Monday, February 18, 2008

Stephen Seymour's Killer was a "Good Shot"

Photo of Earl "Steve" Seymour: CTV News

"He was a good shot." That's what one Downtown Eastsider said about Matthew Ryan Wall, who has just been charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Earl Stephen Seymour. To shoot a moving target with a handgun and manage to get several bullets into the guy's head, you have to be a good shot, explained the Downtown Eastsider who has practiced using handguns.

Wall, 26, is known to police as a drug dealer on the Downtown Eastside. He was arrested, according to CKNW radio, in a "rooming house" on Cambie St. That could explain why there was such a strong police presence around the Cambie Hotel & Hostel just after the shooting.

Any lawyer representing Wall will be banging his head against a wall. How do you help a client who walked up to a minivan near a busy corner and said "The war is on", then started shooting a man in front of a woman sitting in the front seat?

Not that people are feeling sorry for Seymour. One long time Downtown Eastsider said, "He got what he deserved." According to the Vancouver Sun today, Seymour had been one of the kingpins in a drug dealing operation based in the Station Inn on Cambie. The operation involved the sale of crack cocaine from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., pulling in an estimated $300,000 per month. The ChronicleHerald in Halifax put it this way: "For five years starting in the late 1990s, Mr. Seymour ran a gang that sold crack on Vancouver’s east side. The operation intimidated rivals with gunfire and beatings."

But CTV reporters had no difficulty finding people on the streets of the Downtown Eastside who had good memories of Seymour. On last night's news, an aboriginal man who had the gaunt look of an addict said he had known Seymour's ex wife; Seymour had taken a liking to him and would hand him "a five here, a ten here." You have to read between the lines though: that guy may have been a good customer on welfare cheque day. All of the comments from Downtown Eastsiders aired on CTV about Seymour were positive; people remembered him as a likeable guy.

Steve Seymour was not the first member of his family to be gunned down though. In Dec. 2005, Ken and Don Seymour, cousins with whom Steve Seymour and his brother Cliff Seymour had run the West Coast cocaine ring, were gunned down. The shootings occurred in 'the Hub', a run down neighbourhood of Glace Bay, the ChronicleHerald reported. Ken Seymour died and Don Seymour survived with serious damage to his liver and other organs. Both had done six years in prison for their roles in the West Coast cocaine ring. The shootings were over a drug debt. The shooter, a fellow associate of the Hell's Angels, was recently sentenced to 15 years.

Some of Steve Seymour's relatives have insisted in internet comments that he was turning his life around since being sentenced in 2001 to six years and four months for cocaine trafficking. When he was sentenced, his lawyer Glen Orris told the judge that he wanted to get a regular job to support his four children, all under the age of six at the time. But there was no sign of that regular job when a CTV reporter asked a Downtown Eastsider, two days after the shooting, what Seymour did on the Downtown Eastside: "I'm not at liberty to say," was the response.

One woman with the hollowed out cheeks of an addict, told CTV that the shooting had left her feeling that you have to be careful what you say to people because you can never tell how they're going to react.

My guess? Wall will end up being convicted of second degree and will be eligible for parole after ten, since the killing took place in the context of the drug trafficking world. But you never know. Judges are under pressure now to take seriously these shoot 'em ups on Vancouver streets. The man who shot Lee Matasi just a few blocks away had no record of criminal involvement but didn't get off easy. When the judge sentenced him, just the day before Steve Seymour was shot, he told him he would not be eligible for parole for 16 years.