Bail was granted this week to one of two men charged with attempted murder in connection with an attack that led a man to flee for his life through swamps and forest near a Bissett-area rock quarry in June.
Kelly-Ross Gratton, 43, was released from custody Tuesday after his lawyer argued that his release didn’t pose a threat and that the June 14 incident was a misunderstanding.
Gratton and Michael Shindruk, 32, both of Bissett, were charged after a quarry security guard alleged he was hunted in the bush by two men who fired at him from their truck.
Provincial court Associate Chief Judge Janice leMaistre said even if she believed Gratton’s version of the events, she considered it a "serious, concerning incident... a recipe for disaster."
However, leMaistre said that she was not satisfied that Crown prosecutor Liz Pats had met the test for continued detention, and so ordered Gratton released with strict conditions.
A 23-year-old university student from Winnipeg had been working a summer job as a security guard at rock quarry near Bissett. In an interview with the Free Press, the student said that he was sleeping in a trailer at the quarry in the early hours of June 14 when he was awakened by the sounds of a truck. He went outside and encountered two men. He said he became concerned for his own life after they started talking in a strange and threatening way.
The men’s speech was slurred and their eyes were bloodshot, the student said. "They said they were crystal-meth runners from Saskatoon, that they had gone to Winnipeg and were coming up to Bissett."
The student said the men told them they had killed a sex-trade worker and thrown her body in the back of the their truck. "Then they said, ‘We’ve told you way too much. There’s no way we’re leaving here tonight with you alive.’"
The prosecution said the student fled into the bush and the driver got back into his truck and chased after him, firing a shotgun at him from inside the truck. Shindruk was identified in court as the suspected driver and Gratton the passenger.
The student said he was chased and fired at for about two hours as he hid in the bush. The two men later drove off and he stayed hidden in the bush until quarry workers showed up for work at 6 a.m. Police were later called.
Gratton and Shindruk were arrested at Gratton’s home in Bissett on June 15 and taken into custody. A search of their homes turned up a shotgun and several more rifles and ammunition, improperly stored and without licenses.
Police did not find a murdered woman.
Pats said that Shindruk and Gratton told police they were "messing with" the student, telling him strange stories that likely frightened him. However, both men denied firing at the student and said that Shindruk had briefly fired at a skunk from his truck.
Defence counsel Darren Sawchuk said the student told police that only the driver had fired at him, that the passenger – Gratton – remained at the trailer.
"At the end of the day, had (the student) known these were just two people saying things that were inappropriate... But (the student) took it out of context," Sawchuk said.
Sawchuk said the evidence so far shows only that Gratton was present when a gun was fired.
LeMaistre said even if Shindruk was firing at a skunk, it was a dangerous situation with a potential for disaster. They were drunk, one of them was firing into the bush where they knew a man was hiding.
"The (student) described it as a horrific experience," leMaistre said.
Shindruk remains in custody and has not applied for bail.
Gratton’s next court appearance is July 24 in Provincial court in Pine Falls.