Manitoba

Silver kitchen knife found near scene of fatal bus driver stabbing, officer says at start of trial

Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Jubal Fraser died from multiple stab wounds after he forcibly removed a passenger who refused to get off at the end of the route, Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson said in his opening remarks at the trial of the man accused of the killing.

Brian Kyle Thomas charged with 2nd-degree murder in 2017 death of Irvine Jubal Fraser

Transit driver Irvine Fraser, 58, died Feb. 14, 2017, after he was attacked while finishing his route on the University of Manitoba campus. (Facebook)

Winnipeg Transit driver Irvine Jubal Fraser died from multiple stab wounds after he forcibly removed a passenger who refused to get off at the end of the route, Crown attorney Keith Eyrikson said in his opening remarks at the trial of the man accused of the killing.

"You may say to yourself that Mr. Fraser could have acted differently when he removed the accused from the bus," Eyrikson said. "But whatever he did in removing the accused from the bus did not justify in any way what happened to Mr. Fraser shortly thereafter."

Brian Kyle Thomas, now 24, is charged with second-degree murder for the stabbing in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2017, on the University of Manitoba campus. Thomas has pleaded not guilty and is presumed innocent.

Thomas's trial is being argued before a 12-member jury, and presided over by Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.

Wearing a loose button-up shirt and black pants, Thomas hung his head as the Crown made its first remarks today.

On the night he was killed, 58-year-old Fraser pulled up to the last stop of his shift around 2 a.m. CT. Only one passenger remained on the bus, asleep.

Fraser told the man to leave the bus, but he didn't want to, and demanded the driver drop him off somewhere else. After asking the passenger to leave several more times, Fraser forcibly removed him, Eyrikson said.

"The accused was angry and demanded Fraser get off the bus," he said. "Mr. Fraser stood [in the doorway] as the accused tried to strike him multiple times. He did not strike back. He stood there until the accused spat on him."

That's when Fraser got off the bus and approached Thomas, Eyrikson said.

"It is once Mr. Fraser left the bus that we say the evidence will demonstrate that the accused stabbed the victim multiple times, causing his death," he said.

Officer brings knife found near scene

Fraser was alone at the time of the attack, parts of which were captured on security camera video.

As its first witness, the Crown called Patrol Sgt. Brian Neumann, who took photos of the scene, as well as of Thomas after police arrested him.

Neumann brought to court a silver kitchen knife with a black handle that members of the major crimes unit found in a grassy area, on the east bank of the Red River, on April 17, 2017 — two months after Fraser's death.

On the morning of Fraser's death, Neumann went to Misericordia Urgent Care Centre, where police had taken Thomas after arresting him. He told the jury Thomas had minor injuries, including scrapes on his face, legs, ribs, torso and pelvis.

Neumann then went to the scene on the U of M campus, at the corner of Gilson Street and Dafoe Road West, where two buses sat, still running. He showed the jury where security cameras are placed throughout Fraser's bus, as well as photos of evidence markers in the snow, leading down Alumni Lane toward Freedman Crescent, and then down toward the Red River.

In several spots, Neumann pointed out stains in the snow that appeared to be blood.

The start of the trial was delayed after flooding in the Woodsworth building prevented Crown attorneys from accessing important materials.

The trial is scheduled to last 12 days. It will resume Tuesday morning, when Thomas's defence will cross-examine Neumann.

Calls for improved security

Fraser's death shocked the city and sparked demands for widespread changes to improve security on Winnipeg Transit. In the aftermath, transit drivers came forward with reports of violence they regularly experience on the job.

After Fraser's death, leaders with the Amalgamated Transit Union called for changes to bus routes, which they argued should end in more central locations rather than far-flung areas where there are few people around late at night.

The city announced a package of safety improvements that included testing driver safety shields and the hiring of additional supervisors who serve as transit security personnel. However, those safety shields have yet to be installed permanently.

A pilot project for the shields began in 2017 and ended Aug. 31, 2018.

Earlier this month, Winnipeg Transit recommended the shields be installed, at a cost of $3.15 million.

Jurors heard opening statements today at the Brian Kyle Thomas trial. He's accused of killing Winnipeg bus driver Irvine Fraser in 2017. 1:16