A decade later, Bolsa Restaurant shooting considered a turning point in fight against gang violence
On January 1, 2009, a group of men stormed into a Vietnamese restaurant in southeast Calgary and gunned down three people. The incident is now considered the apex of gang violence in Calgary and the forebearer to change in the approach of police.
A decade ago, known gang members Sanjeev Mann and Aaron Bendle were fatally shot inside the Bolsa Restaurant in a strip malle in the 100 block of 94 Avenue Southeast. The attack also claimed the life of Keni Su’a, an innocent bystander who happened to be in the restaurant at the time.
The killings would prove to be the culmination of violence between two rival gangs, the FOB and the FK, but some Calgarians took measures to avoid being caught in the public attacks.
“There was so much gang violence around the time that people were starting to change their behaviours or what they were doing at night or where they were going,” said Shane Parker, a senior Crown prosecutor. “Most had been very public shootings but on the streets, not in restaurants.”
“This was a different M.O. (modus operandi) for the groups to use and I think people were starting to really feel rattled.”
According to Parker, roughly 600 police officers assisted with the file in one way or another and multiple sections of the Calgary Police Service provided input. “The investigation itself, a lot of Calgary police resources were put into it including wiretap which, in their estimation, probably supressed six homicides at the time."
Nathan Zucheratto and Michael Roberto were each found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder in 2011 in connection with the deaths of Su’a, Mann and Bendle and they were sentenced to 25 years in prison with no chance of parole.
In 2013, Roberto was granted a new trial after confessing to the murders and reaching an agreement to help the prosecution. Roberto received partial immunity and was sentenced to the equivalent of 16 years in prison but was granted credit for time served and parole eligibility.
Nicholas Hovanesian received a 14-year prison sentence in 2013 as an accessory to murder.
In December 2015, Real Honorio pleaded guilty to the murder of Su’a as part of a deal to have first-degree murder charges against him dropped. That same month, Dustin Darby pleaded guilty to charges in connection with conspiring to a rival gang member in 2008 as part of an agreement to escape a first-degree murder charge in the Bolsa shootings.
Nick Chan was accused of orchestrating the attacks but a jury found him not guilty of first-degree murder in March 2016.
Parker says the use of a gang-affiliated witness provided invaluable testimony for the prosecution and likely caused dissention and distrust within the gang's ranks.
“It was the first time that someone got turned,” explained Parker. “Maybe the realization that this was another tool in the Calgary Police Service toolbox that was going to be used.”
Bolsa Restaurant remains in business at the same location but no longer operates on New Year’s Day.
With files from CTV's Brenna Rose