New Year's Day restaurant killers dressed as 'ninjas'

A woman who was in a Calgary restaurant when gunmen killed three people in 2009 told a courtroom that two masked attackers were dressed like ninjas.

A woman who was in a Calgary restaurant when gunmen killed three people on New Year's Day 2009 told a courtroom Tuesday that two of the masked attackers were dressed like ninjas and so close she could smell the gunpowder.

Three people were gunned down at the Bolsa Vietnamese Restaurant in 2009, including an innocent bystander. (CBC)

Geraldine Loranger testified Tuesday at the trial of Nathan Zuccherato, 24, and Michael Roberto, 27, who along with Real Honorio, 27, are charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Honorio is to face trial at a later date.

The shooting spree at the Bolsa Vietnamese Restaurant killed Sanjeev Mann, 22, described by police as a known gang member, and Aaron Bendle, 21, who also had gang ties.

The third victim, construction worker Keni Su'a, 43, was eating in the restaurant and tried to escape, but was gunned down in the parking lot.

Loranger said one of the gunmen was close to the table where she was eating with a friend, Madeline De Witt.

"He looked like a ninja. I realized he had a gun in his hands and he was shooting and I could smell gunpowder," she told the court, adding a second shooter also was dressed in black.

"There were two of them dressed like ninjas," Loranger said.

"I could have reached out and touched him," she said, adding the sequence of events seemed very calculated. "It was very deliberate, he wasn't in a hurry, he wasn't running ... he kept shooting and shooting, the gun didn't stop."

Loranger said she reached across the table and pushed her friend to the floor.

"I pushed her down, I said, 'Get down, get down, close your eyes, don't look' — I didn't want him to think I could identify him," she said.

The aftermath was chaotic.

"One of the men was lying a foot away from my booth on his stomach and he was bleeding out. And he said, 'call the police, call the police.'"

Mann's girlfriend, Annie Tran, testified that she and a friend decided to meet up with Mann at the restaurant after they woke up around 1 p.m. that day.

Gunshots rang out within minutes of their arrival. Tran told the court she crawled under the table while Mann ran. When the shooting stopped, she found him lying behind a booth. He shouted to her to call 911.

"He was lying on his stomach. He was bleeding from his mouth, and he was struggling to breathe," Tran testified.

A shootout in Chinatown two months earlier scared Mann enough for him to start wearing a bulletproof vest, which he had on the day of the shooting, she said.

The Crown believes Mann was the target of the New Year's Day shooting.

A rivalry between two gangs — Fresh Off the Boat (FOB) and the FOB Killers (FK) — is believed to be behind more than 20 homicides in Calgary dating back to 2002.

In the days following the 2009 murders, police vowed to step up their work against gangs in Calgary. Officials have since credited that renewed focus with reducing the murder rate by almost 50 per cent the following year.

The trial is expected to continue for several weeks.