The trial of two men tied to a shooting outside a downtown Whitehorse bar at closing time in late 2019 began on May 30.
Malakal Kwony Tuel faces charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault, possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, possession of cash derived from crime and seven firearms-related charges.
Joseph Wuor, arrested at the same time as Tuel, faces five charges for possession of cocaine, cash and firearms.
Both men plead not guilty on all charges at the outset of the trial.
Tuel remains in custody, having been denied bail in March, while Wuor is not.
Tuel and Wuor were initially arrested hours after a shooting outside the Elite Hotel located on Jarvis Street in downtown Whitehorse. On the opening two days of the trial, the court heard accounts from witnesses who were at the bar attached to the hotel, known as the Local Bar or the 202, during the night that the shooting took place.
One of the witnesses was Destyn Aird who came to the bar with John Thomas Papequash, the man who would be shot by the end of the night, and a group of other friends. Aird testified by video conference.
Aird described the interactions she and her friends had with Tuel and Wuor as initially friendly. As the evening went on she told the court that a verbal confrontation escalated to shoving between Papequash and the other two men. Security camera footage from inside the bar played in court shows both the initial friendliness and then the confrontation near the bar’s pool tables.
The security camera footage shows bar staff separating the two parties and Aird stated that she and her friends stopped associating with Wuor and Tuel after that. Aird also testified to seeing Tuel making gun gestures with his hands pointing in her direction and said it made her want to leave the bar— this also appears on security camera footage.
On cross-examination from defence lawyer Dale Fedorchuk, Aird acknowledged that it appeared in the video that Papequash was the aggressor in the incident that led to the shoving match by the pool tables.
Led in questioning about the security footage by Fedorchuk, she also acknowledged that Tuel was dancing and smiling while making the gun sign with his hands and was making no effort to hide the sign he was making.
Shortly before the bar’s 2 a.m. closing time, security camera footage shows Tuel and Wuor leave through its front door. Papequash is seen leaving shortly afterwards while speaking on a cell phone. The video played in court does not have accompanying audio but soon after Papequash stepped out the front door people begin dashing out the front door.
Aird is shown in the video among those rushing outside.
On cross-examination Aird acknowledged that neither Tuel nor Wuor had showed her a gun that night and she did not see either of them shooting or even see them at all out on the street after she heard the gunshots.
Crown Counsel Leo Lane asked Aird if she was looking for the shooters.
“No. I wasn’t looking at anything but my friend on the ground,” she said.
The court heard shorter accounts from another patron at the 202 and a witness to a conflict between Tuel, Wuor and people at another Whitehorse bar earlier in the night. The other major witness who spoke during the trial’s first two days was John Singh, the night manager working at the 202 the night of the shooting.
In response to the same security camera footage from inside the bar played for other witnesses, Singh described he and his staff’s efforts to defuse tensions between Tuel, Wuor and Papequash. Singh testified that Tuel threatened to shoot Papequash while talking to him. The night manager said he was concerned that Tuel was growing more agitated and that he might be armed. He added he was worried for the safety of people in the bar and tried not to escalate things further.
Once Tuel and Wuor had left, Singh said he warned Papequash not to go outside and offered to call him a cab to the back door of the bar.
Singh said he thinks Papequash was shot just as he and the other doormen were rushing out the door in response to sounds from outside. He said he saw two men who he identified as Tuel and Wuor running east down Jarvis Street before rounding the corner and going down Second Avenue. According to Singh, two of the bar’s doormen went after them while he tried to get medical help for Papequash as well as find something to cover him up.
“He looked like he was dead to me,” Singh said, adding that there was a wound on Papequash’s forehead.
The defence’s cross examination of Singh’s testimony was put off until June 1, after the News’ print deadline.
The trial is expected to continue well into the month of June.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org