As Justin Silicz lay dying on the road after being stabbed by a stranger, Tony Hajzler tried desperately to keep his best friend alive.
"I kept doing chest compressions," but as Silicz’s breathing became more erratic "I thought I might be making matters worse," Hajzler testified Wednesday.
"I just kept encouraging Justin to breathe," Hajzler said, dabbing tears from his eyes. "He tried, but eventually he stopped and I told him I loved him."
Silicz, a 32-year-old Winnipeg lawyer, died June 2, 2019, after he was stabbed walking to his car from an after-hours club with friends.
Keishawn Mitchell, 21, is on trial for second-degree murder. Mitchell admits stabbing Silicz but is expected to argue he was acting in self-defence.
Hajzler said he, Silicz and Andrea Bosnjak, a woman Silicz had been dating, were walking back to their car on Winnipeg Avenue around 4 a.m. when they saw a group of three males walking in the same direction a short distance ahead of them.
When Bosnjak unwrapped a package of cigarettes, one of the men from the other group asked if they could have one, Hajzler said.
"Andrea, being playful, said, ‘Tell me a joke and I will give you a smoke,’" Hajzler said. "The response was, ‘Your ass,’ or something like that. She said, ‘Well, that’s not a very good joke, so no smoke for you.’"
“I threw (the comment) back at them and that seemed to irritate them. That seemed to be the point things started to escalate and they started throwing more insults and comments our way.” – Tony Hajzler
Seconds later, Hajzler said, one of the men shouted out: "Two guys and a girl — looks like a couple of faggots."
"I threw (the comment) back at them and that seemed to irritate them," Hajzler said. "That seemed to be the point things started to escalate and they started throwing more insults and comments our way."
As Hajzler and his friends reached Silicz’s car, the three men continued to hurl insulting comments their way, he said.
"I said, ‘Guys, shut the f--- up, call it a night.’ It was that part that really triggered a response for (Mitchell)," he said.
Mitchell, who Hajzler identified only as the "guy in red" for the red track suit he was wearing, said: "You want to make some shit of this?" as he walked directly toward him, Hajzler testified.
"He was amped up," Hajzler said. "I stood in the road there and waited for him… It was really the first moment I thought we had an altercation on our hands. I knew there was an elevated state of aggression and the guy was pissed off."
Hajzler said the man kept reaching in his back pocket, causing him to fear he had a knife or a gun. Hajzler told court he was recovering from a serious knee injury at the time and walked with a limp.
"I knew I wouldn’t be able to defend myself if something happened," he said. "I just stood there. I didn’t say a word."
Hajzler said Silicz put his hand on his shoulder, "calling me a p---- and a bitch, saying you aren’t going to do anything," all the while "looking into my eyes, saying, without saying it, ‘Tony, you gotta get out of this… by any means, we have to get out of this.’"
Hajzler said the accused then punched him in the face, causing him to stagger backward.
"I looked up and the next thing I see is Justin defending me, throwing punches left and right, both of them exchanging lefts and rights," he said.
Silicz staggered and fell to his knees at the same time the accused appeared to be putting something back in his pocket, Hajzler said.
The three men tried to goad Hajzler to fight before casually walking away, Hajzler said. By this time, Silicz was back on his feet, leaning against his car, but quickly fell to the ground.
"His eyes were open, but I could tell he wasn’t conscious," Hajzler said.
Hajzler patted Silicz down, looking for signs of injury. "I could feel his shirt was wet," he said. "I took his shirt off... and could see he had two puncture wounds on his left side."
“When (Silicz) looked at me, there was terror in his eyes. He knew this was a bad situation we had to get out of.” – Tony Hajzler
Under cross examination, defence lawyer Mike Cook suggested it was Hajzler, fuelled by "liquid courage," who was the first to act aggressively following the exchange over cigarettes.
"I suggest you called out to the group in an angry tone," Cook said.
"No — a hard no," Hajzler replied.
Cook argued Silicz wasn’t defending Hajzler when he traded punches with Mitchell, but was instead acting out of anger.
"Another way of looking at it is you just got punched and Justin lost his cool," Cook said.
"When (Silicz) looked at me, there was terror in his eyes," Hajzler replied. "He knew this was a bad situation we had to get out of."
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.