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Accused in fatal shooting of Hamilton father denies he was suspect seen in surveillance video

Click to play video: 'Accused in fatal Toronto shooting takes stand in his own defence' Accused in fatal Toronto shooting takes stand in his own defence
The man accused of a brazen fatal shooting caught on camera took the stand in his own defence Friday. Akil Whyte told a judge he had never met Leonard Pinnock before and was not the man seen on video surveillance which captured the murder. Crime specialist Catherine McDonald reports – Dec 10, 2021

Twenty-nine-year-old Akil Whyte admits he’s a drug dealer who sold crack, powder cocaine and marijuana but denies he had anything to do with the murder of 33-year-old Leonard Pinnock, a DJ and father from Hamilton.

Pinnock was fatally shot in 2017 while sitting in a car near Dufferin Street and Bowie Avenue in Toronto, waiting for a friend who was at a barbershop.

At the first-degree murder trial for Whyte, defence lawyer Anthony Robbins suggested his client had nothing to do with the murder that took place on the night of April 21, 2017 — captured on video surveillance.

Read more: Man accused of murdering Hamilton Father extradited to Canada, makes first court appearance

Whyte testified he was in jail from April until September 2016, and he knew that in April 2017 his phone was wiretapped and he was under police surveillance.

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But he didn’t remember exactly what he was doing on the night of April 21.

When a series of wiretaps were played before Justice Peter Bawden, Whyte explained he had been nervous about getting arrested again.

One night, said he told his girlfriend he had been detained and searched and thought he was going to get sent back to jail.

Whyte testified he left town on April 24 because he thought he could make more money selling drugs in cities like Ottawa.

And in June, he left Canada for the U.S. His brother and other associates had been arrested in connection with a gun, and a gang investigation called “Project Kronic.” He was concerned about getting caught, he testified.

Read more: Man on Toronto’s most-wanted list arrested in U.S.

Whyte told the court that in the summer of 2019, he was shocked when U.S. authorities arrested him for murder. He thought he was going to be arrested for dealing drugs.

In September 2019, Whyte was extradited from Atlanta to Toronto, where he was charged with first-degree murder.

His lawyer suggested Whyte has been the victim of mistaken identity more than once before. That included involvement in a party caught on cell phone video at a Toronto South Detention Centre. Later it came out that Whyte was mistaken for someone else, said Robbins.

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Justice Bawden replied, “The person who misidentified him (is in jail) not before the courts.”

“He thinks he’s being misidentified in this case,” Robbins said. Mistaken identity occurs with Whyte “even when he’s in jail.”

Read more: Canada-wide warrant issued for suspect wanted in fatal parking lot shooting in Toronto

The court had already heard police found a black hoodie close to the crime scene that had Whyte’s DNA on it.

Police also recovered two weapons, including a loaded semi-automatic pistol. The second suspect caught on video surveillance that night has never been arrested.

Whyte argued the man in the video, which circulated in the media before he was named a suspect, is not him. He said neither man in the video walks like him.

“No that’s not me,” he said, watching the video on a large projector in the courtroom.

The mother of the slain man, Angela Pinnock, was listening in court. After the hearing, she described her son as a remarkable man, who worked as a DJ, loved life, and had a five-year-old daughter that he adored.

Angela Pinnock holds up a button with a photo of her son on it. Catherine McDonald / Global News

“We just miss him so very much and we just want justice because he was taken way too soon. He was gunned down, murdered in cold blood,” she said, holding up a button with her son’s picture on it.

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The Crown began its cross-examination of Whyte before Justice Bawden inquired about putting Whyte in two-day medical segregation. A COVID outbreak at the Toronto East Detention Centre has already delayed the trial by a week.

Robbins argued there is evidence to suggest that Whyte would be safer in isolation, to which the judge agreed.

“I will leave things as they are.”

The trial continues.

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