Boy killed in gunfight didn't hear warning: Crown

Eleven-year-old Ephraim Brown didn't appear to hear a plea to run from the scene of a gunfight shortly before he was fatally shot in 2007, a court heard Tuesday.

Eleven-year-old Ephraim Brown didn't appear to hear a plea to run from the scene of a gunfight shortly before he was fatally shot in 2007 in in northwest Toronto, court heard Tuesday.

Ephraim Brown, 11, was hit by a stray bullet during a shootout near a house where a birthday party was being held in 2007. ((Toronto Police Services))

The Crown laid out its version of events surrounding the shooting on the first day of the Ontario Superior Court trial of two men charged with killing Brown on July 22, 2007.

Gregory Sappleton and Akiel Eubank, both in their mid-20s, are each charged with first-degree murder.

The Crown said Brown was caught in the middle of rival gang gunfire while attending a weekend birthday party in the backyard of a townhouse complex in the Sheppard Avenue and Jane Street neighbourhood.

The boy died at the scene, shortly after police were called at 1 a.m.

He was celebrating his cousin Kishauna Thomas's 18th birthday, prosecutors at the University Avenue courthouse said Tuesday. Court heard Thomas invited a friend, who in turn invited Eubank. Another woman who was also celebrating a birthday invited Sappleton.

Thomas will be a key witness for the Crown. Prosecutors said she will testify that she saw Sappleton, an alleged member of the Baghdad Crew, and Eubank, an alleged member of the Five Point Generalz, shoot at each other.

'Overwhelming presumption of guilt'

Edward Sapiano, Sappleton's lawyer, maintained his client is innocent.

"What stands out in a case like this is the overwhelming presumption of guilt and culpability that the public has in cases such as this — emotional cases. And that's what we have to contend with unfortunately," he told CBC News outside the court.

The Crown told the jury Brown and Thomas's brother stepped out of the home shortly before the shooting.

Thomas's cousin heard gunfire, and told Brown to run, but the boy was listening to an MP3 player and didn't seem to hear the message, the Crown said. A detective testified music was still playing from the MP3 player's earpiece when he investigated the crime scene.

"We're anxious to have the facts come out and my client expects to be proven innocent," said Adam Newman, Eubank's lawyer.

The Crown has not said which of the two accused it believes fired the deadly bullet. At the time of their arrest, police said a first-degree murder charge is standard for participants in a fatal gunfight in a public area.

The jury trial continues Wednesday.