Crown prosecutors have stayed charges against a pair of brothers who were accused in a fatal shooting in northeast Calgary last week.
In an emailed statement, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) confirmed the charges against the accused, a 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old man, were stayed due to new information.
“Further investigation following the laying of charges has resulted in additional information requiring a reassessment of the prosecution standard,” the ACPS said in the statement.
“The totality of the evidence presently does not support a prosecution.”
The charges were connected to a fatal shooting in the Calgary community of Marlborough Park on Nov. 13.
Police said a man was shot to death in his vehicle in the parking lot of the Trans Canada Centre, in the 1400 block of 52 Street N.E., just before 2 p.m. on Nov. 13.
Police identified the victim as 23-year-old Rami Hajj Ali. Ali was Calgary’s 18th homicide of 2023.
Two additional people were injured and were taken to hospital with serious, life-threatening injuries.
A 14-year-old boy was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
An 18-year-old man, the boy’s brother, was also charged with one count of accessory to murder after the fact.
The 14-year-old could not be named under the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The man was also not named, due to his relation to the boy.
‘I APOLOGIZE, UNRESERVEDLY’: CPS CHIEF CONSTABLE
Calgary Police Service Chief Const. Mark Neufeld offered an apology to the brothers and their family at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“These charges will have impacted these two young men and their family in very significant ways, and for that, I apologize, unreservedly,” Neufeld said.
The investigation leading up to the arrests and charges was a “complex chain of events,” Neufeld said, that involved arresting numerous people and executing search warrants on two homes and two vehicles.
“In coming to the decision to lay those charges, homicide investigators were acting on the information and evidence that was available to them up to that point,” he said.
But after the charges were laid, new information came to light that led homicide investigators to believe the brothers were not responsible.
“As soon as the investigators received the contradictory evidence, and were sufficiently satisfied with its reliability, they notified the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service and that led to the charges being stayed in court today,” Neufeld said.
The new evidence came in the form of a video that was flagged to police by a community member.
After reviewing the video, investigators determined it was a legitimate piece of evidence and took the next steps in the investigation.
Neufeld said the video showed a man in a red hoodie shooting a gun into a vehicle.
He added that the teenagers were in the area of the shooting, but said they were not responsible for it.
‘MAINTAINTED HIS INNOCENCE’
The lawyer of the 18-year-old brother said her client has been released from remand.
“My client has maintained his innocence along with the innocence of his little brother since the moment he was arrested,” said defence lawyer Andrea Urquhart.
“He is grateful to the Calgary prosecutor for staying his charge and looks forward to understanding how this could have happened.”
She believes an internet video may have been a factor as to why her client was released.
“While the Crown has not commented publicly on why they made their decision it would seem that the video circulating on social media depicting the shooting would have been a factor,” said Urquhart.
“The video clearly depicts an individual who is not either of the two brothers who were charged.”
Jim Lutz, the defence lawyer of the other brother, also confirmed the development in a statement to CTV News on Tuesday.
THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
Mount Royal University criminologist Doug King said police moved quickly to determine a conviction would not have been likely.
“I think it’s interesting that these charges are stayed so quickly, which tells me that the police encountered more evidence that was convincing them that the charges had to be stayed,” said King.
King adds that the pressures of social media and the fact the two young teenagers were charged can have an impact on them going forward.
“When people hear someone has been charged, they assume they’re guilty, that people convict people in their mind when they hear it’s a charge,” said King.
“We know from a criminal logical perspective, about one-third of all charges that are laid by the police and crown, ultimately are stayed or withdrawn. So there’s a 33 per cent chance that they’re going to be stayed or withdrawn anyways. The reality is the general public’s got to step back from their assumption that every charge means you’re guilty.”
Neufeld recognized that this situation has had a major impact on the brothers and that police are happy to meet with them to further explain how this happened and to answer any questions that might support them.
“This will have an impact on the individuals, it will have an impact on their families and their community, full stop. We understand that,” he said.
Neufeld is calling for an independent review from an outside police agency to examine exactly what led up to the arrest and charges against the two young brothers.