Former gang leader Michael Le says he had just finished signing a lease for a Maserati sports car on a Friday afternoon in October, 2007, when he received a panicked phone call from a member of his group, the Red Scorpions.
Mr. Le, who is a co-operating witness at a murder trial linked to the mass killing of six people near Vancouver, testified Tuesday that he knew his gang planned to execute a rival drug trafficker in a dispute involving egos and money.
But it quickly became clear things did not go to plan, the court heard.
On the phone was Matthew Johnston, who was among the gang members assigned to carry out the hit, Mr. Le testified. He sounded "pretty urgent" and asked to meet at a shopping plaza in nearby Burnaby.
Mr. Le, 29, testified that when he arrived, Mr. Johnston broke the first bit of bad news, telling him: "Mike, I'm sorry, but we killed Eddie," referring to Eddie Narong, a friend Mr. Le had known since middle school.
Mr. Narong lay dead in a high-rise apartment in Surrey, south of Vancouver, along with Corey Lal, who Mr. Le said was the intended target of the hit. Two other men also linked to gangs and drugs were killed along with fireplace repairman Ed Schellenberg and building resident Chris Mohan, who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"I told [Mr. Johnston], 'You are [an] idiot – why did you kill so many people?'" Mr. Le testified in a secure courtroom in downtown Vancouver.
"His exact words were: 'Mike, they saw our faces, we had no choice.'" Mr. Johnston is currently on trial alongside Cody Haevischer for six counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy. The Crown alleges Mr. Johnston, Mr. Haevischer and a third man, known only as Person X, who has already pleaded guilty, carried out the hit.
Mr. Le had been sitting next to Mr. Johnston and Mr. Haevischer in the prisoner's dock until last November when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He was sentenced to three years and one month after time served in a deal with the Crown that included his testimony.
Mr. Le told the court Mr. Lal found himself in a dispute with the other leader of the Red Scorpions, Jamie Bacon, whose own gang had merged with Mr. Le's earlier that year. Mr. Bacon is also charged in the murders and is awaiting a separate trial.
Mr. Le testified that Mr. Bacon was upset after hearing Mr. Lal had been badmouthing him, and he demanded Mr. Lal pay a $100,000 "tax." When Mr. Lal failed to pay, Mr. Bacon insisted he be killed, Mr. Le told the court. Mr. Le was initially reluctant, in part because Mr. Lal was in business with his friend, Mr. Narong, but he relented, he said.
After the alleged meeting with Mr. Johnston on Oct. 19, 2007, Mr. Le testified that he told Mr. Johnston to "lay low."
Mr. Le said he met with Mr. Haevischer a few days later, communicating using an erasable white board – a precaution to ensure their conversations couldn't be recorded. Mr. Le said Mr. Haevischer's girlfriend and another associate were in the room, though he said they weren't involved in the conversation.
"He wrote down 'six people got killed,'" Mr. Le testified.
"He wrote down '[Person X] shot three.' He wrote down, 'I shot three.'" Mr. Le's testimony is offering an unprecedented look inside one of the region's most violent street gangs and its alleged involvement in a crime that turned the region's gang war into a national concern. It also revealed that Mr. Le, in addition to founding the Red Scorpions, was a member of a triads gang, which he said supplied him with drugs.
Mr. Bacon is charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy, and is expected to stand trial separately.
Mr. Johnston and Mr. Haevischer are each charged with six counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy.
They have pleaded not guilty.