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Danielle Cote might still be alive had prosecutors won a recent fight to keep one of her accused killers in custody.
According to sources, a 14-year-old boy arrested in a Canada Day shooting spree that resulted in the 27-year-old woman's death (Winnipeg’s 20th homicide of the year) and injuries to several others had, just weeks earlier, been sentenced to time served for robbery.
A source told the Free Press the Crown had recommended the judge sentence the teen to additional time, that would have held him in custody beyond July 1.
Access to the audio record of the sentencing hearing is restricted, as it involves a young offender.
A 15-year-old co-accused in the shooting spree was, at the time, on bail for his alleged involvement in an April 8 liquor store robbery that ended in the shooting death by police of 16-year-old Eisha Hudson, sources have confirmed.
Hudson was behind the wheel of a stolen SUV when police fired at the vehicle at the intersection of Lagimodiere Boulevard and Fermor Avenue. The 15-year-old boy, who sources say has had extensive contact with police, was reportedly among several teen passengers in the vehicle.
The teen's release on bail five days later was opposed by the Crown. As with his co-accused, details of the bail hearing cannot be disclosed due to a publication ban.
At the time of his release, new youth arrestees were being detained at the Winnipeg Remand Centre for quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The province later reversed the move, after defence lawyers raised concerns about housing youth in an adult facility.
The 15-year-old co-accused’s release is another example of a justice system that doesn’t know how to deal with youth offenders, said one advocate.
"The kid was obviously in a whole lot of trouble for a long time, and our systems just don’t seem to be adequately prepared to deal with kids like that," Karen Wiebe, executive director of the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance, said Thursday.
"In a lot of respects, I have to say, I don’t feel this case is a whole lot different than an adult case, where an offender has habitually been in trouble and been released and then commits a murder or some other terrible crime," Wiebe said. "We need to have ways to deal with that appropriately so that they don’t hurt other people.
"The kid was obviously in a whole lot of trouble for a long time, and our systems just don’t seem to be adequately prepared to deal with kids like that." – Karen Wiebe, executive director of the Manitoba Organization for Victim Assistance
"Our justice system is falling down... because they don’t know what to do with these kids."
The two accused teens are charged with first-degree murder in Cote’s death, and attempted murder and aggravated assault in connection to shootings July 1-2 that injured three people.
Prosecutors have indicated they will be seeking adult sentences, if convicted. The mandatory adult sentence for offenders under 16 is life in prison with no chance of parole for five to seven years.
City police have said they don’t believe the co-accused knew Cote nor the other shooting victims.
Police have said the first incident occurred at approximately 2:30 a.m. July 1, when an injured 44-year-old man was found on Balmoral Street, after he had been struck by a vehicle. Police later learned the man had been shot prior to being hit by the car.
Less than an hour later, a 17-year-old girl and a male were shot at on the 100 block of Isabel Street. The pair were not injured and did not initially report the shooting, police said. The 14-year-old accused is the lone suspect in that incident.
At 3:15 a.m., Cote and a 18-year-old male cousin were shot while walking on the 400 block of Flora Avenue. Cote died at the scene; her cousin was treated for injuries in hospital.
On July 2, at approximately 12:30 a.m., a 40-year-old man was shot at The Forks and another man was stabbed.
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.
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