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'What I thought was punching — it was stabbing'

Winnipeg Transit driver testifies at murder trial

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/1/2019 (488 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A Winnipeg Transit driver broke down in tears Wednesday, testifying at the trial of the man accused of killing fellow bus operator Irvine Jubal Fraser.

"I'm frustrated I was unable to help," Giancarlo Dimacali said, wiping away tears as he told the jury about the early-morning incident nearly two years ago.

Brian Kyle Thomas, 24, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Moments before Irvine Jubal Fraser was fatally stabbed, an argument between Fraser and the man accused of attacking him was caught on camera.

COURT VIDEO

Moments before Irvine Jubal Fraser was fatally stabbed, an argument between Fraser and the man accused of attacking him was caught on camera.

Dimacali said his bus was stopped at the University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus before 2 a.m. on Feb. 14, 2017, when he witnessed a fight outside a bus that had just pulled up and stopped some two lengths in front of his vehicle.

Dimacali said a Transit driver and a smaller man got off the second bus and were in some type of "altercation."

"Their hands were up in the air and punching," said the driver who had been on the job for two years at the time. "I wanted to help or ascertain what was happening."

He said he pulled his vehicle up closer and put it in park. "I went out and I was trying to help the bus driver... When I got a little closer, what I thought was punching -- it was stabbing."

Dimacali testified he could see the reflection of a silver object about 20 centimetres long the smaller man was holding in his right fist over his head and thrusting in a downward motion at least three times.

"After that, I yelled, 'Stop!'" Dimacali said. "The other guy turned toward me and walked towards me."

(Warning: video includes strong language)

The driver hurried back onto his bus, where a couple of passengers were waiting. "After I closed the doors, he was standing outside the bus."

The man in dark clothing, with black hair past his ears, stood outside the closed bus doors for up to 30 seconds. He left when the driver called 911, Dimacali said.

Two heavy equipment operators removing snow at the scene also testified Wednesday.

Kim Defries was operating a dump truck, and had stopped in front of the bus piloted by Fraser, a 58-year-old veteran Transit driver. Through the truck's side mirror she said she could see "some kind of altercation going on," involving a Winnipeg Transit driver and another man.

"The driver had his hands over top of the other person," Defries testified.

Irvine Jubal Fraser

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Irvine Jubal Fraser

The driver was a tall, "well-built fellow," while the other man was small -- a little more than her height of 5-5, she said. He was wearing dark shoes, black pants and a black hoodie over a white T-shirt she could see when the bus driver tried pulling the hoodie over his head, she said.

The man made a swinging, sidearm motion toward the bus driver at least five times with his right fist, but she couldn't tell if he was holding a weapon, Defries said, adding she was puzzled the much bigger man hadn't overpowered the smaller one.

"You take for granted the big guy is going to take him down," she said. Then, "all of a sudden" the driver backed away, leaned against the side of his bus and fell to his knees.

"I went to him and Donny followed the other person."

Brian Kyle Thomas was arrested crossing the frozen Red River.

COURT PHOTO

Brian Kyle Thomas was arrested crossing the frozen Red River.

Her U of M co-worker, Donny Lemoine, testified he saw uniformed Transit drivers Dimacali and Fraser, who'd fallen to his knees, and a third man wearing dark clothing, who turned and walked away.

Lemoine, in his front-end loader, followed the suspect down Dafoe Road to Alumni Lane, across Freedman Crescent, stopping when the man headed down the bank toward the frozen Red River. "At no point was he running or jogging," he told the court.

Soon after, Lemoine showed a police canine unit the route the suspect had travelled. Court heard Lemoine described the man to police as being in his teens or early 20s, about 5-8, and of Asian or Indigenous ethnicity.

Thomas was arrested a short time later, crossing the river.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel Evan Roitenberg, Lemoine said he told the police the suspect was staggering wildly and couldn't walk in a straight line.

In video captured by onboard bus cameras and shown to jurors Tuesday, Thomas can be seen getting on Fraser's vehicle downtown with another young man, who tells the driver the accused is drunk.

When the bus gets to its last stop at the U of M, Thomas wakes up alone and doesn't know where he is. Fraser orders him to get off the bus. Thomas argues, and the driver forcibly removes him from the bus.

A short time later, Fraser dies of multiple stab wounds.

The trial continues.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

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