A Winnipeg man is free after a judge acquitted him Wednesday in the February 2013 gang-on-gang murder of William Moar inside a Main Street eatery.
Akech Ajak, 26, was charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder and participating in the activities of a criminal organization.
Moar, a 24-year-old member of the B-Side street gang, was gunned down inside Johnny G's restaurant on Main Street in the early morning hours of Feb. 15, 2013. Ajak, then a member of the Mad Cowz street gang, was one of three gang members or associates charged in the killing.
Justice Vic Toews said there was no direct, reliable evidence tying Ajak to Moar's murder.
"While I am convinced that it is likely that Mr. Ajak was involved in some fashion in assisting Mad Cow gang members or associates in carrying out the murder of Mr. Moar, that is not the test," Toews said.
"The certainty which the law requires is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, rather than the likelihood of his involvement in this murder. I am not convinced of Mr. Ajak's guilt to a certainty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Dylan Chatkana, now 20, was found guilty last year of shooting Moar and was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years. A third accused, Morgan Bone, 23, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and participating in the activities of a criminal organization and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Court heard evidence at trial Moar had spent part of the evening prior to the killing at the Opera nightclub in Winnipeg's Exchange District, where security video captured a gang rival throwing a drink on Moar.
Later, shortly before 2 a.m., prosecutors alleged the three accused and other gang members followed Moar in a van to Johnny G's. Chatkana, his face concealed behind a bandana, armed himself with a sawed-off rifle, walked into the restaurant and opened fire as Moar walked out of the restroom.
Prosecutors alleged it was Ajak who borrowed the van that was used to follow Moar. They argued cellphone tower records associated with a phone seized from Ajak at the time of his arrest showed he was in the vicinity of the Opera nightclub and Johnny G's before, during and immediately after the killing.
"However, it is also in evidence that this phone was used by other members of the gang in the context of making drug deals or for other gang-related puposes," Toews said.
"In considering all of the evidence, I am not satisfied that at the time of the murder this phone was in the possession of Mr. Ajak or that … Mr. Ajak was in the vehicle from which Mr. Chatkana exited and shortly thereafter shot and killed Mr. Moar."