Casino employee tipped off gang members who robbed, killed winning patron
Editor’s Note: This article is not typical of what is reported by BJ21 News Service, but this topic is vital to readers of this website. BJ21.com has been consistent over the years in calling attention to conditions where casino patrons' personal safety may be in danger, both from unlawful actions of casino employees, usually but not always security personnel, and from other patrons. We have a full section dedicated to Patron Abuse.
There are numerous other reports of advantage players and ordinary people being taken advantage of or being outright robbed by people they have met in casinos. For those foolish enough to partake in the feminine temptations readily available in casinos, “trick rolls” are a too-frequent occurrence in Las Vegas.
Casino employees are not above reproach. They are often people living on the fringes of society, working for low wages in lousy conditions for an employer they despise. Be skeptical of anyone you meet randomly in a casino -- employee, patron, or otherwise. Avoid giving them your physical address or other information that could put you at risk.
Player’s card information can be particularly problematic. You have no control over who within the casino looks at it. Use a mailbox rental facility or other safe address if at all possible -- not a friend’s house or other actual physical address -- you could inadvertently be setting your friends up to be robbed or burglarized.
Of course, the odds of any of this happening are small. However, in the article below, the murder of a casino patron happened because of a wretched casino employee in a small town in Canada. This might be more expected in a large U.S. city, where, unfortunately, gun violence is common. But this shows it can happen anywhere. Don’t take your safety for granted. Be aware of your surroundings. Try to avoid divulging personal information.
BATTLEFORD, SASK. - Ryan Gatzke, a winning casino patron, had money and drugs at his residence, according to information provided by an employee of the North Battleford casino, who still has not been publicly named, to members of the Terror Squad street gang, the court heard.
On October 18, 2019, following a night at the casino with his spouse, Gatzke, 27, was shot and killed during an attempted armed robbery. On January 22, 2024, in Battleford Court of King's Bench, the juvenile criminal (“young offender”) found guilty in Gatzke's death, who cannot be named publicly because of his age at the time of the crimes, gave his consent to be sentenced as an adult.
Justice Heather MacMillan-Brown granted Senior Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt's request to lift the publication prohibition of all facts other than the names of the casino employee and the juvenile killer, which had been in effect since May 2020.
In April 2021, the court heard that Gatzke had won money at the casino the night before he was killed. Later that evening, Gatzke awoke to the sound of fumbling in their Battleford house while he was lying next to his expectant wife. Upon hearing the bedroom door open, his spouse observed an armed man standing in the doorway.
Wearing black bandanas, three Terror Squad gang members stood in the Gatzkes' bedroom, intoxicated on drugs and drink. The juvenile criminal aimed a 12-gauge shotgun that had been sawed off at Mr. Gatzke. Jacob Ballantyne, a high-ranking "general" in the Terror Squad, carried a 9mm handgun, while Isaac Melko carried an SKS rifle.
Charles McLean was waiting for them in the getaway car that was parked near Gatzke's house. According to testimony given in court, Ballantyne told McLean to drive while holding a 9mm handgun to his head.
The court heard that the gang members had received approval from a higher authority to rob Gatzke in order to benefit the Terror Squad. After battling one of the intruders, Gatzke was shot. Within Gatzke's residence, three shots were fired. One gunshot struck the ceiling.
According to Schmidt, a key component of the young offender's sentence should be deterrence.
“The gang problem in (Saskatchewan) is huge. The kind of terror these gangsters put members of the community under; you can’t walk the streets in North Battleford and not see members of Terror Squad. “There needs to be a deterrence in our community,” she reiterated.
Katherine Pocha, the defense attorney, asked for an eight-year sentence, while the Crown is seeking a ten-year sentence. The young offender will have five and a half years of credit deducted from his sentence for time spent while awaiting trial.
The young offender was the shooter/killer: Crown
Schmidt informed the court that the gunman was a juvenile offender who was 17 years and seven months old at the time of Gatzke's murder. He entered the room ready to shoot, and when he did, he killed the victim. He was the one who shot and killed Gatzke in addition to being the one who carried out the robbery.
At the youth's sentencing hearing on January 22, the court was presented with the juvenile's criminal record, a Pre-Sentence Report, and eight victim impact statements. A psychiatrist who evaluated the juvenile criminal testified telephonically.
The court heard that he exhibits risk-taking inclinations and has limited cognitive functioning, has ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome), and ASD (antisocial personality disorder). Still, Schmidt told the court, he's street smart.
At 13, he dropped out of school, began using marijuana when he was 12, and eventually began using cocaine. Terror Squad is the most important thing in his life. Schmidt claimed that when he was placed under arrest on the murder accusation, he requested to be placed in the Terror Squad wing and displayed his gang tattoos to the guards. The young criminal had been a part of the Terror Squad since he was nine years old, the court heard during his bail hearing in April 2021.
Schmidt said during the Jan. 22 sentencing hearing that the defendant lacks remorse, doesn't accept responsibility for his conduct, has little understanding of his offenses, and is a high-risk recidivist.
The court heard that at the time of Gatzke's shooting death in October 2019, the juvenile offender was illegally at large on accusations from two months earlier and had been ordered by the court not to carry firearms.
Battlefords RCMP responded to four gunshots fired at a residence on August 23, 2019, in what seemed to be an altercation with a rival gang. Meadow Lake RCMP responded to gunfire at a residence the following day. During his bail hearing, the court heard that the juvenile offender had been apprehended in both cases and then freed from detention.
Young criminal was victim of intergenerational trauma: Defense
Pocha disclosed to the court that her client was a resident of the Meadow Lake-area Flying Dust First Nation.
Pocha told the court that his mother didn't know how to love because she was raised by alcoholic parents. When he was around five or six years old, his father abandoned them and there was domestic abuse in their family home. The juvenile offender's father reappeared in his life around two years ago.
The juvenile offenders and his family relocated to North Battleford in 2015. When he started acting out, his mother contacted the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, who suggested that she put him in the group home Eagle's Nest.
Pocha noted that the juvenile offender's last violent act occurred in jail in November 2023 and that as he ages, he becomes less impulsive and more reflective. She added that as he gets older, he is becoming more adept at controlling his rage and that he wants to alter his life but is unsure of how. Naturally, this offers the deceased person's family no comfort at all.
“Terror Squad tipped off that Ryan Gatzke had money: Court” , Lisa Joy, sasktoday.ca, January 23, 2024.