Expert tells jury Toronto rapper shot dead was targeted

A popular Toronto rapper was the target of a targeted ambush that resulted in his death, an expert on political assassination testified Tuesday at the high-profile murder trial of his accused killer. Crown attorney…

Expert tells jury Toronto rapper shot dead was targeted

A popular Toronto rapper was the target of a targeted ambush that resulted in his death, an expert on political assassination testified Tuesday at the high-profile murder trial of his accused killer.

Crown attorney Leah Wipper, reading from handwritten notes filled with more than 100 questions from jurors, told the jury at the sixth day of the second-degree murder trial of Robert Ashley that Smoke Dawg’s murder “was not unprovoked.”

Tristan McKenzie, 32, has pleaded not guilty to the March 2016 slaying of Burnley “Smoke Dawg” Coleman in the parking lot of a Toronto strip mall.

At trial, Wipper alleged there was a conspiracy to kill the rhyme-spitter. She said his killing “was planned and intentional.”

Mackenzie’s defence lawyer, David Dooher, acknowledged plans were made but he said police “misconstrued” them. He said the 27-year-old Coleman was known as an “outlaw drug dealer” and “had a huge problem with that.”

“He was in the persona of a tough guy.”

Dooher also cast doubt on the Crown theory, saying Coleman was the target of an attempted overdose and the “gun went off by accident.” He told the jury the case against the Crown was based on conspiracy theories and could have been generated by “human laziness.”

Mackenzie has said he left the strip mall after running into Coleman and his crew who were “tired of being shot.” A fight broke out and several shots were fired into the vehicle before Coleman was hit.

Court heard McKenzie was the intended target.

Mackenzie claimed Coleman wasn’t an informant and didn’t have a criminal record, as his mother has stated.

Dooher suggested Coleman could have run a drug deal out of the store and was shot in the back of the head, but Wipper noted how a detective found in his cellphone a series of text messages between Kelly and McKenzie in February 2016, the month the slaying occurred.

One read: “Yeah, I’m with it.” Another said: “Whatever you think as long as you have them records in your pocket I’m ready to handle this.”

Another read: “So make it up your mind.”

When questioned, Dooher said the messages were “cartoonish” and Kelly’s tone suggested “they were just coming to kill.”

“From my perspective it sounds like at the time, they were young kids, talkin’ about guns and hash.”

Two separate police investigations identified 13 wiretap conversations that discussed a “risky crime,” Wipper said.

She said the Crown team contacted cigarette distributors in Ottawa and found the two had dealt with Coleman’s crew.

Mackenzie had told Coleman he was the associate who planned to kill him, as well as another individual who went to the strip mall that day, said Wipper.

During her written submissions, Wipper read the jury note from Davidson, which read: “I heard smoke dawg did a deal and got shot up (sic) by 17. Kelly & Mase (Murphy) have his story to back this up (sic).”

Simmer, best known for his tattooed image, was shot to death in 2013.

Ashley, also known as DC Miller, was shot dead after a standoff with police in 2018.

He was known as a Hells Angel, but the Crown said charges against him were stayed last year when police said his involvement in the mob was ended.

Defence lawyers questioned Mckenzie about Coleman’s background and his association with Toronto Hells Angels, including Allison Bartlett, who was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice last month.

The trial continues.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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