Video played during Halifax jail assault trial shows inmates blocking guards
A trial for six of the 15 inmates accused of participating in a vicious assault on a prisoner at a Nova Scotia jail began Wednesday with video showing inmates apparently meeting and then suddenly forming a barrier in front of guards.
The videos presented by the prosecution included various angles inside the two-storey unit where the Dec. 2, 2019 attack occurred, during which the victim was beaten, kicked and stabbed at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth, N.S.
"I've never seen anything like this occur," said Andrew Miller, a senior officer at the facility who was the Crown's first witness. "What struck me was the organization of it all, and the efficiency with which it was executed."
Video evidence showed a large group of inmates deliberately blocking guards from reaching the victim, Stephen Francis Anderson, who has since recovered from his injuries. After the attack ended, some of the inmates appeared to celebrate.
One man was taken to his cell with his arms raised, while others hugged, pumped fists and bumped chests before going into their cells. One man not wearing a shirt hops on a table and raises his arms.
The first defendants facing trial are Colin Ladelpha, Kirk Carridice, Jacob Lilly, Wesley Hardiman, Omar McIntosh and Matthew Lambert. They are facing charges of conspiring to commit murder, attempted murder, unlawful confinement, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and obstructing a peace officer. Lilly also faces a charge of assaulting a guard.
Eight other inmates are facing the same charges in a trial set for later this fall, and a 15th inmate, Sophon Sek, is facing the same charges but will have a separate trial.
In testimony before Justice Jamie Campbell of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Miller said he listened to a telephone call made by Brian James Marriott -- who faces trial later this fall in the case -- shortly after Anderson, the victim, had been admitted to the unit. Miller said he heard Marriott turn to Lilly during the call and say, "Go gather four or five people and figure that thing out."
The officer observed the video and said it showed Lilly "appeared to go and gather a number of people and proceed to a cell."
The second witness to testify, correctional officer Shane Kent, said the mood had seemed normal during the first portion of his shift. But after the gathering of inmates, he said he had a feeling violence was about to occur. Instead of the usual chatting, showers and phone calls, he said, there was silence.
The assault unfolded between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Video presented by Crown attorney Rick Woodburn shows a group of inmates moving toward the cell of the victim as others quickly follow to line up outside the cell door, which was then partially shut. Within seconds of the group entering the cell, Kent attempted to approach the cell and called for help from other officers on duty.
He testified Marriott stood in front of him, they bumped chests and Marriott appeared to gesture for other inmates to join those blocking the guards.
Kent said he decided not to use pepper spray or push forward, fearing a riot. He testified as he approached the scene of the assault, he heard a slapping sound and the noise of a victim exhaling.
Within minutes, more guards arrived, but inmates continued to stand between them and the cell. Only one or two of the approximately 30 inmates in the unit appeared to stand back from the scene.
Kent said that although the entire incident lasted just minutes, he felt like time slowed down as he struggled to move toward the scene.
He said he heard someone say, "It's over," and when he could see inside the cell, he saw the victim lying prone as an inmate delivered "donkey kicks" to his head.
Miller said before the victim could receive treatment, jail protocols required that all prisoners be taken to their cells and locked in, creating a delay of several minutes.
"Once the assault was finished ΓÇª the immediate thing is to lock down the day room, stop the assault and remove the inmate if they can be moved out and taken to the health care unit," the senior officer testified.
The final frames on the videos show the victim being led out of the day room, still walking, after the attack ended. Kent said once Anderson was in the hall, he could see he had multiple stab wounds and contusions on his body and face. He said the victim collapsed on the floor as medical staff attended to him.
"It's the worst situation I've ever seen or been involved in," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2021.