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Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
IN DEPTH: Covering a contentious lobster fishery
An investigator has pieced together a possible sequence of events regarding a shooting in Halifax’s Spring Garden Road business district in August 2019.
Three Dartmouth men – Devonte Denzel McNeil, 27, Demarqus Shane Beals, 32, and Jayree Vontaze Downey, 20 – are on trial in Halifax provincial court on a variety of charges, including attempted murder.
The trial, which got underway Tuesday, continued Wednesday with testimony from a Halifax Regional Police detective and two experts from the RCMP’s national forensic laboratory in Ottawa.
The shooting occurred Aug. 9, 2019, at about 12:30 a.m. on Dresden Row near the intersection with Spring Garden Road, after a dispute between two groups inside Jamaica Vibes Restaurant.
The Crown alleges McNeil took a handgun out of his pocket outside the bar and fired seven shots at Robert Chan, who was farther down Dresden Row on the other side of the street.
Chan, who took off running when the shooting started, showed up at a hospital about 45 minutes later with a bullet wound on one of his buttocks.
Two other bullets struck a vehicle that was parked on the street between Chan and the gunman.
Det. Const. Eddie El-Diri testified that he was tasked with collecting and reviewing video from surveillance cameras in the Spring Garden Road area in the aftermath of the shooting.
Crown attorney Rick Woodburn played about 35 video clips for Judge Gregory Lenehan while El-Diri narrated.
Seven distinct gunshots can be heard on a video from a yoga studio on Dresden Row, and three men run past the business seconds later.
The defence admits videos show McNeil, Beals and Downey running across Spring Garden Road after the shooting and northbound on Dresden Row before turning right onto Artillery Place, where they slow to a leisurely walking pace.
McNeil appears to be holding a pistol in his right hand as they stroll along Artillery Place.
Police allege the three men went into nearby Royal Artillery Park, where McNeil and Beals were arrested a few minutes later. Downey climbed over the park’s fence behind a building at the corner of Doyle and Queen streets, crossed Queen Street and took a circuitous route to Clyde Street, where he had parked a red Pontiac a couple of hours earlier.
Video shows Downey returning to the car and driving away. He was arrested six days later and charged in the shooting.
A police dog discovered a Ruger .45-calibre, semi-automatic pistol with an open lever and an empty eight-cartridge clip under a tree in Royal Artillery Park.
Seven spent cartridges and one intact cartridge were recovered from the scene of the shooting, as well as the two bullets that hit the parked car.
Firearms expert Jacques Rioux told the court analysis determined the expended cartridges came from the pistol that was found in the park. He said the intact cartridge found on Dresden Row and nine .45-calibre cartridges in a magazine that was seized from Downey’s vehicle were successfully test-fired in the pistol.
Another forensic specialist, Nigel Hearns, testified that particles of gunshot residue were found on all four sampling stubs dabbed on McNeil’s hands and face. He said one or more particles of gunshot residue were found in two samples from Beals’ hands but none in the samples from his face.
Hearns said the results mean McNeil and Beals either discharged a firearm, were near a firearm when it was discharged or were in contact with another source of gunshot residue, such as the surface of a firearm.
On cross-examination, Hearns admitted forensic analysis cannot identify exactly how gunshot residue comes to be on a person. “All we know is that gunshot residue is present,” he said.
He said a police officer’s tactical vest could be “heavily contaminated” with gunshot residue from firearms training. He said residue could be on the officer’s hands, face and equipment and could be transferred to someone they were searching.