'I heard the shot': Close-range shooting described by witness at 1st-degree murder trial

A yellow tarp hangs from the passenger side of a vehicle in Sherwood Park on Friday, May 7, 2021.  (Craig Ryan/CBC - image credit)
A yellow tarp hangs from the passenger side of a vehicle in Sherwood Park on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Craig Ryan/CBC - image credit)

A man who stopped on his way to work to offer help on a roadside in Sherwood Park told court Monday that he watched as one man shot another at close range.

A trial is underway for Gamdur Brar, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife's 19-year-old nephew, Harmanjot Singh Bhattal.

He is also charged with attempting to murder his wife, Satvir Kaur Brar, with a firearm.

At the beginning of what's expected to be a 15-day trial, Gamdur Brar, who is in custody, stood and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

In May 2021, the 45-year-old, his wife and their two sons lived on a 10-acre rural property in Strathcona County.

In an opening statement, Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou told court that it's the prosecution's position that "something happened" in the Brar house that triggered a series of events that ended in a roadside shootout in Sherwood Park shortly before 6:30 a.m. on May 7, 2021.

Papadatou said Bhattal was working two jobs to support himself after being sent to Canada by his family to get an education.

The night prior to Bhattal's death, Papadatou alleges, his aunt asked for his help and they fled the home, ending up at a family member's house in Edmonton. They were driving Bhattal's black Mitsubishi Lancer.

RCMP/Court exhibit.
RCMP/Court exhibit.

Meanwhile, Gamdur Brar called police to report his wife missing, Papadatou said.

Early in the morning, Papadatou said the aunt and nephew went to meet up with Satvir Brar's sons, but Gamdur Brar showed up instead.

Papadatou said security footage will show the Mitsubishi being pursued by a black BMW that the prosecution alleges was driven by Gamdur Brar.

She alleges that a spray of bullets was fired, hitting Bhattall and his aunt, and that the Mitsubishi ended up destroyed on the side of the road.

1st witness called

The first witness called, Nigel Wainwright, said he was driving  to work early on the morning of May 7 and was waiting to turn onto Baseline Road when he saw two vehicles — one off the road and one on it.

He testified that he pulled over and began crossing Baseline to go see what was happening when he spotted a woman running away and screaming.

Wainwright said there were also two men on the scene: a taller one chasing the woman and a shorter man following them very slowly.

Wainwright called 911 and was speaking to the dispatcher as the taller man turned and went back to the slower-moving one.

He said there was a short conversation and then the taller man pulled a gun on the other one.

"I saw him put the gun to his head or neck and I heard the shot," Wainwright said. "The deceased, he goes right down."

Gamdur Brar/Facebook
Gamdur Brar/Facebook

He said the shooter then took off, chasing after the woman again who was running into a neighbourhood.

Wainwright said he tried unsuccessfully to find a pulse on the wrist of the man who'd been shot.

A recording of the 911 call was played in court. In it, Wainwright can be heard alternately answering the dispatcher's questions and telling drivers who were slowing down to leave the area.

"There's a man with a gun and people are stopping," he says during the call. "The shooter is still active."

During cross examination, defence lawyer Brian Beresh challenged Wainwright's memory of the shooter's appearance. Wainwright told court he was never asked to sit down with a sketch artist or to look at a booklet of photographs of possible suspects.

Papadatou told court that Satvir Brar was picked up by a man who drove her to the Strathcona County Hospital.

The prosecutor is planning to call the man as a witness on Tuesday. She said she has 42 witnesses lined up to testify if needed.