To his sister and girlfriend, there was nothing much out of the ordinary about Corey Lal.
For all they knew, the 21-year-old lived with his mother in the Vancouver area, with no car and without a taste for expensive things. He worked at his brother’s mechanic shop. He had the sort of tumultuous romance that any young man might, with regular break-ups followed by inevitable make-ups.
He had been in trouble with the law at least once before, but he was no drug kingpin.
Prosecutors have painted a much darker picture: Corey Lal the drug trafficker, who was deep enough into the world of crime that he was considered an important rival to the leaders of the region’s most violent gangs. His enemies, prosecutors allege, attempted to extort him for $100,000 and then ordered a hit on him when he failed to pay.
The second version of Mr. Lal is central to the Crown’s explanation for what happened in a high-rise condo building in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 19, 2007, when six people, including Mr. Lal, three other men with ties to drugs and gangs, and two bystanders were executed in a barrage of gunfire.
Three alleged gangsters are on trial for murder and conspiracy charges in what was the deadliest single attack in a gang war that went on for another two years.
The Crown alleges the Red Scorpions gang targeted Mr. Lal at the Balmoral Tower condo development in a 15th-floor unit described as a “stash house” for drugs and guns.
Mr. Lal was the target, the Crown contends, but five others, including 55-year-old gas fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and 22-year-old building resident Chris Mohan, were killed to ensure there were no witnesses.
Mr. Lal’s brother Michael, Edward Narong and Ryan Bartolomeo were also killed.
Mr. Lal’s girlfriend at the time, Patricia Urbanska, testified on Wednesday that Mr. Lal was a good boyfriend, who spent time with her as much as he could and was never outwardly flashy.
She said Mr. Lal worked at a mechanic shop that belonged to his brother, Michael.
Ms. Urbanska said she knew Mr. Lal had some trouble with the law when he was younger, before she started dating him two years earlier. She said she suspected he might be involved in something “drug-related” again, but never once thought he was trafficking drugs.
“You would describe him as a very good boyfriend?” asked defence lawyer Simon Buck, who is representing Cory Haevischer, one of the other defendants.
“Yes,” Ms. Urbanska replied.
“You got to know him well?” Mr. Buck asked.
“So I thought,” she replied.
“He was not a drug dealer as far as you knew?” Mr. Buck continued.
“Yes,” Ms. Urbanska replied.
She said Mr. Lal had been to the Balmoral Tower before, although it wasn’t clear when. She said she remembers dropping him off at the building, where she believed his friend Raphael lived.
The trial has heard that Raphael Baldini had rented unit 1505 until the condo changed hands to someone introduced to the building’s managers as Mr. Baldini’s cousin, Chris, in the spring of 2007.
Ms. Urbanska said she and Mr. Lal broke up several times, after which they would get back together. A week before Mr. Lal was murdered, they had had another fight. They had not reconciled by the time Mr. Lal was killed, she testified.
Mr. Lal’s sister, Jourdane, offered similar details about Mr. Lal’s life.
Jourdane Lal testified her brother had previous legal troubles related to drug trafficking with Mr. Narong, who she described as her brother’s best friend, although her testimony did not explore his criminal record in detail.
Matthew Johnston, Mr. Haevischer and Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le are on trial for murder and conspiracy charges. A co-accused has pleaded guilty, and alleged gang leader Jamie Bacon is scheduled for trial next year.
Mr. Johnston and Mr. Haevischer are accused of being directly involved in the killing, along with another man who cannot be named, while Mr. Le is accused of being part of the conspiracy.
The Crown alleges Mr. Le and Mr. Bacon were the leaders of the Red Scorpions gang.