Six men have been found guilty of manslaughter in a case involving the fatal shooting of two people in a Vancouver house and the confinement of a kidnapping victim in Surrey in 2016.
Samantha Le and Xuan Van Vy Ba-Cao were shot dead. The case was heard by Justice Arne Silverman in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
The trial, Regina v. Harinam Cox, Shamil Ali, Gopal Figueredo, Erian Acosta, Ellwood Bradbury and Matthew Stewart, involved a seven-count indictment where six accused were charged with crimes arising from the same set of circumstances occurring between Sept. 17 and Sept. 19, 2016.
The charges were kidnapping, confinement, two counts of extortion, aggravated assault, and two counts of manslaughter using a firearm.
“On the basis of the evidence, I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that with respect to the kidnapping, confinement, the two extortion counts, and the aggravated assault count, each of the accused are parties to those crimes, and all all responsible for each others actions in pursuit of that common goal of kidnapping and extortion,” Silverman decided.
The case involved drug dealing out of a residence Silverman referred to as “Dieppe.” A witness lived there with his girlfriend, a roommate and “sometimes two small children.”
As for the manslaughter counts, the judge noted, the evidence didn’t establish which of the six, other than Figuerdo, were present at “Dieppe,” nor did it established if they “had any intention of killing or shooting anyone at all.”
Nevertheless, Silverman found, case law could only lead to the conclusion all six are guilty of manslaughter.
“All that is necessary is that in carrying out their common purpose – kidnapping – they ought to have known that the consequences of their actions would probably result in somebody being seriously hurt,” he explained.
Silverman found, though, that because the original charge of manslaughter included use of a firearm, but it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt who used it, or knew a firearm was present, he found the six guilty instead of manslaughter simpliciter.
Silverman ordered an indefinite publication ban on evidence that could identify five witnesses, whom he referred to by initials.
The court heard that one of these witnesses found three or four men in the living room, wearing balaclavas. The judge said he was punched in the face, his glasses were broken, his arms were tied behind his back and he was thrown down a stairway, “from where he heard four pops that he thought were gunshots.”
“In fact, both his girlfriend and roommate had been shot twice in the side of the head from close range,” Silverman said. “It is not known who the shooter was and the gun was never located. Consequently, no one is charged with murder. Those believed to be involved, or present at Dieppe, are charged with manslaughter.”
The court heard the witness was then taken to a house in Surrey, where he was confined for about 45 hours while his captors sought ransom money.
During that time, they were unmasked and the witness “subsequently identified them for police” Silverman said. “They are the six accused.”
“While at the Surrey house,” Silverman noted in his reasons for judgment delivered April 4, the witness “was the subject of an ongoing cycle of beatings that, one presumes, were intended to encourage him to arrange for the ransom that they were seeking. They were initially asking for $1 million, later reduced to $500,000.”
DNA evidence and fingerprints established some of the suspects’ presence in the Surrey house, where police found gloves, plastic sheeting, a blow torch, bolt cutters and burner phones.
The witness was rescued by the Vancouver Police Department’s Emergency Response Team, who found him bound in the back seat of a vehicle with Cox, Figueredo and Ali. The other three had escaped but were arrested later.