Two men charged in barber’s slaying
Victim shot in broad daylight in February
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However, those charges against Gardner were eventually withdrawn.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 crimestoppershamilton.com.
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.