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Three men accused of gunning down six people in a Surrey high-rise in 2007 all pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges Monday morning in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
Matthew James Johnson and Cody Rae are charged with six counts of first-degree murder and Vinh (Michael) Le is facing one charge of first-degree murder. Two other men charged in the case, Jamie Kyle Bacon and Sek, will be tried separately at a later date.
The trial got off to a slow start on Monday morning with a large number of people having to pass through security to enter the high security courtroom built for the Air India bombing trial.
Shortly after the three men entered not guilty pleas, the trial was adjourned so that court staff could fix a problem with the audio system.
Once the trial resumed, Crown prosecutors began making their opening arguments in the case, revealing key details never before made public.
Prosecutors said the six bodies were found in two groups of three inside the apartment. A total of 19 shots were fired in the massacre, which took place around 2:40 p.m. PT on Oct. 19, 2007.
The three accused were all members of the Red Scorpions gang, the Crown said.
But only two, Johnson and Haevischer, are charged with the first-degree murders of two victims — Christopher , 22, and Ed , 55 — whom police have described as bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
6 victims found dead in high-rise
First responders found six men dead in a 15th floor apartment suite in the 9800 block of East Whalley Ring Road.
- Read more about the slayings
Firefighters, who were first on the scene, initially thought they were responding to a deadly gas leak, but when they arrived, they found the bodies of the six men.
At the time, Metro Vancouver was in the grips of a violent gang war dominated by a deadly rivalry between the Red Scorpions and the UN gangs.
Four of the victims, Ryan Bartolomeo,19, brothers Michael Lal, 26, and Cory Lal, 21, and Edward Narong, 22, were described by police as having criminal lifestyles.
Mohan and Schellenberg were described as bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In April 2009, a man pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder for killing Mohan, Bartolomeo and Michael Lal, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in the six slayings, and was sentenced to life in prison.
- Jamie Bacon has been charged with one count of first-degree murder in the death of Corey Lal and conspiracy to murder charges.
- Sophon Sek is facing a manslaughter charge.
In addition, four RCMP officers are facing charges, including breach of trust, obstruction of justice and fraud, dating back to their handling of the Surrey Six slayings.
B.C.'s criminal justice branch appointed Victoria lawyer Christopher Considine as a special prosecutor in the investigation of the officers.