The mass killings were Canada’s worst in a decade, but police did not believe a biker gang war was imminent and insisted there was little reason for public fear.
“I think this is an isolated incident and I wouldn’t expect to see any significant fallout from it,” Police Detective Don Bell said.
Police said they made the arrests at a farmhouse near where the men were found shot dead Saturday in a wooded field in Shedden, about 90 miles northeast of Detroit.
Most of the victims were full or associate members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang, police said. One was a prospective member.
Those arrested and charged with eight counts of murder were Bandidos member Wayne Kellestine, 56, and non-members Eric Niessen, 45; Kerry Morris, 56; Frank Mather, 32; and Brett Gardiner, 21. All five were from Ontario.
Murray and Brenda Silcox, owners of a general goods store in the farming community of only 300 people, said while residents were stunned by the slayings, few knew the suspects or the victims.
“It’s like somebody else’s world dropped on ours,” Brenda Silcox said. “It would be different if it were your neighbour, or somebody you know.”
The victims were identified as Jamie Flanz, 37; George Jesso, 52; George Kriarakis, 28; John Muscedere, 48; Luis Manny Raposo, 41; Francesco Salerajno, 43; Paul Sinopoli, 30; and Michael Trotta, 31. All were from Ontario.
Bell said US intelligence indicates the killings were internal to Canada and not related to any rift with American members of the Bandidos. He said the Canadian arm is comprised of former members of Quebec gangs, such as the Popeyes and Rock Machine.
Police showed two black leather Bandidos vests with a caricature of a bandit wearing a sombrero and holding a handgun, and said the public should note if they see bikers wearing the garb.
“It should be noted that these men are criminals,” Bell said. “They are not the motorcycle enthusiasts they portray themselves to be.”
The rural area where the bodies were found has had problems with motorcycle gangs in the past, but is generally considered low-crime compared to other parts of Canada, in particular Quebec, where biker violence is more common.
“It’s not uncommon for organised crime groups, bikers or anyone else to eliminate some of their members. There are disputes off all kinds, power struggles,” law enforcement consultant Chris Mathers said.
Mathers, a former undercover Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, said the Bandidos and Hells Angels have absorbed other biker groups in Canada over the years and he doubted there would be retaliation.