Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Teen gangster gets life in prison for fatal shooting of stranger

Adult sentence needed in 'brazen' case: judge

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A teenage gang member has been sentenced to life in prison for the unprovoked shooting death of a young man who was sitting in a car behind a Portage Avenue store.

"This was a brazen act by a young person entrenched in gang culture that strikes at the core of society's sense of security," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lori Spivak said Wednesday.

Although Spivak sentenced the teen as an adult for the slaying of Trevor Harper on April 29, 2011, his name cannot be published until a 30-day appeal window has ended.

Harper, 20, died after being shot in the head while sitting in a friend's car behind a cellphone store at 559 Portage Ave.

The shooter, then 15, was with other Mad Cowz gang members and had been playing basketball at a nearby community centre.

'I think it's significant that this crime was not an impulsive act'

They were walking to a restaurant when they mistook Harper for a rival gangster they believed was involved in a drive-by shooting days earlier.

The shooter tapped on the car window with a handgun.

He fired two rounds towards Harper after the driver tried to peel out and escape.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder late last year after prosecutors presented their case against him at a jury trial.

Spivak condemned the "high degree of violence" the teen was willing to indulge in, in a populated neighbourhood in broad daylight.

He was out of custody and subject to two supervised probation orders at the time.

The life sentence Spivak imposed comes with a condition he cannot apply for parole until six years have passed since the date of his arrest on May 4, 2011.

This means he could be eligible to ask to reclaim his freedom in May 2017.

Harper was weeks away from the birth of his only child. His girlfriend was in the back seat of the vehicle. She witnessed the shooting and was in the car during the panicked drive to the hospital in an effort to save his life.

Defence lawyers Scott Paler and Sandra Bracken fought against the Crown's bid for an adult sentence, arguing the killer's mental limitations and troubled upbringing made him less culpable for his actions than an adult offender.

Spivak disagreed, saying the circumstances of Harper's killing proved otherwise.

"I think it's significant that this crime was not an impulsive act," she said.

"The planning involved and the deliberate acts reflect adult qualities. The crime followed a discussion amongst gang members to commit a retaliatory shooting," said Spivak.

A life sentence means the shooter will be subject to supervision by federal corrections officials for the rest of his life, in or out of custody.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2014 B3

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