Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Guilty plea in man's killing may heal family

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A broken-hearted Arborg family has a chance at some measure of closure now that a young Winnipeg man has stepped forward and admitted to killing their son and brother.

Keagan Denzel Dick, 20, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter for his role in the June 2012 death of Braden Bjornson.

Dick was one of two people arrested days after Bjornson, 20, died in hospital of head injuries he'd suffered in an attack in the 200 block of Machray Avenue in Winnipeg.

While sentencing won't take place until later this year, a brief agreed statement of facts tabled by the Crown in Court of Queen's Bench shed new light on how Bjornson died and dispelled myths that surfaced after his death was reported.

Bjornson met up with Dick, whom he knew, and another person at the Northern Hotel on Main Street around 1:48 a.m. on June 29, 2012. The trio left about 40 minutes later and walked north to a 7-Eleven at Main Street and Bannerman Avenue.

Bjornson and Dick went inside the store, and Bjornson used an ATM to withdraw $20. After leaving the store together, it appears Bjornson bought drugs from Dick and the third person, says the statement of facts.

They walked to Machray -- the time was a few minutes past 3:12 a.m. A witness reported hearing "loud yelling" and seeing Dick striking Bjornson in the face. The victim fell to the ground, striking the back of his head on the pavement.

Court heard a witness peered out a window and observed Dick and the other person looking back up. The witness said both individuals fled.

Bjornson tried to get up, stumbled and fell three times as he left the immediate area, according to the facts. It wasn't until 4:43 a.m. that a passerby found him motionless on the ground and summoned help. Bjornson's wallet and the ATM card he used at the 7-Eleven were gone.

He suffered a major head injury and died July 6, 2012 after spending a week in hospital. The official cause of death was blunt-force trauma that caused brain swelling, pathologists concluded.

The official facts make no mention of a weapon being used in the attack, as was initially reported. There is also nothing to suggest there was a dispute over a case of beer.

Bjornson's mother, Jacquie, previously told the Free Press her son had been working the late shift at a Westland Construction job site and left there shortly after midnight.

The second-youngest of four siblings, Bjornson loved playing hockey and had moved to Winnipeg from Arborg to attend university, his family said. He bought a home on Pritchard Avenue a few weeks before he died.

Despite moving away, Bjornson still visited his home town every weekend, Jacquie said.

His obituary paints a picture of a beloved and hardworking young man who thrived in the outdoors and didn't shy away from strenuous work.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 5, 2014 A9

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