Suspect's DNA among 3 profiles detected on handgun, expert testifies during Whitehorse shooting trial

·4 min read
Police tape at the scene of a shooting in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 1, 2019. Crown prosecutors wrapped up presenting evidence that's part of the trial into the shooting. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)
Police tape at the scene of a shooting in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 1, 2019. Crown prosecutors wrapped up presenting evidence that's part of the trial into the shooting. (Mike Rudyk/CBC - image credit)

DNA belonging to a man charged in connection to a 2019 shooting outside a Whitehorse bar, as well as that of two others, was found on a handgun, according to a forensic DNA analyst with the RCMP.

Connie Leung, along with RCMP officers, provided expert testimony this week as part of a trial into the shooting, which left one man, John Thomas Papequash, critically injured.

Malakl Kwony Tuel faces 13 charges, including attempted murder and various firearm offences.

A second man who was at the bar that night is also being tried. Joseph Wuor faces five charges, none of which are connected to the shooting. His counts include cocaine possession for the purposes of trafficking, and possessing a loaded prohibited or restricted firearm.

'I can't exclude him or include him'

Leung said she discovered a DNA profile that matches Tuel on the gun's frame, located below the slide, which is used to reload the weapon.

She told court she also found DNA from at least two other individuals on various gun parts, including the muzzle, trigger and magazine. She said Tuel's profile on the firearm is, overall, "quite weak."

Asked by the Crown whether Tuel's DNA can be ruled out from the trigger and other areas, Leung said, "I can't exclude or include him."

She said she can't ascertain who, exactly, last held the gun, nor can she determine who fired the pistol.

"I can't say when or how [the DNA] got there," she said, "just that it's there."

Leung said DNA can, in theory, stay on items for an extended period of time. But, she added that certain environmental conditions – heat and moisture, for example – can affect the strength of a given DNA profile.

Asked whether Tuel's DNA could have been transferred to the gun by touching clothes or another item, Leung said it's possible.

RCMP officer says seized items could point to drug dealing

Officers tasked with investigating the shooting seized various items, including cash, cellphones, magnetic key holders, a handgun and "spitballs."

A spitball is parlance for cocaine packed and tied in a plastic bag.

RCMP Sergeant Jill McLaren, who was part of the investigation into the shooting, told the court a cartridge was found at the scene, as well as a fully intact bullet.

RCMP Corporal Guy Lacroix, whose experience includes drug enforcement, said seized drugs point to trafficking. He was not involved in enforcement efforts related to the shooting or the subsequent investigation.

Lacroix said cocaine will eventually lead to "money, more cocaine and firearms."

Several photographs of drugs identified as cocaine were exhibited in court. Large and small bags appear to contain crack cocaine, said Lacroix, adding the way drugs are individually wrapped is consistent with drug trafficking.

Lacroix said as he conservatively estimates the gross value of the pictured drugs to be upward of $13,000.

"This is a significant amount of money," he said.

Under cross examination, Lacroix said the seizure could be indicative of street level drug dealing. He said drug trafficking in Yukon is a pyramid structure, but the pyramid is "squished," likely due to the territory's relatively small population and its transient nature.

Lacroix also spoke to the more than 10 cellphones that were obtained. He said dealers typically used burner phones to communicate with clients, colleagues and suppliers. That multiple phones were found by police in so few locations suggests "bad housekeeping," Lacroix said.

He said magnetic key holders are devices used to house bulk portions of cocaine. He said these holders are commonly attached to the exterior of vehicles to not only hide drugs, but to avoid ownership of them if found by police.

"This is consistent with the distribution of cocaine," said Lacroix.

RCMP officers previously told the court about $500, two cellphones and four small bags of cocaine were found on Papequash.

Under cross examination by Dale Fedorchuk, Tuel's lawyer, Lacroix said these items could also suggest drug dealing.

"I would have to look at the bags, but it's possible," he said.

Prosecutors have wrapped up presenting their trial evidence. In the coming weeks, Crown and defence lawyers will submit written arguments. A judgment is expected sometime next month.

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