Murder of Vancouver Island man followed fight with bikers at nightclub, Victoria court hears
VICTORIA -- Richard Ernest Alexander, the former president of the Devils Army motorcycle gang, sat quietly in a Victoria courtroom Wednesday as he listened to testimony from the girlfriend of the man he stands accused of killing.
Alexander, 65, pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge at the opening of his trial Monday.
He stands accused of shooting 30-year-old John Dillon Brown to death in March 2016 at the Devils Army clubhouse in Campbell River.
Brown’s body was later found in the trunk of his grey Honda Accord about 75 kilometres away, near the village of Sayward, on March 12, 2016.
The discovery eventually led investigators to raid the motorcycle gang’s Campbell River clubhouse in August 2017. Police say the Devils Army are a support club for the Hells Angels.
Alexander was arrested and charged with the Saanich man’s murder in October 2018.
Brown’s longtime on-again, off-again girlfriend Nicole Herman testified Wednesday that Brown was looking to file a lawsuit after he was beat up by bikers at the Voodoo Lounge nightclub in Campbell River in late 2015.
Brown, a semi-pro mixed martial arts fighter, met with a woman twice in January 2016 while gathering evidence and recruiting witnesses to support his case against the nightclub, Herman testified.
Later that month, someone contacted Brown about settling his case against the lounge, she said, recalling a phone conversation she overheard in which Brown allegedly said, in part, “I’m not a rat” and “I’ve done time too.”
Herman testified that Brown and his cousin met with the caller that night. When he returned home from the meeting, Brown said the man he met was a motorcycle club chapter president from White Rock, B.C., Herman said.
She testified that Brown called the man “Ricky,” the same name Alexander commonly uses.
Herman also told the court that Brown was expecting a payment of $11,000 to settle his claim and there was to be another meeting about it but it was pushed back by several weeks.
Brown returned to Campbell River on March 10 and seemed relaxed, his girlfriend told the court.
The couple washed Brown’s car, visited with his father and went to Boston Pizza for dinner.
“It was just a normal evening,” Herman said, before appearing overcome with emotion when asked to consider the events of the following day.
The court also heard from the former owner of the Voodoo Lounge, who testified that he ran the club from 1999 until 2018.
At the time of the fight, owner Michael Behm lived in an apartment above the business.
He told the court the club was equipped with an identification system to monitor people entering the club who may have had criminal associations or been thrown out of other bars.
Behm described the business as a 620-person capacity dance club with a mixed crowd of patrons, including known members of the Devils Army.
Behm testified that he socialized with members of the Devils Army at the nightclub and says he even attended their clubhouse on occasion as he was dating a woman connected to the group.
The bar owner said he knew Alexander and was friendly with him, sometimes discussing liquor licensing and the issue of members wearing their patches and colours inside the nightclub.
Behm testified that he told Alexander that Devils Army members could no longer wear their insignia in the club under the rules of the bar-watch identification program. The Devils Army president was unhappy with the ban, Behm said, and stopped coming to the club after the discussion.
The Voodoo Lounge owner told the court he had not met Brown personally but had heard of him. At the time of the fight, Behm was out of the country but heard about the altercation from an employee, he said.
When Brown asked the club for surveillance video of the fight, Behm allowed him to have them but he testified that Brown was unhappy with the angles the cameras provided.
Despite releasing the videos on a USB drive, Behm said he was not aware of Brown’s suit against the Voodoo Lounge until police interviewed him after Brown’s death.
Behm told defence lawyer Richard Neary that Brown had been involved in a previous fight at the nightclub in which one man was taken to hospital and later died of his injuries.
The club owner concluded his testimony by saying he had no knowledge of Brown’s death before hearing it from police.
The trial resumes Thursday in Victoria.