Two Winnipeg men have taken the rap for the brutal killing of a city teen who fell prey to a misguided plot to wrest control of a North End crack house from the Indian Posse street gang.
Warner Flett, 25, and Michael Guimond, 35, pleaded guilty to manslaughter this morning for their roles in a brutal Sept. 4, 2012 attack on Paris Bruce, 16, that lead to the teen's death in hospital days later.
The men, members of the Indian Posse, also admitted Bruce's killing was committed to further the interests of the feared street gang. They pleaded guilty to a criminal organization charge.
Prosecutors accepted the pleas in answer to a first-degree murder charge. As well, four other reputed IP gang members accused in Bruce's death saw their charges dropped after their two associates entered their pleas.
As a result, Richard Beaulieu, 38, Colin Monkman, 19, and Gregory Myerion, 28, were set to be freed, while Michael Okemow, 25, will remain in custody pending trial in an unrelated homicide case.
Flett and Guimond were part of a group that chased after and attacked Bruce in an Aberdeen Avenue back lane.
Bruce was a member of the Mob Squad gang, a rival faction to the IP which is involved in the drug trade, according to prosecutors.
At the time, the Mob Squad was under the leadership of Joshua Jeffs, 24, a man who "carried great influence over the younger members and associates of this group," according to a statement of facts tabled and read in court.
Jeffs, hoping to expand his gang's crack-dealing business, decided to approach people living at a "very successful" crack house on Redwood Avenue – one he knew had ties to the IP — in hopes they would sell drugs for him, according to Crown attorney Brent Davidson.
"He was by all accounts, a ruthless individual set on furthering his own goals," Davidson said.
Regardless of the fact he knew which gang the crack house was aligned with, Jeffs directed "young soldiers" including Bruce, another youth and an 11-year-old boy to go there and make a pitch to take it over, according to the court facts.
After rebuffing Bruce and the other teen twice, the people living there called Flett and told him what was happening. He, Guimond, and other IP members went to the home, said Davidson.
"The Crown cannot say that all these males were called as 'backup,' however based upon what transpired shortly thereafter it is clear that some discussions were had amongst the Indian Posse members about the Mob Squad's efforts," Davidson said.
Just after 7:30 a.m. on Sept 4, 2012, Jeffs and the three youths went to the drug house for "a third and fateful time," said Davidson.
The trio of youngsters went to the door while Jeffs waited in the car, said Davidson. Guimond answered and an argument broke out. Soon after, the trio tossed bits of wood and a brick at Guimond.
A contingent of IP members then stood up and ran from the house, Davidson said. The 11-year-old made it to Jeffs's car, while Bruce and the other youth took off down an Aberdeen Avenue lane.
Bruce was caught about 100 feet from the crack house and beaten, court heard. Guimond admits striking him a few times, while Flett admits kicking him, including once in the head.
Bruce was able to get away to a nearby yard but was further assaulted there, including being smashed with sticks and stabbed twice with two knives.
Davidson said a witness cried out, "stop police," which caused some of the men – including Guimond and Flett – to stop the attack head back to the nearby crack house.
Bruce tried to get away but forensic evidence shows he was hit in the head at least one other time after this point, court heard.
Guimond and Flett went back to the yard not long after to try to find something Guimond dropped before going to ditch their clothing at another house, Davidson said.
The Crown didn't say what sentences it will seek for the men. Manslaughter carries with it a maximum term of life in prison.
Guimond, has been charged, but never convicted, in two prior city homicides. His brother, Norman, was convicted of manslaughter in 1999 in connection with the killing of grocery store clerk Jeff Giles and received a life sentence.
Police initially laid manslaughter charges in Bruce's death but months later upgraded them to first-degree murder.
Investigators would only reveal that "new information" came to light after making arrests that led to the more serious charge being laid.
Convictions for the criminal organization offences naming the Indian Posse are a victory for Manitoba Justice. A previous effort to pursue the gang on that front in court fell flat.