Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wrong place, the wrong time

z High-profile murder trial begins z Victim caught in turf war, jury hears

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PHIL Haiart was in the wrong place at the wrong time, an innocent bystander caught in the middle of a gang turf war that would claim his life, a Winnipeg jury heard Wednesday.

Details of the street battle, grisly autopsy pictures and testimony from a visibly shaken police officer capped the first day of the high-profile trial.

Jeffrey Cansanay, 21, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder of Haiart, 17, who was hit in the stomach with a stray bullet during the Oct. 10, 2005 shootout near Sargent Avenue and Maryland Street.

Cansanay is also charged with the attempted murder of another man, Abass Jalloh, who was walking with Haiart and also hit with stray gunfire. He survived an arm injury and will testify later in the trial.

Winnipeg police Const. Victor Dhillon was the first officer to respond to the aftermath of the shootout.

"It was a little bit of chaos. He (Haiart) was on the sidewalk, collapsed in a pool of blood. He was still breathing. He was in obvious distress. His eyes were rolling up in his head," said Dhillon.

Haiart -- a graduate from St. John's-Ravenscourt and son of a Winnipeg surgeon -- was rushed to hospital and underwent emergency surgery. He was pronounced dead nearly four hours later.

The nature of Haiart's killing struck a nerve with Winnipeg residents, police and politicians and quickly led to the creation of a new task force targeting inner-city street crime and drug dealers.

Dr. Charles Littman performed the autopsy on Haiart and guided jurors through graphic photos Wednesday, which showed the fatal wound that punctured a major artery in the young man's stomach, causing uncontrollable bleeding.

Crown attorney Gerry Bowering began the five-week trial by outlining the allegations against Cansanay in his opening statement to the seven-man, five-woman jury. Bowering said Haiart and Jalloh were the unsuspecting victims of ongoing violence in a Winnipeg street gang that had recently been ripped apart by internal strife.

According to an agreed statement of facts presented to the jury, the Mad Cowz were formed in the summer of 2004 and comprised largely of youths living in the city's West End, who were refugees from war-torn countries in Africa.

The Mad Cowz set up their "turf" and established several drug houses in the area, but problems began in 2005 when some members felt the gang hadn't properly responded to the murder of one of their members by a rival gang, the B-Side, jurors were told.

There were also concerns with the leadership that resulted in several members breaking away to form their own faction, called the African Mafia. One of those people was the youth co-accused now charged in Haiart's killing, according to the statement of facts.

"The dissatisfied members... were mainly African-born immigrants and refugees, many from Sudan or Somalia. They had come from war-torn countries where they had been exposed to a high degree of violence already, and this exposure provided them with the means to establish themselves on the streets of Winnipeg," read the statement of facts.

Cansanay began living with the youth co-accused in a McGee Street "crack house" and soon found themselves at war with the African Mafia members, largely over control of the drug trade, jurors were told.

During the early evening of Oct. 10, one of the Mad Cowz members went to the McGee residence and threw gasoline-filled bottles through the front window in an attempt to start a fire. They didn't ignite, said Bowering. Two different Mad Cowz members returned to the home a few hours later, and were immediately confronted by Cansanay and the youth, he said. Cansanay was armed with a rifle, and the youth allegedly urged him to "shoot, shoot", said Bowering.

At the same time, Haiart and Jalloh happened to be walking in the same area. The Crown's theory is that the bullets meant for the fleeing Mad Cowz members ended up hitting Haiart and Jalloh.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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