November 22, 2017

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Man pleads not guilty in shooting

Gun believed stolen from home of RCMP officer during son's party, court told

Gordon Sinclair Jr. / Winnipeg Free Press Files</p><p>Calli Vanderaa, right, the 16-year-old high school girl shot late last month with a stolen RCMP handgun, smiles at her father during a visit at her HSC hospital room in 2015. </p>

Gordon Sinclair Jr. / Winnipeg Free Press Files

Calli Vanderaa, right, the 16-year-old high school girl shot late last month with a stolen RCMP handgun, smiles at her father during a visit at her HSC hospital room in 2015.

The teenage son of a police officer whose service weapon was stolen and later used in a Winnipeg parking lot shooting told court his parents didn’t know he was having a party where the alleged shooter was an invited guest.

Connor McCuen, 18, was only 16 when he invited some high school friends over to party in his parents’ garage on the night of Oct. 23, 2015. It was a birthday party for a friend, who in turn brought along friends of his own: among them were two men who would later be charged in a shooting that seriously injured a 16-year-old girl.

Matthew Wilfred McKay is charged with attempted murder and several weapons offences in connection with the shooting that sent Calli Vanderaa to hospital and prompted a police investigation about how the RCMP gun was taken from its rightful owner.

He pleaded not guilty and his Court of Queen’s Bench trial began Tuesday in front of Justice Sheldon Lanchbery.

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The teenage son of a police officer whose service weapon was stolen and later used in a Winnipeg parking lot shooting told court his parents didn’t know he was having a party where the alleged shooter was an invited guest.

Connor McCuen, 18, was only 16 when he invited some high school friends over to party in his parents’ garage on the night of Oct. 23, 2015. It was a birthday party for a friend, who in turn brought along friends of his own: among them were two men who would later be charged in a shooting that seriously injured a 16-year-old girl.

Matthew Wilfred McKay is charged with attempted murder and several weapons offences in connection with the shooting that sent Calli Vanderaa to hospital and prompted a police investigation about how the RCMP gun was taken from its rightful owner.

He pleaded not guilty and his Court of Queen’s Bench trial began Tuesday in front of Justice Sheldon Lanchbery.

The judge heard McKay attended a party in the RCMP officer’s detached garage in the hours before the shooting. McCuen testified he didn’t have permission to throw a party that night. He said he got so drunk he passed out and didn’t see anyone going into his father’s police truck, which was parked on a fenced-in area between the garage and the back lane.

Another party guest, who was a 16-year-old high school student at the time, testified she saw McKay and a co-accused jump the fence and start going through the truck.

They took out a laptop, binder, backpack, camera and service belt with a gun, Yvette Swain said.

"I told them to put it back," she testified.

She said she saw them leave the laptop and binder behind and ride away on bicycles with the rest of the stolen goods.

Under cross-examination questioning from defence lawyer Todd Bourcier, Swain admitted she hadn’t actually seen a gun. She later clarified she had only "seen him put something in his shirt" and guessed it was a handgun. The gun belt fell away as the two men fled, she said.

McCuen testified mountain bikes belonging to him and his father were missing from the garage the next day.

After she heard about the shooting via a Facebook post, Swain said she thought of McKay leaving with the gun shortly before the incident happened. She said she looked up his profile on the social media site and sent his photo to the post’s author.

"I asked her if that was him," she said, in response to questions from Crown attorney Manoja Moorthy. "She said yes."

The shooting happened in a Mac’s Convenience Store parking lot on Autumnwood Drive around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 24, 2015, with a single bullet striking 16-year-old Vanderaa, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of a parked car.

In the driver’s seat of the car was Farhan Khokhar, who said he saw a man approach his car and knock on the passenger window. Before he could drive away, Khokhar said the man fired a gun through the window.

At first, Khokhar said he didn’t realize what was happening.

"Before I could pull off, a gunshot went off," he testified. "In movies, it sounds a lot different and then it didn’t sound like that, so I was like, ‘Was that a real gun?’"

Khokhar said he drove to a nearby community club and waited for an ambulance and police to arrive.

He said he’d never met most of the passengers in his car, including the victim, before that night. He’d been invited out by a mutual friend, who he said noticed two men staring at them while they were parked at Mac’s.

The friend, who Khokhar described as "intoxicated," shouted from inside the vehicle. He said something like, "What are you guys looking at?"

Khokhar testified the windows were up and he didn’t think the men could have heard. But one of them came right up to the car, swaying a bit and knocked on the window, he said. "They were a little bit loopy."

He said he saw one of them reach into his waistband and that’s when the shot was fired.

The judge-alone trial is set to last three weeks.

katie.may@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @thatkatiemay

Read more by Katie May.

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Updated on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 at 7:22 AM CST: Edited

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