Posted on June 6, 2005

Crashers Sic Pitbulls on Forest Lawn Party

Leanne Dohy and Tarina White, Calgary Herald, June 5

Eight men were sent to hospital, some with critical injuries, after a massive brawl involving at least 20 people, machetes, knives and pitbulls at a Forest Lawn apartment.

The host of the party, who has lived in the area for about two years, is moving this weekend, fearful and frustrated with an area he says is dangerous.

Don Keller, a 20-year-old industrial painter, told the Herald he had about 18 co-workers and friends over Friday night when his apartment was stormed by a group of strangers with two pitbulls.

“Just all of a sudden, the door was kicked in,” said Keller, whose cheekbone was destroyed by the attack, his nose broken and his sinuses crushed.

“They had knives, belts, pipes — all kinds of things . . . They hit my girlfriend and my sister, all the girls there, and they were siccing the dogs on everyone,” he said in an interview from his hospital bed.

Keller and three friends remained in hospital Saturday. Two other men suffered stab wounds and punctured lungs. The other had his throat cut.

Four others were treated and released Saturday.

Keller will undergo reconstructive surgery today to rebuild his crushed face, although he’s not sure how the injury occurred in the chaos.

The confrontation began outside Keller’s apartment, at 1808 40th St. S.E, just before midnight Friday. He says he didn’t see or hear the initial argument between the attackers and party guests who were on the balcony.

Police said the argument escalated into a fight, which then moved indoors.

“There were edged weapons and blunt objects used,” said Insp. Bob Couture.

Five men were apprehended in the area shortly after the attack and taken into custody. No charges had been laid Saturday night.

Although witnesses said the intruders were all dark-skinned males, Couture said there was no evidence the fight was racially motivated.

Keller’s roommate, Mike Dixon, 20, said he saw the fight start on the lawn then ran inside to get help.

After three recent break-and-enters at the apartment, a homicide down the street two weeks ago, and now this attack, the men say they’re through with Forest Lawn.

“Our friends packed up our stuff and moved us out of there today,” said Dixon. “That area is out of control.”

Keller, speaking despite his facial injuries, said he’ll never live in that neighbourhood again.

“It’s numb,” he said, running a hand over the swollen cheek. “My teeth, my nose — none of it hurts. I had morphine earlier, but they’re just giving me ibuprofen now.”

Treating all of the wounded and shaken young people after the attack required a massive operation for police, firefighters and EMS.

Seven ambulances responded, with 14 paramedics and a supervising officer, with firefighters at the wheel as the ambulances rushed to the two hospitals.

Up to a dozen witnesses consoled each other outside the southeast house, being helped onto a bus to await questioning. Many were taken to the district office, then driven home in cruisers.

Danitra Telepchuk, who was at the apartment when the intruders stormed in, was terrified by the machetes she said she saw before running to hide.

“I was in a closet, calling for help on my cellphone,” said Telepchuk, still shaken Saturday afternoon, desperately worried about the victims.

“It was just unbelievable. Now my friends are in the hospital. They’re good guys. They didn’t deserve this.”

Fran McKay lives two doors down and heard the vicious confrontation while watching television.

“It sounded bad — the screaming, the yelling, the breaking glass, the threats,” said McKay.

The investigation continues.