The man who took nine people hostage at the Workers' Compensation Board building in Edmonton two years ago entered a surprise plea of guilty Monday just as his trial got underway.
Patrick Clayton, 40, faced nine counts of unlawful confinement, six counts of pointing a firearm and charges of possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to the public, careless use and storage of a firearm and use of a firearm during the commission of an offence.
Clayton wept quietly in the prisoner's box after pleading guilty in a low voice to three of 18 charges — pointing a firearm, possession of a weapon, and taking a hostage. The Crown will not proceed with the other 15 charges.
Clayton's lawyer told the judge the decision to plead guilty was a recent development.
Outside court, prosecutor Lisa Tchir told reporters the plea comes as a relief for the victims.
"I feel better for the hostages that they don't have to relive it by testifying," she said. "So having a conclusion today is very satisfying."
However they will deliver their victim impact statements next week at a four-day sentencing hearing beginning Tuesday.
Clayton will also take the stand at the hearing. The charges carry the possibility of life in prison.
It's the second time Clayton surprised the court at the beginning of a trial.
Clayton's trial was originally set to begin Jan. 10, 2011, when moments into the scheduled five-week trial, he changed his mind about representing himself.
Fired shot at security guard
According to the agreed statement of facts, Clayton entered the WCB building at 107th Street and 99th Avenue with a rifle around 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2009.
Dramatic surveillance video released to the media on Monday shows Clayton entering the building and pointing a rifle at a security guard.
According to the statement of facts, Clayton then yelled, "Lock this place down."
The guard ducked below his desk and said, "Please don't shoot, just take it easy buddy". Clayton fired in his direction as he ran away, but no one was hit.
Clayton then collected hostages, forcing people to join him as he made his way to a conference room on the 8th floor, the court document says.
All but one were WCB employees. Randy Morrow, a WCB claimant who had a medical appointment that morning, was the last hostage released by Clayton 10 hours later.
When he entered the conference room, Clayton locked the door and told his hostages to make themselves comfortable, "because we are going to be here awhile."
After telling them he wasn't planning on hurting anyone, Clayton pulled ammunition, red tie-down straps, balls of yellow twine and a knife out of a backpack.
He told the hostages to tie themselves together. They had difficulty doing so and eventually most of them were able to free themselves from their ties. Clayton didn't seem to notice, the court document said.
Clayton spent much of his time speaking on the phone to a police negotiator. Clayton and two of his hostages also spoke to the CBC that day. The CBC told police about the calls and the broadcaster did not air any of the conversations until the hostage-taking was over.
According to the agreed statement of facts, the hostages reported afterwards that Clayton became emotional at a number of points throughout the day:
- "Clayton's moods were up and down but he was not mad at anyone in the room. The hostages didn't trust what he would do when he got angry. He was unstable."
- "Clayton cried every time he mentioned his son. He said he was separated from his son and estranged from his son's mother."
- "Clayton was mad at his doctor who he claimed wrecked his knee and the case worker that he claimed barely gave him enough money to live."
- "Clayton kept calling this 'his last stand'. The hostages feared that Clayton was going to kill himself and that everyone was going to witness it."
The agreed statement of facts also reveals that Clayton told the hostages he went to the WCB with a gun in his bag two days earlier.
He left after a security guard told him the building would soon be closing for the day. He told the hostages that he also lacked the courage to carry out his plan that day.
The hostages were released over the course of the day. Morrow, the final hostage, was released at 6:10 p.m.
None of them suffered physical injuries.