Captain's Quarters patron testifies locking eyes with robber before shooting

Shawn Deeley was in the bathroom at the bar of the Captain's Quarters Hotel in St. John's, N.L. when he heard screams from two women and the sound of "wood smacking on wood," he told the jury at the Brandon Phillips first-degree murder trial Tuesday.

Shawn Deeley recalls hearing hollow sound of 'two inanimate objects hitting each other'

Shawn Deeley, a former patron at the Captain's Quarters Hotel, took the stand at the Brandon Phillips first-degree murder trial Tuesday. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

Shawn Deeley was in the bathroom at the bar of the Captain's Quarters Hotel when he heard screams from two women and the sound of "wood smacking on wood," he told the jury at the Brandon Phillips first-degree murder trial Tuesday.

At first, Deeley thought it was a domestic disturbance. But when he got outside he saw a masked man holding a gun.

Deeley, who is from Halifax and was in staying at the hotel for work on Oct. 3, 2015, was the latest Crown witness to take the stand at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.

The middle-aged man testified he locked eyes with the gunman for what "seemed like forever."

"He [the gunman] was taking a step back. He raised his weapon. I was looking at him and he was looking at me," Deeley told the court. 

Gunman's voice cracked: witness

He watched as the armed robber and Larry Wellman, who Deeley referred to as the "retired firefighter," got into an altercation in the bar's pool room.

Wellman swung a small wooden table the same moment the robber swung his gun, he said.

"I thought to myself somebody's gonna get shot," Deeley told the jury.

"The gunman seemed to be almost scared or confused. His voice cracked."

Wellman's commands for the robber to leave the bar, on the other hand, were forceful, Deeley said.

The table and gun connected "three or four times before I heard the pop." 

Shawn Deeley travelled from Halifax to testify for the Crown at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on Tuesday. (Fred Hutton/CBC)

For the first time Tuesday, Deeley watched video surveillance of the incident which ended when Wellman dropped to the ground, the small table coming to rest on the pool table.

Deeley testified he wanted to make sure the gunman didn't clear the chamber to put in more ammunition, because, "I was the only target there."

Once the robber left, he asked the bartender for plastic and tape to try to secure Wellman's gunshot wound, but police arrived before Deeley could start to work on him.

Deeley, who works in security, described the armed robber as about six feet tall and around 200 pounds. 

Police released a photo of the man suspected of shooting and killing Larry Wellman at the Captain's Quarters Hotel. (RNC)

During his opening address last week, defence lawyer Mark Gruchy told the jury to pay specific attention to the attributes of the gun and Deeley's testimony. 

Gruchy focused on when Deeley saw the gun and wooden table hitting together during the altercation.

He wanted clarity on if it was the gun smacking off the table or vice versa.

Earlier in the day, Deeley had testified both the gunman and Wellman were swinging the gun and table, respectively. 

Gruchy pointed to the statement Deeley provided police at 4 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2015 — four hours after the shooting.

"He [shooter] didn't seem to have control of the weapon ... and I'm thinking to myself, 'I need to get a police officer here,'" Deeley told police at the time.

"He seemed to be stepping backwards, kind of shocked that it [gun] had went off," he added.

Deeley had identified the gun as being a pump-action shotgun.

But on the stand, he said the only thing he remembers is staring down the barrel of it. 

Phillips, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Wellman, 63.

During the first days of the trial, the jury was shown security footage from the bar during the robbery, heard from Wellman's wife about the night her husband was killed and listened to testimony from Const. Barry Reynolds, the police officer who stayed with Wellman during his final moments.

Want to follow the latest from the trial? Check out our live blog.


Read CBC NL's previous coverage of the trial:

About the Author

Ariana Kelland


Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.