Opportunity Knocks

After 17 years as a police officer, not much crosses Det. Kris Bombier’s desk that is unfamiliar to him. But when he was handed the file for a case of a man suspected of manufacturing machine guns in a shop just west of Edmonton, it was a rare occurrence.

Bombier is a member of ALERT’s Guns and Gangs unit in Edmonton, which was established in 2016 and specializes in determining how organized crime groups in Alberta source and acquire the firearms they use to protect themselves and intimidate their rivals.

Handmade copies of a MAC-11 submachine gun are displayed during an ALERT media availability on Aug. 23, 2017.

When this case landed on Bombier’s desk, he knew it was a unique opportunity to make an impact.

“The excitement of this file was that it was completely different, a different type of approach to an investigation and a different type of investigation that often doesn’t get done in Canada. And when it does, you have to jump at the opportunity, so we weren’t going to pass it up,” he says.

In August 2017, search warrants were executed at two Edmonton homes and a rural property in Parkland County. Two people – Jacob Balan and Amy Brogden – were arrested and jointly charged with 62 firearms-related offences. Investigators seized four prohibited firearms: a Beretta handgun equipped with a suppressor; a modified Suomi submachine gun with two oversized magazines; and two homemade MAC-11 submachine guns outfitted with suppressors and oversized magazines.

Prior to joining the Guns and Gangs unit, much of Bombier’s professional background was in drug work. He says the links between guns and drugs have become closer in recent years.
“When I first started out, it was rare to get a gun with drugs; as my career has progressed, it has become more and more commonplace,” he says.

However, the big difference is that it’s not necessarily illegal to simply possess a gun, even a restricted one, if you have a license for it. So, when it came to this investigation, many questions had to be answered before the unit could move in on the suspects.

“We didn’t know necessarily why the person was making the guns. It’s that who, what, when, where and why,” Bombier says. “We had information that this person had a machining background, was manufacturing fully automatic firearms and trafficking fully automatic firearms. But why was he doing that? We didn’t know; that was part of the investigation. It was a unique file in that respect.”

Eventually, though, a plan came together and was executed with the help of several partner agencies and departments. Organizing something that complicated wasn’t daunting to Bombier, though, because the whole operation could be broken down into smaller pieces and everyone took care of their roles as assigned.

“Every person on the team does an amazing job, and they care about what they’re doing,” he says. “There’s an element of, and it sounds hokey, but there’s an excitement behind being part of a newer or unique investigation. Being a team that successfully completes that, there’s an excitement to it; there’s a high-five factor to it.”