METRO VANCOUVER — Before Rajinder Soomel was shot to death in the middle of Cambie Street six years ago, he shouted at his killers to “hold on, hold on, hold on,” a Crown prosecutor told B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday.
Michael Barrenger outlined the Crown’s case against Kevin James Jones and Colin Victor Stewart, charged with first-degree murder in Soomel’s fatal Sept. 29, 2009 shooting.
“I anticipate that a witness who saw the shooting, who was located close to it, will testify that Raj Soomel, before he was shot, said: ‘hold on, hold on, hold on,’” Barrenger said.
“Eight bullets were fired into Raj Soomel. The bullets pierced his head, his chest and his abdomen. Raj Soomel collapsed in the road dead just south of the intersection at Cambie and 19th.”
Barrenger explained to jurors that his opening statement is not evidence, but a summary of the evidence the Crown expects to call during the trial at the Vancouver Law Courts.
He said other witnesses saw Soomel’s killers, wearing dark hoodies, chase him across Cambie after he stopped to get food at a local pizza joint.
And he expects witnesses to tell the trial they saw the two killers get into a grey or silver getaway car near the Starbucks metres from where Soomel collapsed.
Barrenger said police found a trail of evidence linked by DNA to Jones and Stewart that appeared to have been thrown from the vehicle as it raced away.
Police found a gun in the alley east of Cambie between 19th and 20th.
“That gun is one of the two guns used to shoot and kill Raj Soomel,” Barrenger said.
Closer to 20th, a pair of Remington Camoflauge gloves were located. Then a block away at 20th and Yukon, police found “the other gun used to murder Raj Soomel,” Barrenger said.
About three blocks away in the 4000-block of Yukon, police found another pair of gloves, a black hoodie and a bandana.
“DNA on three of those items came back to Colin Stewart. And DNA on two of those items cam back to Kevin Jones,” Barrenger said.
Soomel was gunned down about two blocks from the Dick Bell-Irving halfway house where he had been staying since August 2009.
Barrenger said staff at the halfway house noticed suspicious activity in the days before the slaying.
Cars were seen driving back and forth in front of the house just west of Cambie on 21st.
And there were phone calls made to the facility, including one that was traced to Jones’s girlfriend.
The suspicious incidents started after another South Asian prisoner named Randy Naicker was paroled to the halfway house on Sept. 24, 2009, Barrenger said.
Soomel left the halfway house just after 10 p.m. on the night he was killed. A staff member mistakenly wrote in his log that Naicker had gone out to the store, Barrenger said.
“Within minutes, two men armed with guns with their faces partly concealed burst into DBI. One of them screamed at him: ‘Where’s Randy? Where’s Randy?’”
A gun was pointed at the worker’s head.
“You will also hear his recollection that he was struck in the head with the gun, injuring him,” Barrenger said.
The worker told the gunmen that Naicker had gone to the store.
“The two armed men then left.”
Barrenger said that at the time of the murder, Jones was living in a halfway house in downtown Vancouver. He signed out before the slaying and returned about 20 minutes afterwards.
And Stewart was living in Coquitlam with a man named Jesse Adkins, who Barrenger suggested had a role in the murder though has never been charged.
“You will hear about Jesse Adkins in this trial,” he said. “You will hear that Jesse Adkins has not been seen in years and can’t be located.”
Both Stewart and Jones have pleaded not guilty.
The trial is expected to last eight weeks.