Surveillance footage shown in trial of accused in fatal community centre shooting
Tamara Cherry, CTV News Toronto
Published Tuesday, May 15, 2018 6:48PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 15, 2018 7:00PM EDT
Jurors in a downtown courtroom watched surveillance footage Tuesday of what the Crown contends was the planned execution of a man at a northwest Toronto basketball tournament.
Neeko Mitchell, 25, was shot eight times outside the North Kipling Community Centre, where he had arrived to watch one of his brothers and a friend play in a basketball tournament the evening of Nov. 24, 2013.
The defence team for Reshane Hayles-Wilson has not contested the fact that Hayles-Wilson, who has pleaded not-guilty to first-degree murder, was the shooter that night.
"The question for this jury is not whether Mr. Hayles-Wilson shot Mr. Mitchell. He did," Crown attorney Liz Nadeau told the jury in her opening address. "The question is, was this the plan? The evidence, the footage will demonstrate that clearly."
The video footage is a key piece of evidence in the case. A Toronto police officer who analyzed the footage is one of the only witnesses expected to testify.
"Many people witnessed the shooting and yet no one who saw was prepared to come forward and assist in the investigation," Nadeau said.
The video shows Mitchell and his brother arriving at the community centre just after 8 p.m. Their brother and Mitchell's friend were in the middle of their game.
Mitchell and his brother are seen greeting Hayles-Wilson and a man identified by the Crown as Jermaine Dunkley with handshakes before entering the gym. Dunkley, according to the Crown and defence, is the leader of a gang called Monstarz.
Dunkley is seen having conversations with several people, including Hayles-Wilson, in the lobby of the community centre while Mitchell is in the gym. During one of the conversations, Hayles-Wilson gestures toward the gym with his thumb.
"Once in the gym, the Crown's theory is that he's lured out to his death," Nadeau said.
In an agreed statement of fact submitted by the Crown and defence, the jury heard that Mitchell's friend saw someone at the door to the gym gesture at Mitchell with his arm up before Mitchell walked out of the gym.
Mitchell is seen walking past Hayles-Wilson and Dunkley to the front door of the community centre. He walks outside, greets people standing outside the door and turns back toward the door with what the Crown contends is a smile on his face. He is greeted by Hayles-Wilson who pulls out a gun and, according to the Crown, fires eight shots into Mitchell's body.
The crowd outside scatters as people in the lobby of the community centre run toward the gym. Hayles-Wilson runs to a silver vehicle just as the taxi that had brought Mitchell to the community centre begins pulling away.
Moments later, basketball players and spectators spill out of the gym. Among them was the friend who Mitchell had gone to watch — the same friend who had seen someone gesturing toward Mitchell before Mitchell left the gym. That friend, the jury heard, then found Mitchell lying on the pavement outside the community centre. According to an agreed statement of fact, the friend kneeled down next to him and tried to help before returning inside the community centre and washing his hands.
The silent surveillance video, while less than 10 minutes long, was played throughout the day Tuesday from several different camera angles.
Hayles-Wilson watched from the prisoner's box, often chewing his fingernails while glancing over several times to Mitchell's family members who were seated in the body of the courtroom.
The trial is expected to last until the end of May or beginning of June.