Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Murder suspect found on train

SWAT team storms eastbound railcar, finds man sleeping in his seat

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Police were called to the scene of a shooting outside Opera Ultralounge on Main Street last Sunday morning. A suspect was arrested on a Via Rail train in Ontario early Thursday.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Police were called to the scene of a shooting outside Opera Ultralounge on Main Street last Sunday morning. A suspect was arrested on a Via Rail train in Ontario early Thursday. Photo Store

They were prepared for the worst after getting notice of a potentially armed, dangerous and desperate fugitive looking to flee a cold-blooded Winnipeg murder case on board a crowded passenger train.

But what heavily armed police SWAT team members found early Thursday at a Via Rail stop in Capreol, Ont., was positively peaceful, even serene. And certainly surprising.

"He was actually sleeping," a surprised Staff Sgt. John Somerset of the Sudbury Police Service told the Free Press a few hours later.

In fact, Marcus Richard was in such a deep slumber more than a dozen police officers -- who were anticipating resistance, perhaps even a chase -- were able to quickly and quietly clear all other passengers from the railcar to avoid any problems.

Police then woke Richard, 21, up and placed him under arrest without incident. No weapons were seized.

It was an anti-climactic end to an intense manhunt that began shortly after 23-year-old Rustom Paclipan was gunned down early Sunday morning outside Opera Ultralounge on Main Street. Two other men, aged 18 and 24, were shot and wounded.

Winnipeg police identified Richard as a suspect Wednesday and learned he had boarded the eastbound train. Via records show the train left Winnipeg about 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, about 72 hours after the killing.

Richard would have spent about 29 hours on the train before his 7 a.m. arrest. Police believe he was ultimately heading to Toronto, which would have come about nine hours -- and three stops -- beyond Capreol.

Richard is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault. He is being held in custody in Ontario and will be escorted back to Winnipeg later this week by officers who will go to pick him up. The first-degree murder charge is the most serious in the Criminal Code and indicates police believe the killing of Paclipan was a planned, premeditated act.

"We don't often have first-degree murder charges authorized," Winnipeg police Sgt. Natalie Aitken said Thursday, 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 he was nabbed Wednesday evening in the area of Simcoe Street and Notre Dame Avenue.

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 shoot at the group of people and kill Paclipan.

"We know there was not a firearm within the nightclub. We believe, and know, that firearm was brought to the scene," said Aitken.

Police confirmed Thursday it 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 prior 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 in the community on release conditions following a March drug-related arrest. He and two other men, both 23, face drug-trafficking charges.

Downtown detectives allege the men possessed quantities of marijuana and codeine for the purpose of trafficking on March 15, court records show. They're also suspected of possessing cash obtained by crime. A first court date of May 15 on the charges was pending. Richard was released on a promise to appear.

Court records show Richard and one of the co-accused in that case lived together at a residence on Portsmouth Boulevard. Richard has no record of criminal convictions in Manitoba. One of the co-accused, however, has convictions for marijuana possession and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. The other drug-dealing suspect was convicted in September 2012 for his role in a group attack on a man outside the Tijuana Yacht Club bar. No gang connection was alleged, and no weapons were mentioned as being seen in the assault.

A few months earlier, he'd pleaded guilty to simple assault for his part in the schoolyard robbery of a teen, an act he committed with two others -- including a man the victim told court had been throwing up gang signs during the event.

In the Opera Ultralounge investigation, police reviewed security camera footage from nearby businesses, saying Thursday "surveillance played a critical role in this investigation." No other details, such as whether the killing might have been caught on video, were provided. There was also extensive forensic analysis that assisted in the arrests, said Aitken.

"Our officers have been working tirelessly to bring individuals responsible for this into custody," she said.

Paclipan died from gunshot wounds just after 2 a.m. Sunday 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 that included Paclipan.

Family and friends of the victim said earlier this week they believe Paclipan 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, 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 moments later, but then suddenly cancelled at 1:59 a.m. from within the 911 centre before 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.

www.mikeoncrime.com

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2014 A5

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