Drug raid of Riverdale apartment complex followed by arrests, evictions

Investigations by the RCMP and the Department of Justice have led to criminal charges against four people and 10 evictions from a Riverdale apartment complex.

Investigations by the RCMP and the Department of Justice have led to criminal charges against four people and 10 evictions from a Riverdale apartment complex. 

Both the police and investigators with Yukon’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act unit are alleging drug trafficking out of the Skyline Apartments.

After police executed three search warrants around 8 a.m. New Years Eve, they seized 20 rocks of crack cocaine packaged for sale and 4.5 pounds of marijuana.

“The activity at the three apartments was at a scale we haven’t seen since 2006, and for me to say that I’m talking about hundreds of visits over a short period of time,” said Jeff Ford, director of SCAN, referring to the notorious 810 Wheeler house.

SCAN’s investigation into the apartments date back to August, Ford said.

He describes people constantly moving in and out often for only a few minutes at a time.

“Over a three-day period we had 178 visits to one particular apartment, one or two,” he said, “and then another batch, close to 200 over a four-day period.”

Ford wouldn’t release many specifics about the investigation or the individual apartments.

“There’s two of them where the activity was high and the other one was associated heavily with the activity that we saw,” he said.

Two cousins renting one of those apartments insist that they are being misrepresented. They were arrested as part of the raids but they have not been charged with anything criminal.

Despite that, they are still being evicted from their apartment.

“We don’t traffic anything. They found nothing in our house. There was no money, there was no pot, there was no score sheets,” said Calista Silverfox, 23.

“If we were drug dealers I would have a booklet that had things written down in it, I would have some money, I would have all these things, like scales. You need supplies if you’re going to be like that.”

The front door of the apartment she shares with her cousin Breanne is now sitting in the hallway.

The door has a hole, from a police ram, where the doorknob would normally be.

As of Tuesday afternoon, someone had hung the building’s laundry room door in its place.

Both women came to the News to tell their story. They adamantly deny being involved in trafficking.

Police aren’t saying which apartment had the drugs they found.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Natasha Dunmall said that kind of information could come out through court proceedings. People can still be charged with a crime later even if they are originally released by police, she added.

Breanne, 19, said it was around 8 a.m. the morning of New Years Eve when her dogs started barking because of a commotion outside.

That’s when voices yelled “police!” and the Yukon’s Emergency Response Team, similar to the American SWAT, broke down the door.

“I was scared so I started running towards the back of the room to go wake up my boyfriend who was sleeping,” Breanne said.

That’s when police threw a flash-bang grenade, she said.

“It’s just a really loud ringing noise in your ear and a big bright light in your face.”

Topless, she tried to cover herself with a blanket and crawl to the living room.

“I was trying to keep the blanket to cover myself because I was topless and exposed and I didn’t want them seeing me like that.”

The Yukon’s ERT is made up entirely of men.

Meanwhile, Calista said the officers came into her bedroom where she was sleeping next to her boyfriend.

“I sat up, and I was a little mouthy because I didn’t know who was in my house flashing lights around.”

She said she was flung out of bed by an officer. She was wearing a skirt at the time, without any underwear, so her lower body was exposed to the room.

“I do not sell or traffic anything, and never in a million years would I think that would happen, have these people burst into our house and treat us like that. We’re not criminals.”

Dunmall said the nature of these kind of raids is that officers don’t know what they’re going to find on the other side of the door. They have to ensure that the area is safe and that there aren’t any weapons.

After spending time at the RCMP cells, all four people in the apartment that morning were released. None of them have been charged criminally.

But that does not prevent them from being evicted.

Criminal legislation requires the Crown prove to a judge “beyond a reasonable doubt” that an accused person committed a specific crime at a specific time and place. But under SCAN, investigators only have to show that on a “balance of probabilities” trafficking or bootlegging is taking place regularly and negatively impacting the community. Evictions are signed off by the landlord.

Normally an eviction under SCAN gives renters five days to get out. In this case, the women were granted an extension until next week.

Ford said SCAN investigators rarely set foot inside a property – that’s something left to police. What is found – or not found – inside when officers execute a search warrant doesn’t change things under SCAN.

“This isn’t simply an inference, or conjecture, or ‘we think’ that there’s activity like this on a property,” he said.

“We have to be able to make a very strong inference or we have to have very strong evidence before we go forward with an action.”

Ford won’t give specifics about how the investigators built their case or how they were able to watch all three apartments. “The strongest evidence is the investigator’s eyes and what they witnessed directly,” he said.

The Silverfox women question the investigation that landed them in this position.

“We might have had people come in to visit us because we’re a bunch of young girls, we know a lot of people… We just like to party every once and a while,” Calista said.

They only moved in to that apartment about two months ago. That would have been right in the middle of SCAN’s investigation.

They suggest SCAN’s information might be based on the apartment’s previous tenant.

That’s something Ford denies. He stands by the work done by investigators.

The level of activity that investigators allege to have seen implicates anyone living in the apartments, he said.

Meanwhile, the apartment buildings are also under scrutiny.

Bylaw and building fire and safety code violations “appeared to call into question the safety of the building and its residents,” according to a Yukon government press release.

Whitehorse Bylaw Services and the Whitehorse Fire Department will be inspecting the building.

Some of the locks on the main doors don’t work, Ford said, allowing people to come in at all hours.

“if you can imagine being a resident in that building, at all hours of the day and night, that’s a problem when you have people entering the building under the influence or potentially with criminal history or a history of violence and you have children and families in close proximity to that.”

Investigators say they found garbage in the hallways and holes in the walls, some of which has been fixed after the fire department did an initial inspection, he said.

“I sincerely think this is part of the issue and part of the reason that this activity has been tolerated for so long is that the building is seen as somewhere that’s conducive to it.”

While the Silverfox cousins are not facing criminal charges at this point, four other people are.

Wade Belcher, 53, of Whitehorse, Robert Farr, 41, Dawson City and Graham Evans Barnie, 36, of Whitehorse have each been charged with possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

Ahmed Bashir Ahmed, a 27-year-old from Alberta, is charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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