Potentially violent grow-rip thwarted in Langford

Police arrested three men armed with handguns and body armour who tried to rob a medical marijuana grow-op in Langford on Tuesday.

Police arrested three men armed with handguns and body armour who tried to rob a medical marijuana grow-op in Langford on Tuesday.

West Shore RCMP and officers from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia (CSFU-BC) had the men under surveillance, and watched them enter and leave the undisclosed Langford property in semi-rural residential neighbourhood.

Uniformed RCMP officers stopped the vehicle and arrested the suspects. Officers found the ultimate grow-rip kit: body armour, a Browning 9 mm Luger, a Smith and Wesson revolver, a sledgehammer, duct tape and masks.

Police say the property holds a heavily-fortified outbuilding and house that is the location of a licenced medical marijuana growing operation. No residents were home at the time of the attempted robbery. CFSU-BC spokesperson Sgt. Bill Whalen said the suspects came away from the property empty handed.

In the past two weeks, West Shore RCMP and the Victoria branch of CFSU-BC have joined forces due to a number of recent, violent home invasions that targeted at people in the drug trade on the West Shore. Whalen wouldn’t say how these suspects were located and targeted, other than “information on individuals involved in violent home invasions was uncovered.”

West Shore RCMP Cpl. Kathy Rochlitz said investigators are seeing if the three suspects have any connection to the recent home invasion in Colwood. Two men forced their way into an apartment at 1 a.m. on April 19 and robbed two people in a home invasion that police say targeted the wrong home.

In March, a known drug trafficker in an apartment on Peatt Road was tied up and robbed, and isn’t co-operating with police.

So far, the three men only face charges related to the April 24 incident.

“For us, anybody carrying this equipment – body armour, hand guns, duct tape and masks are obviously up to no good,” Rochlitz said. “We are happy to get them into custody before anyone was harmed.”

The CFSEU-BC works with law enforcement agencies across the province and targets people engaged in a violent lifestyle and in organized crime. Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria and the RCMP contribute members to the Victoria unit.

Justin James Upton, Cody Fred Smith, 20, and Jake Cappello, 19, are all charged with using a firearm during a robbery, break and enter to commit an indictable offence and two counts of unauthorized possession of a firearm.

Upton and Cappello are also each charged with wearing a disguise with intent to commit an offence, while Smith is facing additional charges of resisting arrest and using a false name.

All three remain in custody. Smith and Cappello are scheduled for a bail hearing on April 30 at Western Communities Courthouse and Upton on May 3.

Of the three, only Upton has an extensive criminal record, mainly for offenses in Campbell River.

He last appeared in Campbell River provincial court on June 30, 2009, on charges of failing to attend court and resisting arrest.

At the time of his arrest, he was on bail for similar convictions, along with using a stolen credit card in December 2008. And in 2007, in Surrey, Upton received 18 months probation for possession of stolen property.

His court appearance in February 2009 was notable when Judge William Jack tried to impart Jedi wisdom on Upton, who was then 23 years old.

“Don’t try, just do,” said Judge Jack, now retired, doing his best impression of Yoda from the Star Wars films.

–with files from the Campbell River Mirror

editor@goldstreamgazette.com