‘Danger to the community’: adult sentence for Canada Day 2020 murder
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A Winnipeg teen has been sentenced as an adult to life in prison for a Canada Day shooting spree that left a 27-year-old mother of four dead and three others injured.
The now-17-year-old — just 14 when he and a then-15-year-old male co-accused were arrested in July 2020 — was convicted after trial of first-degree murder in the slaying of Danielle Cote and several related offences.
The youth will be eligible for parole after serving seven years in custody, the maximum period of parole ineligibility for a youth who was 14 at the time they committed first-degree murder.
Court heard both teens had upbringings marked by poverty, neglect, substance abuse and gang involvement. The 17-year-old has also been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, youth are considered to be of “diminished moral blameworthiness,” compared to adults. To persuade a court to impose an adult sentence, prosecutors must successfully “rebut” that presumption and satisfy a judge a youth sentence is of insufficient length to hold an offender accountable.
“As awful as it is to say of a boy who was 14½ years old when he committed these crimes… based on the material before me, I find (he) is a danger to the community and high risk to reoffend, with no truly credible hope of positive change as he physically and psychologically morphs into adulthood,” King’s Bench Justice Chris Martin said Monday.
“He did not have a fair start in life; he has been dealt a terrible hand, so to speak,” Martin said. “(He) is not beyond redemption, but a youth sentence simply won’t do.”
“I find (he) is a danger to the community and high risk to reoffend, with no truly credible hope of positive change as he physically and psychologically morphs into adulthood.”–King’s Bench Justice Chris Martin
Prosecutors sought adult sentences for both co-accused.
The now-18-year-old co-accused pleaded guilty in 2021 to second-degree murder and other offences in connection to the shootings.
Martin rejected an adult sentence for the older accused and instead imposed the maximum youth sentence of seven years custody, three of which are to be served under conditional supervision in the community.
Martin said the older teen accepted responsibility for his crimes and, unlike the younger offender, has taken positive steps to rehabilitate himself while in custody and has become a role model for other youth.
“There does not appear to be any insurmountable barrier to rehabilitation through a youth sentence,” Martin said. “(His) prospects for rehabilitation are not illusory; they are realistic.”
‘Let’s go catch some bodies’
Court heard testimony at the younger teen’s trial, prior to the shootings, the two youth were at a friend’s apartment when one was overheard saying: “Let’s go catch some bodies.”
The pair’s first victim was walking on Isabel Street with an unidentified man around 2:30 a.m. July 1, 2020, when, in an exchange captured by security video, the younger boy walked up to them and pointed a sawed-off rifle at their heads.
The woman grabbed the barrel of the rifle and, during a struggle for control of the weapon, was shot in the leg. She was not seriously injured and turned down help from paramedics, who arrived moments after the shooting.
About 45 minutes later, Cote and an 18-year-old male cousin were walking on Flora Avenue on their way to a convenience store when they were confronted at gunpoint by two males demanding, “Give us your s—t.”
When Cote’s cousin didn’t respond, one of the males said: “F—k it, kill him,” he testified at trial.
“I was shot in the face” and fell face-down to the ground. The man testified he “played dead” as Cote shouted: “You shot my cousin. You killed my cousin.”
“I heard one of (the males) say: ‘We got to kill her, too.’ Then, I heard a gunshot again.”
Cote tried to run and was shot in the back of the head. She died instantly.
Prosecutors argued it was the younger teen who shot Cote and her cousin, but Martin said he was not satisfied the evidence proved who wielded the gun.
The older teen’s 2021 guilty pleas were accompanied by an agreed statement of facts that purported the younger teen shot Cote and her cousin. That evidence could not be used against the younger teen at trial.
The final victim was sitting near the outdoor stage at The Forks around midnight, when the older teen tapped the barrel of a rifle against his head. Court was told the younger teen said: “Shoot him already,” before the older teen shot the man through the left ear.
Court heard evidence the teens shot the man in retribution for him pepper spraying them outside a Kennedy Street apartment earlier in the day.
The teens were initially charged in connection with a fifth attack — a 44-year-old man had been shot before being struck by a car on Balmoral Street — but the charges were later stayed for lack of evidence.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.