Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Gang shooter needs life: crown

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Justice officials have begun their high-stakes legal push to see a teen gang member sentenced as an adult to life in prison for the unprovoked fatal shooting of a young man in broad daylight near downtown Winnipeg.

The shooter was 15 at the time he opened fire and killed Trevor Harper, 20, as Harper sat as a passenger in a car parked behind a Portage Avenue cellular telephone repair shop on Apr. 29, 2011.

He previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder midway through his jury trial, right after the Crown closed its case against him.

Prosecutors now want the teen to face an adult sentence in what they're calling a "terrifying" case of gang-motivated violence.

Harper was targeted for retaliation because Mad Cowz street gang members believed he may have been involved in a drive-by shooting a few days prior, the shooter told a psychologist tasked with writing an assessment report about him.

He said he was given the handgun by older gang members and told to carry it because he was the smallest of the group and perceived as weak, court heard.

He opened fire on Harper because he wanted to dodge that perception, he said. "I didn't want them to think I was a b----," said the shooter. "I didn't think he would die."

At trial late last year, court heard Harper, his girlfriend and a friend were simply sitting in a car behind 557-559 Portage Avenue when a group of youths approached the vehicle. The shooter pulled a gun and tapped on the window.

When the driver moved to escape the parking lot, the teen opened fire, hitting Harper. "I saw Trevor. It looked like he was vomiting, shaking," the driver of the vehicle testified.

They rushed to the Health Sciences Centre, where Harper was pronounced dead.

Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft urged Justice Lori Spivak to pay close attention to the circumstances of the case, notably how the gunfire broke out in broad daylight in a busy part of the city near a university, restaurants and shops.

"He shot a young man twice at close range in the head," said Vanderhooft. "It's difficult to describe an offence that would be more serious in the middle of our community."

While in custody since his arrest a few days after the murder, the shooter has continued to act up and become involved in gang-related incidents. Corrections officials have deemed him a high risk to reoffend and unsuitable for community supervision at this point.

If sentenced as an adult, he'd receive a life sentence without a chance at parole for between five to seven years (the Crown wants the maximum). As a youth, he'd serve a period of custody to be followed by community supervision, likely split four years jail and three years of supervision.

The youth term isn't nearly long enough to hold the shooter accountable for what he did, and his lack of empathy for Harper, Spivak was told.

"The inescapable conclusion here is that an adult sentence must be imposed," said Vanderhooft.

The teen's defence lawyers present their pitch for a youth sentence this afternoon.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

 

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