Judge hears two sides of taped killing

Calgary HeraldFebruary 18, 2010

30-year-old Efrem Kuflom was found murdered on August 18th, 2008.

Semere Mehari should be convicted of first-degree murder as charged in the premeditated, daytime shooting death of Efrem Kuflom outside a downtown coffee shop, a judge was told Wednesday.

Crown prosecutor Ryan Claxton said evidence of key witnesses was backed up by extensive surveillance video from several angles at the Tim Hortons restaurant on Aug. 18, 2008.

Not only is Mehari placed at the scene at the time of the shooting at 11:20 a.m., Claxton added, but his clothing and the fact he lays in wait support planning and deliberation.

“This accused is wearing a hoodie, he brings gloves to the scene on a very hot day in August,” Claxton told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sandy Park.

“He’s packing a handgun with him at Tim Hortons at 10 or 11 a.m. on a Monday, and he’s dropped off in the alley behind the Tim Hortons. He begins to hide and prepares by putting on a mask and preparing the handgun. As soon as it becomes apparent the deceased will arrive, he pulls out the gun, runs at Efrem Kuflom and shoots.”

Defence lawyer Joan Blumer attacked the identity evidence, saying it is unsafe to convict Mehari on the evidence presented at trial. She said the surveillance video of the shooter does not show anymore than the person’s chin and eyewitness evidence is either inconclusive or comes from witnesses whose credibility is in question.

Park will give his verdict on March 12.

Victim told sister of death threats

Ruth Kuflom was very concerned when her younger brother told her Semere Mehari had threatened to kill him in 2006.

She testified Tuesday she pleaded with Mehari’s wife and told friends in Calgary’s Eritrean community in an attempt to quell whatever bad blood existed.

Two years later, in the late morning of Aug. 18, 2008, Efrem Kuflom was fatally shot as he was leaving a downtown Tim Hortons coffee shop in his vehicle.

Mehari, 31, is on trial for first-degree murder in connection with the deadly incident.

“In 2006, Semere said he was going to kill Efrem and will finish your family,” the sister told Crown prosecutor Ryan Claxton. “That’s why I talked to his wife.”

She said her brother told her the incident occurred when Mehari was staring at him at the same coffee shop at 12th Avenue and 11th Street S.W.

Under cross-examination, Ruth Kuflom told defence lawyer Joan Blumer that her brother had not directly heard the threat from the accused, but was told of it by friends who were there at the time.

After the charge was laid three months later, police said the homicide may have been drug-related.

However, when asked if she was aware of her brother selling cocaine, the witness emphatically said, “Never.”

Court heard earlier that several shots rang out about 11:20 AM, but the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim told court the victim suffered only one bullet wound.

Dr. Sam Andrews, Alberta’s deputy chief medical examiner, said Kuflom was struck in the left chest from a distance of two feet (60 centimetres) or greater.

He said the bullet passed through the lung and main blood vessels of the heart, and he would have died in about a minute. There were no other injuries.

Kuflom was found to be carrying $320 in cash, said the pathologist.

Claxton said in his opening statement on Monday that surveillance video, to be introduced into evidence during the trial, will show the shooter putting on a mask, preparing the firearm and ultimately running in the direction of the deceased.

Kuflom’s 2004 black Pontiac went through the fence of a nearby schoolyard before coming to rest with the victim slumped over the steering wheel.

The trial before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sandy Park continues today.