On day three of Dillon Whitehawk's two-week murder trial, the Court of King's Bench heard from a Crown expert witness who connected the 28-year-old to one of Regina's most notorious street gangs.
Regina Police Service (RPS) Const. Trevor Weir — who worked in the RPS street gang unit from 2012 to 2018 — testified Wednesday, saying the tattoos on Whitehawk's hands are linked to the Indian Mafia (IM).
Pictures of Whitehawk shown in court revealed the intertwined letters I and M tattooed on both Whitehawk's middle finger and the top of his hand. The latter, Weir said, is a "full patch" — a symbol of a "more committed" gang member, often someone of a higher rank.
Whitehawk is accused of first-degree murder in the January 2020 death of Regina mother Keesha Bitternose — a charge he's pleaded not guilty to.
Two other people have already been convicted of manslaughter in the killing.
In court on Tuesday, the forensic pathologist who performed Bitternose's autopsy said the 29-year-old had too many injuries from being beaten, stabbed and possibly shot, to determine her exact cause of death. She ultimately died of a collapsed lung and severe blood loss, the doctor said.
Speaking outside of court that day, Bitternose's family told reporters they believed she was tortured.
The woman's mother and kokum, or grandmother, said they knew she was involved in gang activity but she was preparing to leave that lifestyle and return to university to finish her social work degree.
The 'dirty 30'
On Wednesday morning, Weir walked the court through some inner-workings of the city's street gangs. That included how IM rose to prominence after RPS's "Project SHRED" investigation that led to several arrests of the Native Syndicate's (NS) high-ranking gang members in 2016.
Weir said some NS members joined IM shortly after, creating what was considered Regina's most prominent street gang at the time of Bitternose's death.
The officer also outlined other identifiers associated with IM, such as the hand signs and black bandanas with white paisley patterns, often referred to as "flags" — markers that later came up when Crown prosecutors showed Facebook pictures of Whitehawk. Weir also connected those photos to be at the same home on Cameron Street where Bitternose died.
Weir mentioned as well that it's common for gangs to have a certain initiation or disciplinary act, should a member go against the group. In IM, Weir noted, that's called the "dirty 30," meaning members get 30 seconds to beat up another member to gain a sense of control.
"It's such a hostile culture, whether it's greed, envy — it's very aggressive, even within the same group," Weir told co-Crown prosecutor Adam Breker.
He added that it acts as a "pretty good deterrent" to not go against higher-ranking gang members's wishes.
In his cross-examination, Thomas Hynes, Whitehawk's defence lawyer, focused on the chain of command in gangs.
Hynes confirmed with Weir that sometimes higher-ranking gang members can force younger or lower-ranking ones to hurt or kill certain people, if they're "green-lit" — what people are often labeled as when targeted.
In June, Whitehawk was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years, after two separate shooting deaths just weeks before Bitternose's.
At the time, Crown attorneys alleged the killings were driven by his desire to climb the ranks of IM.
On Tuesday, prosecutors put forward a "three-point theory" to Justice Janet McMurtry on why they believe Whitehawk should be convicted of first-degree murder.
Crown prosecutor David Belanger argued Bitternose was unlawfully confined at the time of her killing and that it was planned, deliberate, and gang-related.
The judge-alone trial is scheduled to continue Thursday morning.