Accused in Lukas Strasser-Hird killing says he was a victim
Assmar Shlah said he was assaulted the night of the swarming death and wasn't involved in fatal confrontation
One of the men accused of killing Lukas Strasser-Hird in a swarming and stabbing attack told the jury on Wednesday that he was a victim that night and had nothing to do with the attack.
"I never laid a hand on him," said Assmar Shlah. "I never said anything to him."
Shlah is charged with second-degree murder alongside Joch Simon Pouk, Jordan Lee Liao and Franz Cabrera. He testified in his own defence on Wednesday.
The Mount Royal University business student, with no prior criminal record, said he partied at the Vinyl Nightclub with friends in November 2013.
The lead up
Other witnesses have testified that a kerfuffle began when Shlah tried to retrieve his jacket from the coat check.
According to Shlah, a bouncer pushed him and some heated words were exchanged before he left.
Outside the club, Shlah said he heard someone yelling "you f**king spic." There was more swearing and pushing among the people gathered out front, Shlah testified.
"All I can remember is being hit in the face," said Shlah, who added he does not know who struck him.
After a second blow, Shlah said he was dazed and bleeding heavily from the nose.
There was more fighting and punching, according to Shlah's testimony. He said he threw a couple of punches but didn't say he hit anyone specifically.
A friend then pulled Shlah away and they left, he said.
After walking a short distance, Shlah returned to the area after hearing someone yell "over here, over here."
He said he ended up at the mouth of the alley where there was a crowd of about 20 people pushing and screaming.
"I didn't know who it was on the ground," said Shlah. "I didn't lay a hand on him."
Defence lawyer Balfour Der asked his client if he hit the victim.
"I did not throw a punch at him other than the front and I did not kick him at all."
By that time police had pulled up and Shlah was detained. But he said he questioned why he was in custody, telling officers he was the one who was assaulted.
He was then arrested and taken away in a police car. Shlah was released after 24 hours and re-arrested on Dec 12, 2013.
'Someone is dead? No way'
Der played audio from a police interrogation room where Shlah was interviewed by an officer on Nov. 23. The officer told him someone had died at the nightclub.
"Dead. Oh my goodness," said Shlah. "Someone is dead? No way."
Court has previously heard evidence that Shlah became upset when he couldn't get his jacket as the night at Vinyl nightclub was winding down.
One witness who was at the club the night of the attack described hearing Shlah call a bouncer a "dirty spic."
The initial confrontation occurred when Strasser-Hird — who had just returned from a year abroad in South America — told the person identified as Shlah there was "no need to be racist."
Strasser-Hird was then escorted back into the bar for his own safety, the court heard, and he and his friends were later ushered out the back door into an alley.
Shlah's group was waiting for them in the alley, Crown prosecutor Marlo MacGregor told the jury in her opening statement.
Blood on his shoes
Under cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Ken McCaffery disputed Shlah's claim that he didn't know who Strasser-Hird was.
McCaffrey suggested Shlah kicked the victim and was a part of the assault because Strasser-Hird's blood was on the accused's shoe.
Shlah said he couldn't explain that, but speculated it could have happened during the events in front of the club, He repeated that he never engaged with the victim in the alley.
On Tuesday, Pouk testified in his own defence while Cabrera told the jury he would not be calling any evidence.
Liao's lawyer has not yet told the jury if his client will testify.
A fifth accused, Nathan Paul Gervais, was charged with first-degree murder — but he disappeared weeks before the trial began while on bail. He remains at large.
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