Cocaine trafficking in Northwest Territories links suspects, victim in Saskatoon shooting

·2 min read
Police say Brandon Baxandall knew the men charged in his murder on May 19. (Brandon Baxandall/Facebook - image credit)
Police say Brandon Baxandall knew the men charged in his murder on May 19. (Brandon Baxandall/Facebook - image credit)

Cocaine is the thread linking the suspects and victim in a brazen daylight gunfight that left one man dead and two others wounded in a quiet Saskatoon neighbourhood earlier this month.

All three men were charged with cocaine trafficking in Yellowknife in 2017 in two unrelated investigations. Saskatoon police say the men were known to each other.

Saskatoon police were called to an apartment building at 710 Melrose Avenue around 4:30 p.m. CST on May 19 after reports of gunfire in the neighbourhood. They found Brandon Baxandall, 29,  fatally wounded on the pavement outside the three-storey building.

Police say they also responded to reports of shots fired on Main Street near the Idylwyld Freeway soundwall, two blocks from the Melrose building, at the same time.

Two other men were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds. Police say 35-year-old Mohamed Abdula Ali, now charged with first-degree murder, is one of the men shot. Police are not identifying the second man, who is 25, but say he is not facing charges.

Court documents show that Ali lived in an apartment in the building where the gunshots were reported.

A witness told CBC that it appeared the men were chasing each other through the building before Baxandall was shot.

Police are also hunting for 33-year-old Jonathan Ouellet-Gendron, who is facing a first-degree murder charge in connection with Baxandall's death.

Saskatoon Police Service
Saskatoon Police Service

Court records show that Baxandall was one of six men arrested in Yellowknife in June 2017 and charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, careless storage of a firearm, and possession of the proceeds of crime exceeding $5000.

The charges were stayed two months later.

Ali and Ouellet-Gendron were both arrested and charged in December 2017 in Yellowknife. Ouelett-Gendron was charged with human trafficking and cocaine possession for the purpose of trafficking, while Ali was charged with obstruction and breaching a recognizance.

The investigation was triggered by a tip from the Saskatoon Police Service's vice unit.

Ouelett-Gendron's charges in that case were discharged at his preliminary hearing. Ali was convicted on his charges.

Dan Zakreski/CBC
Dan Zakreski/CBC

The cocaine link carried on to Saskatoon.

In October 2017, Brandon Baxandall was charged with trafficking cocaine in Saskatoon. His co-accused was one of the men also charged with him in Yellowknife. Baxandall pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail and two years probation.

In addition to the allegation that he murdered Baxandall on May 19, Mohamed Ali is also charged with possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possessing a handgun.

What is not known to the public at this point is how the two groups of men came to encounter each other on Main Street and what triggered the exchange of gunfire.

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