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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Murda Squad’ gang suspected in Reader killing

19:43 |

For six years, Jonathan Reader’s family has wondered who took the young man’s life. Now they’re publicly pointing the finger at a violent Halifax street gang.

"We found ourselves in a little bit of a better place this year, if I can put it that way, (because) we now believe we know . . . the group of people that is responsible for Jon’s murder," said David Reader, Jon’s father.

"Over time, the community has persistently and consistently come with the same message and we believe it was a youth gang that went by the name Murder Squad."

Jonathan Reader, 19, was found unconscious and bleeding on the pavement at Radcliffe Drive and Dunbrack Street in Halifax’s Clayton Park at 4:10 a.m. on Aug. 7, 2005. He died a short time later in hospital from what the medical examiner determined was blunt force trauma.

Police believe the incident that led to his death happened in the area of Clayton Park where he was found.

David Reader knows little about the gang he believes killed his son, except that it was involved in crime.

But "there’s something about knowing and putting a label to who they are that’s helpful," the father said. "It’s obviously not as good as having somebody charged, but it is good knowing for us. It helps in the healing to know who they are so that it’s not a secret."

On Friday, police confirmed that the Murda Squad — the real name of the gang — is of interest to detectives working the Reader case.

"Part of our investigation focused on a youth group who refer to themselves as Murda Squad, which was a youth group that was active in the area at the time of Jonathan’s death and that we haven’t ruled out their involvement," said Const. Brian Palmeter, Halifax Regional Police spokesman.

In 2006, The Chronicle Herald’s Brian Hayes reported that metro police had identified the Murda Squad as a youth gang from Fairview. It was one of a handful of violent youth gangs in the city that police had been tracking.

"The gangs in this area (Metro Halifax) appear to have started on a small scale but the nature and violence of the offices they are involved (in) seems to have increased," said a 2007 federal Justice Department report that looked into urban gangs across Canada.

The report said the Murda Squad was one of the most prevalent of the five urban gangs in the city at the time.

The gang had 10 to 15 members and numerous associates, who were black and white, the report said. "While the gender makeup is mostly male, there are some female members," the report said. "They often wear specific coloured bandanas and T-shirts or sweatshirts. They also tend to use hand signs for communication" and were into robberies, trafficking, weapons offences, threats and assaults.

David Reader said his son, a graduate of Halifax West High School who was looking forward to going to Saint Mary’s University, was not connected to the gang.

It’s a sentiment echoed by police.

"There’s no indication that he did anything to contribute to his death," Palmeter said. "He was what we would believe to be a completely innocent victim."

By identifying the gang, "we’re hoping that the people who were associated, who are involved may realize that we do have information and they may re-evaluate their silence," the officer said.

Those who don’t, he said, could face charges of accessory to murder after the fact.

Major crime investigators traced Jonathan Reader’s movements leading up to his death and determined that he left the Pacifico Bar and Grill in Halifax at 1:57 a.m. with an unidentified woman. At 3:20 a.m., he was in the area of Dutch Village Road, likely alone.

But what happened between then and when he was found isn’t known.

The provincial Justice Department has offered a $150,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Reader’s death.

Police are asking anyone who may have seen anything out of the ordinary on Radcliffe Drive and Dunbrack Street in the wee hours of Aug. 7, 2005, to contact investigators at (902) 490-5333 or Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 1-800-222-8477.

"Jon was an innocent victim," David Reader said. "He was a normal, healthy 19-year-old from a relatively normal family. . . . He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and we just need somebody to talk and be held accountable for it."


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