October 18, 2017

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Violent 12-year-old Winnipeg boy with long rap sheet finally in custody

A stolen car crashed into a bus and forcing it to smash into the front of a business shortly before 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A 12-year-old Winnipeg boy has been charged.

CHARLES TWEED/THE BRANDON SUN

A stolen car crashed into a bus and forcing it to smash into the front of a business shortly before 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A 12-year-old Winnipeg boy has been charged.

A deeply troubled Winnipeg boy who has given justice officials fits for several years is now in custody and facing a string of criminal charges for the first time.

Police in Brandon allege that the 12-year-old stole a 2011 Lincoln MKS from a home last Friday afternoon, then went on a so-called joyride that ended when he hit a transit bus, sending it into a building.

There was significant damage but no serious injuries. A witness chased down the young driver after he tried to flee, and held him for officers.

The Free Press has chronicled the boy’s story for several years. He’s been a frequent runaway and ward of Child and Family Services, who has been involved in numerous criminal incidents, including an arson, car thefts, possession of drugs and weapons, robberies, assaults, uttering death threats and a near-fatal stabbing. In each case, he couldn’t be charged because the Youth Criminal Justice Act doesn’t apply to children under 12.

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A deeply troubled Winnipeg boy who has given justice officials fits for several years is now in custody and facing a string of criminal charges for the first time.

Police in Brandon allege that the 12-year-old stole a 2011 Lincoln MKS from a home last Friday afternoon, then went on a so-called joyride that ended when he hit a transit bus, sending it into a building.

A  2011 Lincoln MKS came to a rest at the intersection of 10th Street and Princess Avenue in Brandon after crashing into a bus and forcing it to smash into the front of a business shortly before 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A 12-year-old Winnipeg boy has been charged.

A 2011 Lincoln MKS came to a rest at the intersection of 10th Street and Princess Avenue in Brandon after crashing into a bus and forcing it to smash into the front of a business shortly before 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon. A 12-year-old Winnipeg boy has been charged.

There was significant damage but no serious injuries. A witness chased down the young driver after he tried to flee, and held him for officers.

The Free Press has chronicled the boy’s story for several years. He’s been a frequent runaway and ward of Child and Family Services, who has been involved in numerous criminal incidents, including an arson, car thefts, possession of drugs and weapons, robberies, assaults, uttering death threats and a near-fatal stabbing. In each case, he couldn’t be charged because the Youth Criminal Justice Act doesn’t apply to children under 12.

That changed after his milestone birthday took place a few weeks ago, meaning he’s no longer untouchable.

"They should have left me and the boys alone. Now look at where we are," the accused’s grandfather told the Free Press on Thursday, The man, who can’t be named to protect the identity of the young offender, has been his primary caregiver since he was three days old.

Boy has been in a locked treatment facility

His grandson has been in Brandon for more than year, placed by CFS in a locked treatment facility that specializes in at-risk youth. It’s the first time such an intervention has occurred. The hope was to try to steer him towards a better life.

"It’s certainly a start. They’ve got him on the starting line, but he’s got a couple of marathons to go," Dr. Fred Shane, a criminal psychiatrist who has provided expert testimony at dozens of trials across Canada, said shortly after the move was made.

He said there was no quick fix for the "deeply, profoundly troubled little boy" who he fears could go the "Charles Manson way," if something doesn’t change.

The grandfather said Thursday he believes the situation has only gotten worse. He’s allowed monthly supervised visitation but said he had grown increasingly concerned about where things were headed, saying CFS should have just left his family alone.

'You’re going to end up dead or you’re going to end up in jail'

It’s unclear how he came to be on his own last week to the point where he could steal a vehicle. But it’s certainly an alarming development.

The grandfather said he’s tried putting fear into the boy — relating his own lengthy history with the criminal justice system. He was involved in a deadly stabbing in the 1970s and ended up doing 12 years in prison for manslaughter. He’s been in and out of custody many times since then, most recently in 2009 — when his grandson was five years old — following a domestic incident with his estranged wife, the boy’s grandmother.

"I tried talking to him, telling him you can’t be doing this. Only two things are going to happen if you carry on this type of life — you’re going to end up dead or you’re going to end up in jail," he told the Free Press in an extensive interview last fall.

For now, it’s jail. The boy is being held in custody on several charges, including theft over $5,000 and dangerous driving.

Neither of the boy’s biological parents has played much of a role in his life, the grandfather says. His son — the boy’s father — has been linked in court to Winnipeg’s gang and drug trade and survived a shooting in which a friend was killed.

Unique case

The boy’s mother currently faces a long list of charges related to the sex trade, along with drug and weapons offences. She gave permission for the grandparents to care for her son days after he was born. The grandparents had taken in the boy’s older brother just after he was born two years earlier.

Both are in CFS care.

The boy’s alarming history became an issue at the provincial legislature last year. Manitoba Families Minister Scott Fielding said in August 2016 the government was looking at solutions.

"We’re obviously going to work with the authorities. We need to develop a plan for this individual," he said at the time.

The boy had a mental-health assessment done and was assessed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which makes successful treatment difficult. The Free Press has spoken with several local experts in criminal justice and forensic psychology. All agree the case is unique and alarming.

"This is something that should scare the hell out of society," Steven Kohm, head of the criminal justice department at the University of Winnipeg, said last year.

"It’s almost like this is a worst-case scenario, a culmination of all the fears surrounding the child-welfare system and these lost kids. It seems everything has failed."

The grandfather believes the future can be salvaged. He wants to move out of Manitoba and get a fresh start in another province should he ever regain custody from CFS, which has a temporary guardianship order.

Any custody battle will take a backseat to the court battle that looms following the bus incident in Brandon.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Read more by Mike McIntyre.

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