After six men lay dead, executed in a Surrey highrise in 2007, the man who created the gang accused of killing them says he was surprised the death toll was so high.
B.C. Supreme Court heard Tuesday that Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le was out test-driving cars on Oct. 19, 2007, as gunmen went into the highrise apartment to kill a drug dealer who was challenging the Red Scorpions, an organization Mr. Le helped create.
When Mr. Le asked his henchmen why they had to kill six, he was told “they saw their faces,” according to an agreed statement of facts read as Mr. Le was sentenced to 12 years for his admitted part in the killings.
Mr. Le will only spend another three years in prison because he has been incarcerated since 2009. In an explosive development in the case two months after testimony at the trial began, Mr. Le pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit murder.
For the first time, Mr. Le, who looked on from the defendants’ box separated by bulletproof glass, spoke at length to the court. He said he wished he had never created the Scorpions, a criminal gang in the drug-trafficking business. Standing, the soft-spoken 28-year-old apologized to the families of the victims, his own family and Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen, who presided over the sentencing.
“If I could turn back the hand of time, I would have never created the Red Scorpions gang. I would have never lived the life that I had lived, and I would have never made the choices that I have made,” he told the court.
The agreed statement of facts cast Mr. Le as a reluctant party to the killings, trying to talk other gang members out of proceeding with a plan to kill Corey Lal, a rival in the drug business. The fatal plan was allegedly advanced by fellow gang member Jamie Bacon, also facing charges in the case.
“After initially resisting the idea at several meetings, [Mr. Le] eventually told [Mr. Bacon] to ‘do whatever you want … whatever you need to do,’” said the statement.
Mr. Lal was renting the 15th-floor apartment where the Crown alleges two gunmen shot and killed the six men using two handguns and firing 19 shots.
Among the dead were two innocent bystanders: Christopher Mohan, 22, who lived across the hall from the apartment, and fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg, 55, who was servicing units in the complex that day.
Because Mr. Le has been in custody since 2009 and his pre-sentence prison time counts as double, he has, according to the Crown, already served nearly nine years of the sentence.
Outside court, Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie said the Crown decisions in the case were based on a “careful and principled” analysis of Mr. Le’s circumstances. Earlier Tuesday, Justice Cullen imposed a sweeping publication ban on aspects of the sentencing hearing.
Chris Johnson, Mr. Le’s lawyer, told reporters his client’s plea reflected the reality that he was a “party to a conspiracy,” who assisted someone else’s plan.
Also outside court, Eileen Mohan, the mother of Christopher Mohan, said she was skeptical about the sincerity of Mr. Le’s apology. “I’ll reserve that judgment,” she told reporters.
Corey Lal and his brother, Michael, were killed along with two other associates. One was Edward Narong. According to the joint statement, Mr. Le considered Mr. Narong a friend and was surprised to hear he had been killed.
Mr. Le was later allegedly given $25,000 to pay someone who can only be called Person A, who facilitated access to the Surrey highrise.
The trial, now in its fourth month, will proceed against two other defendants: Cody Haevischer and Matthew Johnston, both 29.