Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Teen gang member handed life sentence for fatal shooting

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A teen street gang member has been sentenced to life in prison for the unprovoked fatal shooting of a young man sitting in a car behind a Portage Avenue store.

"This was a brazen act by a young person entrenched in gang culture that strikes at the core of society's sense of security," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lori Spivak ruled Wednesday.

Although Spivak sentenced the teen as an adult for the murder of Trevor Harper on April 29, 2011, his name cannot be published until a 30-day appeal window has passed.

Harper, 20, died after being shot in the head while sitting in a friend's car behind a cellphone store at 559 Portage Ave.

The shooter, then 15, was with other Mad Cowz street gang members and had been playing basketball at a nearby community centre.

They were walking to a restaurant when they mistook Harper for a rival believed to be involved in a drive-by shooting days earlier.

The shooter tapped on the car's window with a handgun he was carrying. He fired off two rounds towards Harper after the driver tried to peel out and escape.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder late last year after prosecutors presented their case against him at a jury trial.

Spivak condemned the "high degree of violence" the teen was willing to indulge in a populated neighbourhood in broad daylight.

He was out of custody and subject to two supervised probation orders at the time.

The life sentence Spivak imposed comes with a condition the teen cannot apply for parole until six years have passed since the date of his arrest on May 4, 2011.

This means he could be eligible to ask to reclaim his freedom in May 2017.

Harper was weeks away from seeing the birth of his first child.

His girlfriend was in the back seat of the vehicle at the time of the shooting and witnessed Harper's killing and a panicked drive to hospital in an effort to save his life.

Defence lawyers Scott Paler and Sandra Bracken fought against the Crown's adult-sentence bid, arguing the killer's mental limitations and troubled upbringing made him less culpable for his actions than an adult offender.

Spivak disagreed, suggesting the circumstances of Harper's murder proved otherwise to her.

"I think it's significant that this crime was not an impulsive act," she said.

"The planning involved and the deliberate acts reflect adult qualities. The crime followed a discussion amongst gang members to commit a retaliatory shooting," said Spivak.

A life sentence means the shooter will be subject to supervision by federal corrections officials for the rest of his life regardless if he's in or out of custody.

The sentence was necessary in the interests of society, Spivak found.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 4:04 PM CDT: corrects typo

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