Friday, 23 December 2011

Adelaide was in the grip of a bikie war or that police had lost the battle against violent gangs.

Shots fired at Adelaide restaurant

At least one person is injured after shots were fired into an Adelaide restaurant in a gang-related attack.
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A bullethole in ice cream counter remains a reminder of the gunfight at Caffe paesano. Picture: Chris Mangan
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THE gunman who terrorised O'Connell St diners in the latest battle in Adelaide's bikie war was lurking outside Caffe Paesano eight hours before he fired on his Comancheros targets.

A witness to the Sunday night shooting in the busy restaurant said he had seen the man, believed to be a Hells Angels member, at the North Adelaide cafe at lunchtime that day.

Like the frightened diners who ducked under tables as the bikies returned fire, the witness said he did not want to be identified.

Police yesterday said the shootout on one of Adelaide's most popular dining strips - and just over 1km from where hundreds of families enjoyed Christmas carols by the Torrens - is linked to the shooting of Comancheros president Vince Focarelli.

But police Assistant Commissioner Grant Stevens rejected suggestions Adelaide was in the grip of a bikie war or that police had lost the battle against violent gangs.

"I wouldn't suggest we've lost the battle against bikies," he said. "This is not a bikie war when we have rival gangs drawing a line in the sand, so to speak."

Focarelli remains in hospital under guard after being shot by an unknown gunman at Munno Para West about midnight on Thursday.

The former leader of the New Boys street gang, Focarelli had surgery for a leg wound on Friday in Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The Caffe Paesano shooting, shortly after 9.30pm on Sunday as eateries on the strip were beginning to close, was the fourth gun attack in seven days involving bikie gangs in Adelaide.

"We believe these are isolated incidents that happened to occur in close (time) proximity but we know they are separate and distinct incidents involving different groups," Mr Stevens said.

"It might not be with the sanction of the group itself, but as individuals, they are violent people and as groups they are more violent.

"This is not something that has just arisen in the last few weeks. There has been incidents of violence between outlaw motorcycle gang members and, unfortunately, there will continue to be incidents of violence.

"Our job is to minimise that as much as possible and take action when these occur to hold those people to account."

It is understood police know the identity of those involved in the Paesano shootout.

Other recent shootings have included:

THREE masked men firing shots into an empty Burton house, owned by a man with bikie links, about 12.30am on Saturday.

AN UNKNOWN gunman fired a dozen shots, believed to be from a 9mm handgun, into the luxury Glenelg North home of George Polites, 57, about 3.30am on December 11, but police say that was not related to Sunday's attack.

FOCARELLI shot in the leg at a Munno Para West home and escaping by smashing through the window of a neighbouring house.

A MAN who received a single gunshot wound to his right knee in the southern suburbs on Sunday is refusing to co-operate with police.

Police would not reveal which bikie club the cafe gunman was linked to, but it is understood to be the Hells Angels. The two clubs have a historic feud in the eastern states. He walked off O'Connell St to within 3m of the Comancheros members and fired at least one shot from a "small handgun" while they sat at an outside table.

Customers and staff at the cafe ducked under tables for safety, and were lucky not to be caught in the crossfire as one bullet shattered a glass display cabinet in the restaurant.

One of the Comancheros returned fire, hitting the gunman in the leg.

He fled, heading west on Tynte St and was chased by one of his targets. The chase was captured on CCTV and the footage has been seized by police.

More shots rang out as the men ran through O'Connell St to Tynte St but police would not confirm the number fired or the calibre of handguns used. The injured gunman has yet to seek medical attention.

North Adelaide residents said they heard "five or six" gunshots, which some people initially thought were fireworks.

Mr Stevens said the cafe owners were co-operating with police.

"I will not make any conclusions in relation to whether it's payback or how it is related," he said.

"We have information suggesting to us that the people involved are connected to each other. Both of those people have gone to ground and have not come forward."

Mr Stevens said street shootings and rampant violence by bikies occurred across the country and was not "unique to Adelaide".

"The people involved are known to each other, this is not a random incident (but) I can't elaborate any further," he said.

"This may be the first time it's happened in O'Connell St and in a coffee shop, but we've seen shooting incidents in other public venues in the CBD of Adelaide. This is not something we want happening in South Australia."

Mr Stevens said police were focused on the North Adelaide shooting and the hunt for the people who shot the son of Mark Sandery.

Seven extra officers dedicated to investigating the shooting will join the 44 officers in the Criminal Gangs Taskforce.

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