The Crown’s key witness in a Cranbrook conspiracy to murder trial admitted on the stand Wednesday to starting the riot over pancakes at KRCC in 2005.
John Garry Shank, 34, began his testimony Wednesday afternoon. Clad in a three-piece suit, his face and neck showing prominent tattoos, Shank outlined his life, consisting of childhood, crime and jail.
“I’ve never had a legitimate job,” he said.
Shank signed on as a police agent in 2010. Wearing a recording device supplied by RCMP, he is expected to testify to that he conspired with Lorne Carry, Colin Correia and Lonnie Adams, who are charged with conspiracy to murder a rival in the East Kootenay drug trade.
In the witness box, Shank testified he lived by the proceeds of crime when he wasn’t in jail. His criminal record includes for break and enter, theft, assault with a weapon and dangerous driving.
Shank said he was in KRCC in early 2005, serving time for possessing a gun, when he played a lead role in starting a riot. It began when he knocked out a guard with a kettle, after being approached by other inmates.
Three other correctional officers in the unit fled into a locked room when inmates started to riot.
Shank testified he used two razor blades stuck into an electrical socket to start toilet rolls on fire. With the flaming rolls he started mattresses on fire, piled there by other inmates.
For his part in the riot, sparked by inmate unhappiness with their food, Shank was given more than five years in jail.
For more than two hours Wednesday afternoon, Shank recounted the story of his life.
He was first arrested at 12. By 14, he was doing morphine pills in an adopted home with few rules, stealing cars and breaking into homes in Calgary.
Over the next two decades his criminal life continued unabated. He was a heroin addict, spending as much as $2,000 a week on the habit.
“I spent the better part of my life there (in jail) — it was in and out, basically.”
In jail, heroin was easier to come by at times than on the street, he said.
In 2009, Shank testified he was shot twice, once in the arm and once in the leg, while collecting a drug debt.
He didn’t go to a doctor. Instead, he went back to the Vancouver halfway house where he was staying, got his possessions and made an excuse to leave. He was back on the run.
Shank said he eventually made his way to Calgary, where he was doing petty crime, including stealing ATM machines from dollar stores. But he wanted more, saying he wanted to move on from the crimes he did as a teen to something bigger.
Shank testified he is related to Adams through marriage. He renewed an acquaintance with the Cranbrook man because he wanted illegal work, particularly something “heavy.
“I was looking along the lines of shooting somebody,” he told the 14-person jury in a matter-of-fact tone.
After a Cranbrook shooting in late 2009, when an acquaintance of Adams’ was shot outside a bar in a clash by two rival gangs, Shank said he contacted Adams looking to become involved.
He testified to “pursuing” Adams, looking to get out of Calgary and into violent crime.
“I was insinuating (in a phone message) I had my disguise,” Shank said. “Tell me who to shoot and I’m there.”
The trial is slated to continue Thursday. It is the second week in what is expected to be a three-month trial.