Two young Winnipeg gang members have admitted to shooting a criminal rival to death as part of a long-standing, violent feud.
William Laporte, 23, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder today and was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 10 years. A co-accused, who was 17 at the time, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given a youth sentence of three years probation in addition to 22 months of time already served.
The Crown struck a deal with both men, agreeing to drop more serious charges of first-degree murder and not seek an adult sentence against the teen.
Wayne Michelle, 28, was killed in June 2009 after suspects fired on him and another man while they walked on the 500 block of Manitoba Avenue one night. Both men were hit by the bullets. Michelle died later at hospital, while the other man survived.
The victims were members of the Indian Posse, while the killers are linked to the Manitoba Warriors, court was told.
"This was clearly a gang motivated crime," said Crown attorney Brent Davidson.
The shooting was payback for an earlier incident where the Indian Posse member who survived had chased after a group of Manitoba Warriors on bicycles, waving a machete and slashing one of their tires, court was told.
Laporte and the teen decided to get revenge, grabbing a shotgun and tracking down the culprit. He was their primary target and took a shot to the back. Michelle just happened to be in the area at the time, helping a young female friend look for her glasses after she’d been jumped earlier in the day and lost them. He was struck in the chest.
"He was offering his assistance to someone who was in need. Wayne Michelle’s life cannot be devalued," Davidson said today. "There’s no second-class murder victim. All victims are entitled to first-class justice."
Laporte fired the weapon, while the teen stood by and wasn’t completely aware of what his older co-accused had planned, court was told. Davidson said that’s why they accepted a plea to manslaughter on the youth and agreed to keep him in youth court, where the maximum sentence he faced was two years in custody.
Family members admit Michelle was involved in the gang life but was looking for a better path at the time he was gunned down.
"He was definitely a huge role model in my life," said Milton Michelle, the victim's 21-year-old brother told the Free Press. "When he was around me... he did a very good job of wearing different hats."
Queen’s Bench Justice Deborah McCawley said today the tragic incident is yet another grim reminder of the gang situation in Winnipeg.
"It really grieves me to see the lives that become so negatively affected by what goes on on the streets," she said.
Laporte wasn’t arrested for the killing until late 2010. By then, he had already been accused of killing another man.
Dylan Cody Ferland, 18, was shot to death in July 2010 while outside a home on the first 100 block of McKenzie Street. Ferland was a known associate of the Native Syndicate street gang, which has also feuded with the Manitoba Warriors. Laporte is charged with first-degree murder in that case, which remains before the courts.