The trial for a man charged in a 2021 shooting in Yellowknife has been adjourned after an RCMP officer said he has reason to believe two key witnesses were threatened and bribed to keep them from testifying.
The trial for Keiron Alexander Shiferaw-Reid of Edmonton was scheduled to begin in N.W.T. Territorial Court on Monday. He is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and careless use of a firearm in connection with a shooting on Nov. 11, 2021.
As the trial was to begin, however, crown prosecutor Blair MacPherson asked for an adjournment in order to contact two key witnesses who did not show up for the trial and to present new evidence that came to light last week.
RCMP Cpl. Matt Halstead, the lead investigator in the case, testified about the new evidence.
Halstead said the two missing witnesses are the man who was the victim of the alleged shooting and a woman who Halstead said he believes to be the intended victim of the attack. Halstead did not say why he believes the woman was the intended victim.
Halstead said the woman had been combative when he tried to speak with her about the case. When he went to interview her, he said she crumpled the subpoena he had presented her with and tossed it on the counter.
Halstead spoke with a social worker who assists the woman, the man and their baby. The social worker told Halstead that a friend of the couple told her the woman had been offered money to travel to Alberta and miss the trial. The social worker said the friend had told her the woman had also been threatened she would be hurt if she didn't accept the offer.
"The number she had was $30,000," Halstead said.
Halstead told the court that that number seemed "absurdly high for this situation." He said he thought it could be a way of luring the woman away and said he thought "something bad" might happen.
Halstead acknowledged that the evidence was hearsay but that he wanted to share it with the court because it advanced the investigation.
Halstead said that on Jan. 17 he asked the friend about that call. The friend told Halstead that she and the woman had argued because she didn't feel it was safe for the woman to go to Alberta, but that the woman had insisted she was going.
The friend wasn't sure about the $30,000 figure, but Halstead said "it's possible she's more forthcoming with social services than she is with me."
The friend also told Halstead that Shiferaw-Reid had called on Jan. 9 from the North Slave Correctional Complex, where he is being held. Shiferaw-Reid asked her if the woman had gotten a ride out of town.
Halstead later obtained audio from that call as further evidence. He says that in the call, Shiferaw-Reid mentions a friend who might pick up the two witnesses. Halstead said he believes Shiferaw-Reid has accomplices around Yellowknife.
MacPherson, the Crown prosecutor, also told the court that he had received a call Monday morning — the day the trial was set to begin — from Lydia Bardak, a longtime advocate for people involved with N.W.T.'s justice system.
Bardak told MacPherson that she had recently received a call from the woman saying she was in Alberta but that she wanted to come home.
"This is an evolving situation," MacPherson told the court. "We don't have a crystallized set of facts about what's happened."
He said that the woman, similar to her reaction to questions from the RCMP, had told him she would not be co-operating with the Crown. MacPherson said it's unclear if that is related to the alleged bribes and threats.
"RCMP have done a diligent job over the last week acquiring information but there's more to come," he told the court.
"To proceed [with Monday's trial], I think, would be unfair for everyone because it's not complete information."
Defence counsel agreed.
Judge Jeannie Scott granted the adjournment and issued a warrant for the witnesses.
The matter was put over to Feb. 21 to set a new date for trial.