Teen stabbed Surrey man ‘in order to survive,’ jury hears

15-year-old on trial for murder of Sam McGowan in 2009.

Surrey's Sam McGowan was stabbed to death in 2009. The trial of the teen accused in his death began this week.

A 15-year-old stabbed Surrey’s Sam McGowan in the chest after McGowan and others gave chase because the youth had stolen a cell phone and sweater, Crown prosecutors told a jury in New Westminster Supreme Court Monday.

The accused is being tried for second-degree murder in the death of McGowan and cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Wearing a pressed white dress shirt and slacks, he looked straight ahead during the opening day of his trial.

Crown counsel Jodie Harris told the jury the young offender and his friend committed two robberies at knife point on the afternoon of  Aug. 5, 2009. After each of the thefts, which were from young teens, grown-ups gave chase.

Harris alleged the accused eluded the first group, but a second group of 10-to-15 adults succeeded in catching up to the young robbers. McGowan, 42, found the accused hiding under a porch.

According to defence lawyer David Tarnow, like the rest of the adults, McGowan had been yelling “You’re f___ing dead.”

The teen, Tarnow said, had no choice but to defend himself.

“Ultimately, he did what he did in order to survive,” he told the jury. “The streets of Surrey can be very tough.”

Tarnow said his client and friend went to Central City Shopping Centre to buy some clothes. And then, he said, they made some bad choices.

Tarnow argued the accused is a good kid who happened to be out with the wrong friend.

“He was hanging with a guy with a very lengthy Young Offenders’ record,” Tarnow said.

Those so-called bad choices, the Crown said, included two separate robberies, the second of which was from the victim’s son. When McGowan’s son reported it to his dad, McGowan and several others gave pursuit, some on bicycles and others in a car.

When McGowan caught up to the young man, Tarnow claimed the teen had a very short time to react.

“Mr. McGowan was an imposing man,” Tarnow said, referring to his size and tattoos on his upper body.

Crown focused on putting Tarnow’s client at the scene and said it will call on several witnesses, pictures, exhibits, DNA evidence and video to build its case.

The case is expected to continue for a couple of weeks.

Michelle Proulx, McGowan’s girlfriend, said his death is only getting more difficult as time passes.

“Everybody tells you it gets better with time,” Proulx said. “It’s not true – you adjust.”

She said it was 22 months ago Sunday that McGowan was killed.

“It’s been a long wait. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep,” she said, adding even when she does manage to get rest, she has nightmares.