The man accused of killing a taxi driver in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2020 pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder on the opening day of his trial in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench.
Okoth Obeing, 22, is accused of fatally stabbing Balvir Toor, 44, just minutes after entering the latter’s cab at around 5 a.m on March 19, 2020.
During the trial on Wednesday, a Crown prosecutor from the Manitoba Prosecutions Service cited Obeing’s history of animosity toward taxi drivers and South Asian people, according to CTV News.
“The Crown’s theory is that the killing was fuelled by Mr. Obeing’s animus, aggression and perceived disrespect of him by the victim, Mr. Toor,” Crown attorney Chantal Boutin told Judge Joan McKelvey.
According to Boutin, Obeing disclosed to the responding officers of the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) during a recorded interview that he had feelings of animosity toward South Asian people due to negative interactions in his childhood.
“He also expressed a dislike of cab drivers owing to past experience and specifically demands for upfront payment, which he viewed as disrespect,” Boutin added.
Boutin also revealed that the prosecution will present evidence that shows Obeing was off his bipolar disorder medication in the days leading up to the homicide.
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Prosecutors noted that while they acknowledge that Obeing was suffering from mental illness, they seek to prove that he understood that what he did was wrong.
“We, the Crown, say that this killing was an intentional act of violence born of anger, a murder for which he is criminally responsible,” said Boutin.
The Crown attorney also highlighted that before getting in Toor’s taxi, Obeing got into a separate verbal argument with a different cab driver after being asked for prepayment. The argument resulted in Obeing getting dropped off before he reached his destination.
Boutin pointed out that Obeing was already angered by the previous interaction before he got into Toor’s taxi.
“Mr. Obeing was verbally confrontational and aggressive, at one point hitting the plastic shield behind Mr. Toor’s seat,” Boutin told the court. “When Mr. Toor requested an upfront payment, Mr. Obeing perceived it as disrespect and his anger erupted into murder.”
Kelly Lee, the man who called 911 after coming across the scene, testified that he saw Toor trying to flag him down, reported CBC.
“As he stood up he fell down. He got himself back up to the car — and that’s when I asked him if he needed help…. It took a lot of effort for him to stand up to get my attention,” Lee said. “There was blood all over — all over him and his vehicle.”
Toor was already in critical condition when he was rushed to a hospital after police arrived at 5:30 a.m. He died shortly after. Const. Marnie Johannesson testified on Thursday that Obeing threatened an officer while being held at the Winnipeg Police Service’s central processing unit following his arrest, according to CTV News.
“He said to one of the officers who were there, ‘You are next,’” Johannesson told the court.
Johannesson also testified that Obeing casually uttered racial slurs during conversations, and even told a guard: “You are the same color as the guy I killed.”
The trial, which is set to last about three weeks, is currently ongoing.