Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

One accused out on bail in human-hunting case

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ONE of two men charged with attempted murder at a Bissett-area rock quarry in June was given bail this week.

Kelly-Ross Gratton, 43, was released from custody Tuesday after his lawyer argued his release didn't pose a threat and the June 14 incident was a misunderstanding.

Gratton and Michael Shindruk, 32, both of Bissett, were charged after a rock 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 believes Gratton's version of the events, she considers it a "serious, concerning incident... a recipe for disaster."

'Then they said, "We've told you way too much. There's no way we're leaving here tonight with you alive" '

However, leMaistre said she's not satisfied Crown prosecutor Liz Pats had satisfied the test for continued detention and ordered Gratton released under strict conditions.

A 23-year-old university student from Winnipeg had been working a summer job as a security guard at the rock quarry. In an exclusive interview with the Free Press last month, the student said 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 life after they started talking strangely and in a 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.' "

Pats said the student fled into the bush and the driver got into his truck and chased after him, firing a shotgun at him from inside the truck.

Shindruk was identified as the 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 licences.

Police did not find a slain woman in the back of the truck.

Pats said 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 Shindruk had briefly fired at a skunk from his truck.

"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 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 and one of them was firing into the bush where they knew another man was hiding.

Shindruk remained in custody and had not applied for bail Wednesday.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2013 A10

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