As the rapper T-Sav, Tyrel Nguyen drew on his experiences as a gangster for his songs. A B.C. Supreme Court judge found his lyrics convincing enough to accept them as a kind of musical confession.
Judge concluded Tyrel Nguyen claimed to have shot Randeep Kang in music video entered into evidence
Jason Proctor · CBC News
· Posted: Jan 13, 2024 11:00 AM EST | Last Updated: January 13
Tyrel Nguyen was sentenced to two life sentences for the first-degree murders of Randeep Kang and Jagvir Singh Malhi. He will serve the sentences concurrently. (Integrated Homicide Investigation Team)Under the stage name T-Sav, Tyrel Hieu George Mahoney Nguyen drew on his experiences as a gangster to make music.
He may never win a Grammy, but the Surrey man’s lyrics did help earn him two life sentences this week from a B.C. Supreme Court judge who found one of Nguyen’s songs was essentially a thinly-veiled confession to the 2017 murder of gangster Randeep (Randy) Kang.
The music video — along with testimony from a key police witness — was part of a body of evidence that convinced Justice Miriam Gropper Nguyen was guilty of the first-degree murders of both Kang and university student Jagvir Singh Malhi.
Gropper also convicted the 24-year-old of the attempted murder of Kang’s brother Gary and associate Camilo Alonso, who both survived the attack that ended in Randeep Kang’s death.
Police applauded the convictions Friday, crediting a lengthy investigation that saw them use one of Nguyen’s friends as an informant in an undercover operation spanning two provinces.
“This was a complex investigation,” said Sgt. Timothy Pierotti of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.
“I’m incredibly proud of all those that worked on this investigation and persevered over the past seven years.”
‘He would have to become an agent’According to evidence presented during the trial, Randeep Kang’s murder arose from what was described as a “beef” between two Lower Mainland gangs — The Brothers Keepers and the Red Scorpions.
Malhi’s death appears to have been a mistake. Police noted that he had no criminal involvement, but said some individuals in his life “were involved” in the gang conflict.
Randeep Kang (left) and Jagvir Singh Malhi were both killed by Tyrel Nguyen. Nguyen has been handed two life sentences for first-degree murder in their deaths. (Integrated Homicide Investigation Team)Nguyen, also known as Tyrel Quesnelle, has a Brothers Keepers tattoo on his chest. The Crown argued that he was a contract killer for the gang, which has been name-checked in his lyrics.
Much of the testimony against Nguyen came from a witness who can only be named as A.B. — a friend who lived in the Nguyen family house in Surrey before an argument with the killer in 2019.
A.B. was referred to police after being found ineligible for a program called End Gang Life.
“A.B. informed the police officers that he had knowledge of three shootings. He said he knew who killed Randy Kang and Jagvir Malhi and how and why they did it,” Gropper’s decision says.
“The police advised that they were in a position to help but in order for A.B. to start over and for he and his mother to be safe, he would need money. The police were not prepared to simply give him money. He would have to become an agent and try and gather evidence.”
‘There are simply too many complicated details’In the months that followed, A.B. agreed to re-establish contact with Nguyen.
The police set up a sting operation in what was purported to be A.B.’s apartment in Edmonton. They put up a whiteboard the two would use to communicate and wired the place with cameras and microphones.
RCMP cruisers block off the crime scene where Randeep Kang was shot and killed in Oct. 2017. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)Crown prosecutors used the whiteboard conversations, recordings of telephone calls between A.B. and the accused and evidence drawn from a series of manufactured scenarios to tie Nguyen to the crime.
Gropper had to weigh A.B.’s credibility against his lengthy criminal record and motivations that included both money and the possibility of a lighter sentence for an outstanding criminal case.
According to her decision, A.B. has also been charged with attempted murder since entering the witness protection program in an incident that he attributed to the victim drinking and “saying inappropriate things about A.B.’s girlfriend.'”
“A.B. agreed that he got kicked out of the witness protection program as a result of this … incident and his criminal charges,” Gropper wrote.
“But [he] rationalized that “it was coming to an end anyways so it was inevitable.”
Despite those concerns, Gropper found A.B.’s evidence to be credible.
“It was internally consistent and consistent over time,” she wrote.
“While I accept that A.B. may have a motive to lie, I find it impossible to conclude that A.B. manufactured the whole story that he told or even certain details. There are simply too many complicated details that he gave in his evidence.”
‘Hop out the whip with a burner’Nguyen’s music video My Life — which he posted on YouTube — contained lyrics prosecutors claimed were clear references to Kang’s killing: “Hop out the whip with a burner, bitch. Headshot. I’m dumping clips that’s plural shit.”
“A ‘burner’ refers to a firearm. The Crown submits that a ‘whip’ is a common reference to a vehicle,” Gropper wrote.
“Regarding the word ‘headshot,’ the Crown says that Randy Kang suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including three shots specifically to his head.”
The issue of introducing artistic expressions as evidence of crimes has been argued all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 1996, Canada’s top court considered the case of a man convicted of second-degree murder. Police found a poem in his room that contained the lines: “Crazy thoughts pass through my head/ Now I have killed a life, it’s dead/ I drained his blood with my/Knife …”
The poem was admitted at trial and the judges agreed that while it wasn’t proof of a crime on its own, it could be useful when considered as part of a circumstantial case.
Gropper wrote that since then, “artist expressions sought to be adduced in evidence against the accused have included poems, short stories, music, and rap videos.”
“Because I accept the lyrics in the music video pertain to the shooting of Randy Kang, I conclude that Mr. Nguyen is claiming in the music video to be the shooter and that he is the principal of first-degree murder of Randy Kang, or at least a party to the murder,” the judge concluded.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and the justice system extensively.