Rex Gill, 41, was an ex-oil patch worker who liked to ride his Harley-Davidson, and a friend and his family say he wasn’t involved in the drug trade.
Rex Gill, a Summerland father of four, was shot dead in what police are calling a “targeted” shooting amid drug wars plaguing Kamloops, but a close friend said there’s no way Gill was involved in anything criminal.
”He was the kind of guy who, if he met two guys in the parking lot, he would have made two new friends by the time he got to the store,” said Matthew Baran, Gill’s friend and motorcycle buddy for 10 years.
”The neat thing about Rex is everybody was a close friend,” said Baran, executive director of the Ooknakane Friendship Centre in Penticton. “He had the innate nature to cultivate close friends with all kinds of people.”
The RCMP is now saying weeks later that it’s believed Gill was a victim in a deadly case of mistaken identity, but his friends and family say the damage to his name by the initial police statement has been done.
”For Rex, this was two losses, the tarnishing of his reputation and of his life,” said Baran. “That black cloud over his death didn’t need to be there.”
Gill, 41, was shot dead standing outside the Comfort Inn and Suites in suburban Kamloops early on Jan. 23. It was two hours after Cody Mathieu, 31, of Kamloops was killed by gunfire outside a suburban Super 8 Motel in the same city.
Mounties said at the time that the shootings were related to organized crime and in a news release stated that Mathieu was known to police but Gill wasn’t. On Feb. 19, almost a month later, they included in a news release that police believed Gill’s death was a case of mistaken identity.
“We never implicated him in the drug trade,” said Cpl. Jodie Shelki, spokeswoman for the Kamloops detachment, on Monday. “We never said he was involved in the drug trade.”
She said police described both as “targeted” shootings, meaning “nobody went into that parking lot (at the Comfort Inn) hoping to shoot an innocent person.”
But Gill’s mother, Marie Nobles, said, “Don’t mention a person who’s not involved in drugs at the same time as someone who is … Don’t jump the gun. The damage that they did is there.”
She said it wasn’t until Monday, more than a month after the shooting, that police called her.
“At least they said they’re sorry for not commenting to the family until now,” said Nobles. “I’m a tad less angry at them now.”
But she’s still angry that Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said ordinary people in the city weren’t in danger from the violence Shelki said was caused by fighting between and within “the various drug lines within the city of Kamloops.”
“My son was innocent and he was in Kamloops and now he’s dead,” Nobles said. “My son, he was still just an ordinary person.”
The mayor wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.
She is left only with her memories of her youngest of three sons, how he loved his Harley-Davidson and taught her to ride a motorcycle one Mother’s Day about five years ago. She still rides, at 66, and the two of them went on a ride together every summer.
Nobles recalled how as a single mom she would make sandwiches and hot chocolate and take her three boys out every Christmas to get a real Christmas tree, the boys hanging onto the tree through open windows while she drove the Honda Accord back to the city.
Baran said Gill was “the guy you called in the middle of the night to give you a hand.” And if he couldn’t help, he could call on someone in his network of friends to come out.
“He built networks of individuals to look after each other,” he said.
He said once on his way to the Kootenays Gill stopped to help a single mom at the side of the road, and made sure she got to the nearest town, where his cousin was able to help her get her car fixed.
Riding his Harley was a spiritual experience for Gill, which he would prescribe to others as a remedy for their stress, ‘X’ number of hours on the road, said Baran.
“For him, that was how you dealt with the stresses of life, by getting on your bike,” said Baran, who said Gill’s black-leather vest had patches of his sons’ names, “Loud pipes save lives” and “These are my church clothes.”
His mom said he liked to hunt, fish and camp, and for a long time worked in the oilpatch, but lately took jobs to help out buddies, like the siding job he was in Kamloops to do the day he was killed.
Provincial records show Gill had only three speeding tickets.
Nobles said she lost her mother and two siblings last year within a two-month span and Rex was the son who comforted her.
“That’s what they stole from me,” she said. “And they stole my grandsons’ dad.”
Her message to those who get caught up in the drug trade is to think about the person’s loved ones.
“That’s somebody son or daughter or brother or sister. How would you feel if that happened to you? It’s senseless.”
The serious-crimes unit has identified suspects in the shootings, but there haven’t yet been any arrests, said Shelki.
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email [email protected].</p