Calgary’s police chief apologized to two teen brothers and their family Tuesday — promising an independent review of the matter — following a decision to drop the charges against them in connection to a gang-related fatal shooting last week.
A 14-year-old Calgary boy faced charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder, while his 18-year-old brother was charged with accessory after the fact to murder.
The charges were stayed by prosecutors Tuesday after social media video of the shooting emerged.
“These charges will have impacted these two young men and their family in very significant ways, and for that I apologize unreservedly,” said Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld.
Social media video
The chief confirmed what the 14-year-old’s lawyer, Jim Lutz, said earlier in the day: that video, posted to social media in recent days, led to the charges against the two teens being dropped.
The video shows a man in a red hoodie shooting into a vehicle that does not match the description of the teen who was charged.
Neufeld said investigators brought the new video evidence to prosecutors as soon as they’d confirmed its reliability.
While investigators no longer believe the two teens were involved in the shooting, Neufeld said they were in the area at the time of the incident. He could not confirm whether or not the teens were at the scene when the shooting occurred.
Neither of the brothers are being named in order to comply with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which protects the identity of the younger sibling.
Last Monday, Nov. 13, Rami Hajj Ali was fatally shot while sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot of the Trans Canada Centre mall.
Ali, 23, is believed to have been the intended target, connected to organized crime conflict in Calgary.
When charges were announced, police said they’d arrested the brothers after receiving “valuable information from witnesses” about the suspects.
Tracking the teens
After locating a black truck speeding away from the scene, police say they used their HAWCS helicopter to follow the vehicle, which was abandoned in the parking lot of the Chinook Mall.
Two people got into a vehicle and then “fled” to two homes about 10 kilometres away in the southeast neighbourhood of Southview.
Police then took a number of people from the two homes into custody.
“Throughout the night, officers worked to determine each person’s involvement, if any,” according to the Calgary Police Service’s statement a week ago.
On Tuesday afternoon, Neufeld said homicide investigators acted “on the information and evidence that was available available to them up to that point.”
Neufeld said the investigation remains ongoing, and that police have a description of the suspect responsible for the shooting.
Teen ‘maintained his innocence’
The younger brother’s lawyer, Jim Lutz, praised the Crown for re-evaluating its case.
“This is a great example of how the justice system is supposed to work as the Crown re-evaluates the evidence the police give it and then execute their job as quasi ministers of justice.”
Andrea Urquhart, the lawyer for the older teen, said her client “has maintained his innocence along with the innocence of his little brother since the moment he was arrested.”
“He is grateful to the Calgary prosecutor for staying his charge and looks forward to understanding how this could have happened.”
At city hall, Coun. Raj Dhaliwal said he’s been given assurances by police that the investigation is ongoing and the “people responsible should be behind bars very soon.”
Dhaliwal said he and Coun. Andre Chabot are planning to hold a town hall meeting in Marlborough next week for members of the community. He said police will be present to discuss their progress in the case.