The La Loche shooter will be sentenced as an adult.
That news coming down in La Loche court just before noon hour on Friday. The final decisions for sentencing will be made separately at a later court date that has not yet been decided and a publication ban will remain in place on the shooter’s identity.
The 20-year-old was almost 18 when he murdered four and tried to kill seven at a home and the high school in La Loche on Jan. 22, 2016.
Judge Janet McIvor delivered her sentencing decision in person to the shooter, with a courtroom filled with nearly 50 people. Media was locked out from the courtroom until near the end of the decision, when the RCMP allowed only one reporter into court. MBC was among the eight-plus media agencies that were unable to get into court, relying only on reports from the journalist allowed in.
The shooter himself was present in La Loche for the first time since the rampage, with his family present in court as well. He was escorted in by RCMP members carrying carbine rifles and appeared to be wearing a bulletproof vest.
In court, reporter Charles Hamilton observed the shooter only feet from the judge. McIvor told court the shooting was planned, calculated and that the shooter lacked remorse for the actions he took during the school shooting, which killed educators Adam Wood and Marie Janvier and injured seven others. He did, the judge noted, show remorse for killing teen brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine, who he murdered in a La Loche home before his rampage at the school.
Outside court, Mayor Robert St. Pierre said the reaction to the adult sentencing decision was mixed because the victims and their families were present on one side of court, and the offender’s family was on another.
“There’s two reactions. One side was disappointed, the other side was elated, I mean, because we got the sentence that we were looking for – adult – so that side a lot of the victims over there were pleased with that,”he said.
Speaking on behalf of defence, lawyer Darren Kraushaar said his client was struggling leading up to and during the court appearance.
“He was apprehensive about it, obviously he was facing the community where this happened but he was here and he did the best he could,” he said.
Crown prosecutor Pouria Tabrizi-Reardigan said he appreciated Judge McIvor’s decision, but expressed surprise about most media not being able to be in court for the decision. The adult sentence for a youth who has committed crimes of this nature is life with parole ineligibility of 10 years, meaning the offender will have to serve 10 years in prison before going up for parole.
After hearing of the judge’s decision FSIN Vice-Chief David Pratt says the entire tragedy underscores the need for better mental health supports in the north.
“If this young man had possibly the mental health supports, counselling and access to services our urban centres take for granted this whole tragedy could have been averted,” Pratt told reporters in Saskatoon. “We need funding for mental health supports in the north otherwise tragedies like suicide and what happened in La Loche will continue.”
Vice-Chief Pratt is bring several media outlets up to Hatchet Lake next week to highlight some of the struggles experienced in that community.
(With files from Joel Willick)
(PHOTO: The La Loche shooter is driven to court on Feb. 23, 2017. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski.)