk into a restaurant and shoot at people is either just stupidity or it’s an attempt to make a statement,” Cormier said. “The shooting looks like unprofessional types looking to make a name for themselves or looking to make a statement by being that brazen and that public.”
Cormier said despite the brazenness of the attack, he doesn’t believe it signifies an escalation in the war for control of the city’s drug trade.
“It looks very obviously to be targeted, people known to each other, some sort of relationship between the shooter and the people he shot.”
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 28, 2012