Winnipeg police have made two arrests in the deadly weekend shooting of a young man outside a downtown nightclub.
Marcus James Richard, 21, was nabbed Thursday morning on board a VIA Rail train near Sudbury, Ontario. Winnipeg police believe he was headed to Toronto and had their colleagues out east, including members of the tactical unit, intercept the voyage and take him into custody. He will be returned to Winnipeg later this week.
Richard is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault. The first-degree charge is the most serious in the Criminal Code and indicates police believe the killing of 23-year-old Rustom Paclipan was a planned, premeditated act.
"We don’t often have first-degree murder charges authorized," said Winnipeg police Sgt. Natalie Aitken at a noon news conference, noting senior justice officials have reviewed the file.
A 16-year-old co-accused has also been arrested and charged with manslaughter and several weapons offences, including having a firearm in a vehicle. Police said Thursday he was nabbed around 6 p.m. on Tuesday but they didn’t release any information at the time to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
Aitken said the manslaughter charge relates to the transport of the murder weapon. Essentially, the teen is accused of bringing the gun that was used – allegedly by Richard – to kill Paclipan and wound two other men, aged 18 and 24.
"We know there was not a firearm within the nightclub. We believe, and know, that firearm was brought to the scene," said Aitken.
Shooting not random: police
Police confirmed Thursday this was not a "random act" of violence. The two accused are linked to the same criminal organization, police said, and Paclipan is a known associate of a rival gang. Both groups had gathered that night at Opera and had a dispute preceding the shooting, police said.
"This would have had a gang component to it. These two separate groups had engaged in a confrontation," said Aitken. She said out of "respect" for Paclipan’s family they didn’t wish to get into more specifics.
Court records obtained by the Free Press show Richard had been free on bail following a March 15 arrest as part of a drug-related investigation.
Police reviewed security camera footage from nearby businesses and said Thursday "surveillance played a critical role in this investigation." No other details, such as whether the killing was caught on tape, were provided. Extensive forensic analysis also assisted in the arrests, said Aitken.
"Our officers have been working tirelessly to bring individuals responsible for this into custody," she said.
Investigation into 911 call underway
Paclipan died from gunshot wounds just after 2 a.m. Sunday morning following the altercation near the corner of Main Street and Bannatyne Avenue. Police said Thursday the gun was fired from the street, and not a vehicle, and directed at a crowd of people which included Paclipan.
Family and friends of the victim said earlier this week they believe Pacipan heroically pushed his friends aside and took the bullet that could have been meant for someone else. He has no prior criminal record and was set to graduate soon from Red River College.
On Tuesday, Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis called for an internal investigation into how 911 calls from the nightclub were handled. He revealed an initial call came in at 1:39 a.m. from the owner of Opera, saying two groups of men appeared to be in conflict with each other.
The call was entered into the police moments later, but then suddenly cancelled at 1:59 a.m. from within the 911 centre before ever being dispatched. Who cancelled it, and why, are now the subject of the police review.
Four minutes later, the second 911 call came in reporting shots had been fired. Police arrived to find Paclipan had already been rushed by friends to hospital, where he died of his injuries.