Labrador City shooting death was unexpected, testifies witness at 2nd-degree murder trial

Vincent Ward leaves the courtroom after the second day of the trial. Ward is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Vincent Bélanger-Dompierre.  (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)
Vincent Ward leaves the courtroom after the second day of the trial. Ward is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Vincent Bélanger-Dompierre. (Heidi Atter/CBC - image credit)

The shooting of Vincent Bélanger-Dompierre in April 2018 in Labrador City was unexpected, testified a witness in Supreme Court on Tuesday, in contrast with defence counsel's suggestion that Vince Ward, accused of second-degree murder, acted in self-defence.

Martin Audet, 32, testifying at Ward's second-degree murder trial, said he was the only other person in the Pine Avenue house when Bélanger-Dompierre was shot, on April 25 or 26, 2018.

Audet testified he and Bélanger-Dompierre grew up together in Montreal, and Bélanger-Dompierre suggested they go to Labrador to go snowmobiling and the two arrived in Labrador City in early April. Audet says his friend found them a place to stay, which is where they were when the shooting happened.

After the shooting, the police found drugs, a firearm and a large quantity of cash, including wads of 20-dollar bills rolled with rubber bands. Crown prosecutor Trina Simms asked Audet if he was involved in selling drugs, and he said he occasionally packaged cocaine in small bags but wasn't involved in any selling exchanges. He also testified he was smoking marijuana daily and occasionally using other drugs but denied, in response to a question from Simms, that his drug use interfered with his memory of events.

Audet said Ward and Bélanger-Dompierre appeared to be friends and would do cocaine together. On April 25, 2018, Audet said he saw Bélanger-Dompierre use cocaine but didn't see him use any other drugs. Ward had been at the house that day but left in the evening, testified Audet, and when he returned, things took a turn.

Submitted photograph
Submitted photograph

Audet and Bélanger-Dompierre were sitting in the living room after watching a Maple Leafs-Bruins game when Ward came in, carrying a large case. Audet said Ward was going to show one of his firearms to Bélanger-Dompierre, who liked firearms.

But Ward seemed confused and was trembling, testified Audet, and seemed more high than he had been before he left. Audet said there were no words exchanged but Bélanger-Dompierre looked happy to see Ward.

Without warning, Audet testified, Ward took out a long rifle, loaded it and shot Bélanger-Dompierre, killing him.

On Tuesday, defence counsel's opening argument suggested Ward shot Bélanger-Dompierre in self-defence. But Audet testified Bélanger-Dompierre wasn't holding a weapon and there were no other firearms in the room. Simms showed the court photographs of the room, with multiple firearms present, but Audet said they weren't there at the time of the shooting.

Submitted photograph
Submitted photograph

Audet said his ears were ringing but he thought he heard Ward say "Why me?" after shooting Bélanger-Dompierre. Afterward, Audet said, he packed this things. Ward followed him around with the gun but told Audet he would let him leave, Audet testified. Audet said he found someone willing to drive him back to Montreal and he left.

"[Ward] had just killed my friend and I thought I was going to die too," Audet said.

Defence Counsel points to inconsistencies in statements

During cross-examination, defence counsel Mark Gruchy questioned Audet's honesty, noting inconsistencies between his testimony Tuesday and his 2018 statement to Montreal police.

Gruchy asked Audet why he told police in 2018 that the Pine Avenue house was not a "dope house."Audet said it was because he believed "dope house" meant an uninhabited house that is used only for selling drugs.

The defence lawyer also asked Audet why he had to be subpoenaed and arrested to come to the murder trial. Audet said it was because he was afraid.

"I was scared to come back here and I was really hoping that it would be OK for me to testify by video. I really didn't want to come back here," Audet said.

Asked what he did after the shooting, Audet testified he slept the 15-hour drive to Montreal and for another day after that. Gruchy asked him if it was because he was coming down from using drugs.

Audet said it was because he was traumatized by seeing his friend shot in front of him, which made him want to sleep. When asked why he didn't call the police or an ambulance, Audet said he just wanted to leave.

"I didn't call the ambulance because I knew he was already dead and I just wanted to save my life," he said.

The trial continues Wednesday. Five more witnesses are anticipated to be called in the coming days of the trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador