A toxic mix of pride, greed and competition prompted the murderous attack in a Surrey condo unit that left dead six men – two of them innocent bystanders – in the worst mass killing in the region’s gang wars, a Crown prosecutor said Wednesday.
Almost seven years after the “Surrey six” killings, Mark Levitz began presenting the Crown’s closing arguments, a turning point in a long-running trial of two accused held in a Vancouver courtroom of the B.C. Supreme Court accessible only though airport-style security.
Mr. Levitz said “overwhelming evidence” proves the guilt of Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, each charged with conspiracy and six counts of first-degree murder in the killings in a 15th-floor unit in October, 2007.
On Wednesday, the two men sat in prisoners docks, their backs to spectators looking on at the proceedings through sheets of bullet-proof glass.
Mr. Levitz summed up a mix of facts, testimony, witness accounts – including from those who saw men matching the appearance of the accused entering and leaving the apartment – and forensic evidence.
He also referred to footage from surveillance cameras that caught the accused moving about on the day of the killings as well as cellphone-tower data that allowed investigators to piece together the movements of the accused.
The Crown told Justice Catherine Wedge, who is hearing the case without a jury, that Mr. Haevischer and Mr. Johnston were “co-perpetrators” in the deliberate killings. They were involved along with a third man, who cannot be named under a court publication ban.
He said even the defence will not dispute the accused were Red Scorpion members; they were tattooed with gang markings.
The case stands out among gang-related conflicts in B.C because of the number of victims and the deaths of bystanders. Ed Schellenberg, a 55-year-old fireplace repairman happened to be in the unit when the killings occurred, and 22-year-old Chris Mohan lived across the hall and was apparently dragged into the unit.
Both men ended up shot dead on the floor of the condo, the Crown says, when members of the Red Scorpion gang came in to kill Corey Lal, a rival drug-dealer to the Scorpions. Mr. Lal, his brother and two associates were also killed.
Scorpion co-leader Jamie Bacon, now in jail and awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy and one count of murder, had demanded Mr. Lal pay the Scorpions $100,000 in what Mr. Levitz described as a “tax” and initiated the attack when Mr. Lal did not pay up.
“It would make the Red Scorpions look weak if they did nothing,” Mr. Levitz said. “Killing Corey Lal would further the Red Scorpion objectives by protecting the Red Scorpions’ reputation and, by extension, their business interests.”
“Violence was integral to the business and the gang fostered a fearsome reputation,” he said. “The primary activity of the Red Scorpion gang was drug trafficking. I don’t think there’s going to be much issue about that.”
The Crown said the two accused participated in the killings as loyal Red Scorpion members. “It was a Red Scorpion-initiated hit. It was for that reason that they went along and did what they were required to do.”
He noted that Mr. Lal was a rival drug trafficker for whom the gang members had no individual animus, but rather a “group motive” for action based on Red Scorpion interests in securing a bigger piece of the illegal drug market.
The Crown went into details of the day of the killing, recalling testimony about how, for example, Mr. Johnston and another man wiped the guns and bullets clean with paper towels and Windex in an apartment used as a staging area before proceeding to the high rise where the killings occurred.
In addition to Mr. Bacon, another man named Sophon Sek is awaiting trial for manslaughter.