Two men charged in bar­ber’s slay­ing

Vic­tim shot in broad day­light in Fe­bru­ary

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - TEVIAH MORO

Two men fac­ing first-de­gree mur­der charges in the shoot­ing death of a bar­ber at his Up­per Welling­ton shop in Fe­bru­ary made brief court ap­pear­ances Wed­nes­day.

Erick Reid and Odain Gard­ner are co-ac­cused in the mur­der of Neil Har­ris, a 40-year-old mar­ried fa­ther of two who was shot dead in broad day­light on Feb. 18.

Reid was picked up on a war­rant in Cal­gary late Fri­day and re­turned to Hamil­ton ear­lier this week to face the charge, his de­fence coun­sel, Monte Mac­Gre­gor, said out­side court.

McGre­gor wouldn’t say any­thing about his client’s case “other than we’re assert­ing his ab­so­lute in­no­cence.”

Reid, who’s from Toronto, was vis­it­ing fam­ily in Al­berta when he was ar­rested, the lawyer noted.

The 25-year-old ap­peared in the pris­oner’s box wear­ing a royal blue track­suit top with a Blue Jays logo on it.

Gard­ner, who ap­peared sep­a­rately, was wear­ing an or­ange in­mate’s jump suit.

Jaime Stephen­son, Gard­ner’s lawyer, said she couldn’t com­ment on the case with­out hav­ing ex­am­ined dis­clo­sure doc­u­ments but is pre­sum­ing his in­no­cence.

This isn’t the 23-year-old’s first brush with the law.

In 2012, Gard­ner was charged with pos­ses­sion of crack co­caine for the pur­pose of traf­fick­ing and pos­ses­sion of a loaded pro­hib­ited firearm.

Po­lice had al­leged Gard­ner sup­plied

a Madi­son Av­enue crack house linked to the shoot­ing death of Michael Swis­tak. The 36-year-old fa­ther of two was shot in a play­ground near Cathy Wever El­e­men­tary School.

How­ever, those charges against Gard­ner were even­tu­ally with­drawn.

On Wed­nes­day, Reid and Gard­ner were sched­uled to ap­pear for a video re­mand hear­ing Aug. 3 be­fore they were taken from the court­room in shack­les.

Mem­bers of Har­ris’ fam­ily, ac­com­pa­nied by homi­cide de­tec­tives, watched as the two men made their brief ap­pear­ances.

Act­ing Det. Sgt. Peter Thom, who is in charge of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, told re­porters the two women didn’t want to speak to the me­dia.

In an obit­u­ary, Har­ris was de­scribed as a “kind-hearted soul who al­ways put oth­ers be­fore him­self.

“He touched many peo­ple with his laugh­ter, sense of hu­mour, and his smile could light up a room.”

Thom de­clined an in­ter­view out­side court.

But in a news re­lease is­sued later Wed­nes­day, Hamil­ton po­lice cred­ited the co-op­er­a­tion of wit­nesses, busi­nesses and Cal­gary po­lice for help­ing them make the ar­rests.

Ad­di­tional de­tails weren’t pro­vided in the re­lease.

Thom didn’t re­turn calls re­quest­ing more in­for­ma­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary, po­lice sug­gested Har­ris, who had op­er­ated In­flu­ence Bar­ber Shop at 600 Up­per Welling­ton St. for less than a year be­fore he was killed, may have been tar­geted.

“From what we’ve learned so far, it would ap­pear he was the in­tended tar­get or vic­tim,” Thom said at the time. “But again, we don’t know what the cir­cum­stances were.”

In a sub­se­quent in­ter­view, Thom said there “was some kind of in­ter­ac­tion” in­side the shop be­fore Har­ris was shot.

The late-af­ter­noon shoot­ing rattled wit­nesses who worked and lived in the area of the res­i­den­tial/ re­tail com­plex on Up­per Welling­ton be­tween Queens­dale and Brucedale av­enues.

One wit­ness scram­bled to help Har­ris as he lay face down on the ground bleed­ing from a gun­shot wound to the chest.

Po­lice, who were ini­tially search­ing for four sus­pects, are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mur­der.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion is asked to call Det. Jon Mur­phy at 905-546-2288 or pro­vide tips anony­mously through Crime Stop­pers by call­ing 1-800-2228477 or vis­it­ing crimestop­per­shamil­

Odain Gard­ner, 23, co-ac­cused in the shoot­ing


In this Fe­bru­ary photo, a passerby is over­come with emo­tion out­side the bar­ber­shop Neil Har­ris op­er­ated and where he was shot.

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