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Alberta lawyer calls for police transparency after teen brothers wrongfully charged in Calgary murder


An Alberta lawyer is questioning the quality of a Calgary Police Service investigation into a fatal shooting after charges against the teen brothers originally accused in the death were stayed

"It happened to these two individuals and it happens to a lot of people," said Tom Engel, chair of the policing committee for the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association.

"I think that there are some serious issues, generally, about the quality of the investigations that led to charges that turn out to have no basis."

On Tuesday, Crown prosecutors stayed charges against the 14-year-old and 18-year-old brothers in connection to the death Rami Hajj Ali.

The 23-year-old was shot to death in a Jeep in the parking lot of the Trans Canada Centre in the 1400 block of 52 Street N.E. on Nov. 13.

Two other people, a man and woman, were injured in the shooting but survived.

The 14-year-old was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder, and his 18-year-old brother was charged with one count of accessory to murder after the fact.

A week after announcing the charges, Calgary Police Service Chief Const. Mark Neufeld offered an apology to the brothers and their family, saying new information had come to light that led investigations to believe they were not responsible.

"What these two youth went through is awful," said Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek on Wednesday, while speaking to reporters. "They are going to live with this for the rest of their lives.

"Their families, members of the community, are dealing with this right now, and so I think an apology from Calgary Police Service was absolutely appropriate."

The mayor says she is grateful the apology was issued promptly.

"I think it's really important to make sure that the public is advised as quickly as possible when there's an error that's been made.

When asked if she felt the incident will have a negative impact on the public's confidence in the Calgary Police Service, Gondek said she hopes the Calgary Police Commission can work with the service to make sure something like this does not happen again.

"The real issue is, what basis did they have to arrest them in the first place? And then, after arresting, what basis did they have to lay those charges?" Engel said.

Engel says he appreciates the chief’s apology, but believes people are wrongfully arrested and charged too often.

"It is problem. It’s not rare, by any means, to have the police lay charges and then the Crown terminate the prosecution. It’s rare that it happened so quickly," he says. "Many of them are cases where the charges should never have been laid."

Engel also questions why the charges have been stayed and not dropped altogether if the chief has said publicly that the brothers were not responsible.

"They should be withdrawing them," he said. "With a stay, it hangs over your head, so to speak, for one year, because over the course of that year of that year an application can be made to the Attorney General to revive the charges."

Neufeld has promised that an independent review will take place from an outside police agency to examine the arrest and charges against the pair.

"Hopefully, there will be complete transparency in the review of itself, and the entirety of the review will be provided to the public," says Engel. "They should make sure they reveal everything they can to the public."

Calgary's Chief Constable Mark Neufeld issued an apology to the teen brothers who were arrested and charged in connection with a fatal shooting in Marlborough Park on Nov. 13, 2023.Engel says the brothers and their family family could possibly sue the police service if the investigation is proven to be negligent.

He says that they have a year to file a complaint under the Police Act, and two years to sue, but says that likely wouldn’t play out until after the review. Top Stories

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