2006 July 28
GRAND MANAN - Tensions are still high on Grand Manan island after a group burned down an alleged crack house early Saturday morning; residents says they're expecting retaliation from a group of drug dealers that had a "hit list" of ten people on the island.
"These drug dealers were making threats," said one island resident, who didn't want his name used.
"They had a hit list of people they wanted to see dead. I know because I was one of the people on that list."
Early Saturday morning, a group of 40 to 50 island residents, mostly fishermen, gathered outside the house of Ronnie Ross, 41. They came armed with baseball bats, knives and firearms. Fighting broke out between the group and the eight people who were inside the house, with shots being fired by both sides.
"There was gun fire shots fired. A lot of shots were fired," said the man who alleges he is on the hit list.
Grand Manan mayor, Dennis Greene, says he heard as many as 15 people were injured, including one with a knife wound, but nobody sought attention at the local hospital.
There's little left of the house on Cedar Street, in the tiny community of Castalia. A stove is toppled over in a pile of ash and charred boards. A blackened refrigerator still stands, but the wall it stood against has crumbled to rubble of cinders and soot. On the lawn, amid the scattering of crumpled baseball caps, sooty sandals, and a few bags of snack food, are beer bottles stuffed with gas-soaked rags the remnants of Molotov cocktails the mob allegedly used to set the house ablaze.
Greene said that police responding to the incident around 1 a.m. used their patrol car to push a roadblock of cars out of the way. Fire trucks were called to the scene, left, and had to be called back again. The angry mob threatened to cut the fire hoses. The man said they tried three times to set the bungalow ablaze.
Greene added that two weekends ago, a vehicle at the house was set on fire.
"They (house residents) didn't like the burning of the vehicle, we feared there was going to be retaliation," said Greene.
He said there were rumours more than 60 people from Saint John would come over the weekend of July 15, but that never happened. He said he and RCMP thought the worst was over.
Greene says he doesn't approve of their actions, but understands the crowd's point of view.
"We can't condone violence, but people in the vigilante group most are law-abiding citizens some have children on drugs. They don't feel the RCMP are doing their job," said Greene.
He added that he feels the four officers currently stationed on the island are the best they've ever had. He says the three officers, faced with more than 50 fighting people, did well to contain the situation as well as they did.
Greene says the RCMP is handcuffed by an impotent justice system. The general conception on the island is that criminals have more rights than victims. Fed up with drugs in their community, the "vigilantes" decided to get rid of one of the alleged sources.
"It's the justice system," Green said,
"When a drug dealer is hauled into court and then given house arrest, that's convenient for him. People looking for drugs know where he is he's home!
"There's no risk in being a dealer if you're not going to be sentenced."
The man on the hit list is a little less supportive of the local RCMP than Greene.
"All I know is that the Mounties walk around, say, 'What's going on?' and turn a blind eye to it," said the man.
"He (Ross) has been threatening people, pushing drugs, and they don't have a charge against him. It's not just him (dealing drugs on the island), he's just the most ignorant."
Fear grows on the island
Ross has been arrested on charges unrelated to the weekend incident, taken off the island, and ordered not to return by the court, but tensions are still high on Grand Manan.
The Cedar Street house has a nasty reputation; people will talk about the subject, but say they don't want their name used because they fear retribution. According to local residents, Ross' house was the subject of a lot of fear in the community.
"People don't want to be scared, they just want him (Ross) out of here," said one resident, who wished to remain anonymous.
"This is a peaceful place to be, that's why people move here."
She alleges that Ross is a crack dealer and she's heard rumours that he also deals crystal meth. She says children that live on Cedar Street won't walk by the house they want to be driven. She also alleged that many things stolen on the island, such as outboard motors and a lifetime full of tools, are traded to Ross in exchange for drugs.
"This is about drugs and that's basically it and people being scared for their safety," the resident said.
"This is not a vigilante thing like people are saying. This isn't a bunch of redneck hillbillies, this is a concerned community, respectable people."
Ross's reputation even goes beyond the island. In the men's washroom at the Blacks Harbour ferry terminal, the back of a door reads: "Property missing on GM? Contact Ronnie Ross at: RonRoss.ca.com, or 1-800-CRIME INC. 'He'll find your things.'"
Greene says the mood on the island is noticeably dark. For a community not accustomed to drug abuse, and certainly not to mob violence, this Saturday's events are quite shaking.
"It's tense. People are worked up. Elderly people are living in fear fear that people might retaliate."
© 2006 Advocate Media
Article republished on Save Passamaquoddy Bay website with permission.
The Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB