Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teen fighting for his life after beating behind school

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A young man lay in a Winnipeg hospital last night fighting for his life -- the latest victim in a wave of late-night violence that has already killed eight young men and boys this year.

Police had still not identified him last night, and no one had come forward to report the youth missing, almost 48 hours after he was brutally beaten and left unconscious behind Elmwood High School.

Police said he was beaten so badly they could not make out his facial features. They believe he is between 13 and 16 years old.

The youth was beaten Friday around 11 p.m. on the grounds of Elmwood High School, but he was not discovered until Saturday morning.

He was listed in critical condition last night with severe head injuries at the Health Sciences Centre.

Two men are in custody charged with aggravated assault, but even they did not know the identity of their alleged victim, Insp. Darryl Preisentanz said yesterday.

The accused are Scott Harris, 19, and Clement Fontaine, 21, both of Winnipeg.

The victim wasn't carrying identification and he had no identifying marks, such as tattoos, Preisentanz said.

"Until we can interview him, we won't know too much," he said.

Police say the youth encountered two men behind the Chalmers Avenue school Friday night, an argument ensued, and the youth was beaten around the head and body.

At about 3:45 a.m. Saturday, a passerby located the victim and called police.

The victim is about 5-8, with a slim build.

He was wearing a blue T-shirt, as well as a black shortsleeved pullover shirt, Cache Creek khaki shorts, Exco blue jeans and white and blue running shoes.

Eight other young men and boys have died violently this year, in streets and back fields throughout the city.

Last month, 21-year-old Raymond Crowder was shot to death on a Maples street of quiet homes, far from his St. Vital home.

In June, 24-year-old Billy James McKay was stabbed to death in West Kildonan, a few days after 18-year-old Morgan Trudeau was beaten to death behind the Pembina Hotel.

Three men died violently in May: 15-year-old John Chubb, beaten to death with a baseball bat behind the West End Cultural Centre; 24-year-old Kevin Tokarchuk, shot in his Riverview home, apparently as gang retribution after his brother was accused of killing a Hells Angels associate; and 19-year-old Johndrick Tan, beaten to death outside an Exchange District bar.

Rodger Ledger was only 14 when he sat in the back of a stolen car in March -- another boy threw a shovel at the car, killing Ledger almost instantly.

And in February, the frozen body of 20-year-old Trevor (T.J.) Wiebe was found in a snowy field north of St. Agathe, dead of exposure after a serious beating.

The working-class neighbourhood where Friday night's beating occurred was once the terrain of a gang called the East Side Crips.

Preisentanz said there is no evidence the assault was gang-related.

Neighbours said the area is generally quiet, although they said police and ambulance crews are frequently at the school during the school year.

Last fall, Tory MLA Ron Schuler said in the legislature that students and teachers are fleeing Elmwood High because gangs control the school.

However, he did not substantiate his charges.

Schuler's comments set off a storm of protest from school officials who insisted the school was as safe as any other in the city.

Yesterday, principal Yale Chochinov said the neighbours who reported seeing police at the school were misguided.

"There was only one ambulance there last year because of a car accident," Chochinov said.

Police school liaison affairs officers make regular visits to the school as part of their regular duties across the school division, not because it is crime-infested, he said.

The public's "misperception," he said, was the result of "unfair media reports" linking the school to crime and violence.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 25, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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