A personal trainer who worked at the West Vancouver Community Centre has been arrested in the United States and charged with first-degree murder in connection with a 25 year-old gang killing.
Brian Clement Allen, 45, of North Vancouver was charged April 25 in Pierce County, Wash., for his alleged involvement in the gangland slaying of Bernard Houston on Aug. 25, 1988.
He has pleaded not guilty. Four other men were also charged in the case: Terris Miller, 42, Nathaniel Miles, 47, Darrell Montea Lee, 44, and Anthony Ralls, 44.
Charges against Allen were sworn and a warrant was issued for his arrest in the U.S in October 2011. It wasn't until April 14 of this year, however, that authorities moved in when Allen's flight touched down in Texas as he returned from his honeymoon in Mexico.
Allen's arrest came as a shock to staff at the West Vancouver Community Centre, where he has worked on contract as a trainer and weight room supervisor since 2003, said West Vancouver spokesman Jeff MacDonald.
MacDonald said Allen was put through a criminal records check when he started work. "It was clean," he said.
"We know that he was well-liked by staff and by the public." Allen had been scheduled to work April 30, but a relative called to let his supervisor know he wouldn't be showing up.
MacDonald said he only found out about the murder charge when reporters started calling him.
"I think it's fair to say that district staff are surprised by this news," said MacDonald, adding, "We respect the U.S. legal process."
According to Pierce County prosecutors, the murder case is believed to be the first gang homicide in Pierce County and stretches back to the early days of gang violence in the area.
Prosecutors allege the drama started early on Aug. 28, 1988,
in Tacoma's east side, when Bernard Houston and Michael Jeter, two Hilltop Crip gang members, shot at Allen and Anthony Ralls, 44, both alleged to be Blood gang members.
In retaliation, prosecutors allege two car-loads of Bloods drove to the Hilltop area looking for Crips. Allen drove one of the cars, an Oldsmobile Cutlass with Ralls and Lee as passengers, they allege.
Just before midnight, the Blood group spotted Houston and Jeter in a car. Prosecutors allege Allen and Ralls stepped out of their car and gunfire erupted.
"(Allen) and Ralls fired multiple times, one shot striking Houston in the head and killing him," the prosecutors alleged in court documents.
They allege Allen is responsible for the murder whether he fired the fatal shot or was an accomplice.
After the shooting, the alleged Blood gang members fled.
Tacoma Police officers found B Houston lying in the street W under the front of a silver Jeep Cherokee. He later died in hospital.
The initial investigation did not produce enough evidence for arrests, but Tacoma police detectives continued to work on the case over the years, including interviews with three of Allen's co-accused, others present at the shooting and with anonymous tipsters.
All of those people gave similar accounts of what happened on the night of the shooting, prosecutors said.
Allen's U.S. defence lawyer Brett Purtzer said Allen denies being involved in the shooting.
"He's denying he was involved or that he is responsible for any murder," said Purtzer.
Purtzer said he's still waiting to get a lot of the detailed information from prosecutors before mounting a defence.
"This thing is 25 years old," he said. "Some of the information they have obtained might be from people who are less than reputable."
Purtzer added he doesn't know why officials chose to arrest Allen the way they did rather than applying to have him extradited to the U.S. to face charges. "It's not like he was in hiding," he added.
None of the charges have been proven in court.
Allen remains in custody, with bail posted at US$2 million. Even if he posts bail, Allen, who is a Canadian citizen, would not be allowed to leave the United States.
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