Travis Baumgartner pleads guilty in deadly Edmonton shootings
Sentence to be handed down on Wednesday
Travis Baumgartner, the man accused of shooting dead three armed guards at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, pleaded guilty to three murders Monday.
Baumgartner, 22, was charged in the June 2012 robbery and fatal shooting of Michelle Shegelski, 26, Eddie Rejano, 39, and Brian Ilesic, 35, at HUB Mall, a student residence and indoor food court.
Wearing a black suit jacket, white shirt and no tie, Baumgartner looked pale but calm as he stood in the prisoner's box.
Baumgartner pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the deaths of Shegelski and Ilesic, and to first-degree murder in the death of Rejano.
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A fourth guard, Matthew Schuman, was critically injured in the shooting but has recovered. Baumgartner also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Schuman.
Speaking to a packed courtroom, Associate Chief Justice John Rooke called it "a very emotional case for those who have lost family and friends."
Statement of facts reveals shocking details
According to a 15-page agreed statement of facts read in court, Baumgartner had a string of money problems leading up to the shooting.
At the time of the shooting, he had 26 cents in his bank account and owed $58,000.
On the night of the crime, Baumgartner fought about rent money with his mother, Sandra, whom he lived with in Sherwood Park, just east of Edmonton.
According to the agreed statement of facts, Baumgartner told her, "It doesn't even matter. I'm not coming home so don't worry about it. You'll get your money."
Later that night, Baumgartner reported for work as usual and was assigned to a routine circuit to replenish ATMs across the city.
Throughout the early part of his shift, Baumgartner was text messaging with a friend from junior high, joking about robbing G4S — something he had joked about before.
At one point, Baumgartner texted something along the line of "this is the night." His friend, however, was used to Baumgartner’s joking on the subject and did not react.
Shooting at HUB Mall
The five G4S members arrived at HUB Mall just after midnight on June 15, 2012. Baumgartner, Shegelski, Ilesic and Schuman went into the mall, entering a secured vestibule behind a bank of TD ATMs.
As Ilesic and Schuman crouched to refill the machine, with Shegelski looking on, Baumgartner removed his G4S-issued .38-calibre revolver and began shooting.
All three victims were shot at point-blank range.
After firing all six bullets from his gun, Baumgartner left the vestibule, locking the three victims inside.
He then reloaded his gun in the mall stairwell before going back outside. Baumgartner approached the armoured car where Rejano was waiting for his colleagues and shot him three times in the head.
Leaving Rejano lying on the pavement, Baumgartner got in the driver’s seat and drove away.
Surviving guard found
Several people called 911 in the minutes after Baumgartner’s departure, many reporting the sound of gunshots.
Two members of the university’s campus safewalk program entered HUB Mall after hearing a "thud" from inside the building.
Tracing the sound to the TD ATM vestibule, the two volunteers saw blood coming from underneath the door and could hear Schuman’s cries for help.
One of the volunteers then left to lead responding police to the scene.
Because the locked door to the vestibule opened outward, it was impossible for police to batter it down quickly.
As one officer ran to his car for more tools, a second stayed by the door and tried to talk to Schuman, who continued to yell "help me."
Using a pickaxe, battering ram, sledge hammer and bolt cutters, seven officers eventually managed to pry open the door and enter the vestibule.
There, they found the bodies of Shegelski and Ilesic alongside Schuman, who had been shot in the head but was still conscious and speaking.
Because of Schuman’s profound injuries, paramedics were not able to take him down the nearest stairway.
Instead, they had to carry him the full length of HUB Mall to another exit — a distance equalling about four city blocks — all the while not knowing where the shooter was.
As emergency crews were working to save Schuman’s life, Baumgartner drove the stolen armoured car back to the G4S worksite where he parked next to his own truck.
Security cameras at the site recorded him unloading three packages of cash from the vehicle into his own truck.
He then left the rest of the cash in the armoured car and drove away.
Before leaving the city, Baumgartner stopped at the homes of two friends in Sherwood Park, leaving them money.
He then returned to his mother’s house where he changed his clothes and left a pile of cash on the kitchen table.
Baumgartner then swapped his licence plate for one from his mother’s vehicle and drove away, heading west.
Somewhere near Banff, Alta., Baumgartner discarded his G4S gun and security vest in a river.
Baumgartner was arrested days later when he tried to cross the border station at the Port of Lyndon near Langley, B.C.
The "armed and dangerous" alert sounded from the licence plate reader as he approached the customs booth, prompting U.S. authorities to move in and arrest him.
At the time, Baumgartner had $333,580 in cash in his truck and no passport.
Victims’ families speak out
In court Monday, families of the three slain guards read victim impact statements to the court. Many were speaking directly to Baumgartner for the first time.
"I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe," said Cheryl Ernst, describing the pain at finding out her daughter was dead.
"Our life has been shattered. Our life is missing its biggest piece. We'll never get it back," said Rejano's widow, Cleo Rejano, as one of her young sons sat in her lap with a pink tissue, wiping away tears.
In their joint statement, Mike and Dianne Ilesic said "Brian is dead. You are not. You chose to commit your crime. Brian did not have a choice to defend his life. You took that opportunity away from him. You took away his chance to live his life with family and friends."
"Our prayer to you is that you may know the true consequences of your actions."
Schuman, the survivor, also submitted a statement, which was read aloud by the Crown prosecutor.
"I don't feel lucky I lived and they all died," he said, describing the impact the shooting has had on him.
"You took my career, my relationship, my health, my future," wrote Schuman, who has moved and was not present in court.
"This is not a life I ever would have imagined, or wished on anyone," he wrote. "And now it is mine to deal with, thanks to you."
Baumgartner sat with arms crossed, face pale and expressionless as he listened.
When asked by the judge if he wanted to say anything he answered, "not at this point in time, my lord, no."
Calling Baumgartner’s actions "a treacherous betrayal of trust," the Crown submitted a joint request with the defence that Baumgartner be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years.
If that sentence is approved, it would set a precedent under legislation approved in 2011 preventing sentence discounts for multiple murders, and would be the harshest sentence in Canada since Arthur Lucas was executed in 1962.
If Rooke agrees, Baumgartner would not face a parole board until 2052.
Baumgartner’s sentence will be announced Wednesday morning.
Last month, Baumgartner's lawyer requested that the trial be switched from jury to judge alone, a request the Crown agreed to.
In reaction to the legal move, Schuman, in an email to CBC News, called Baumgartner's decision not to be tried by a jury "a coward's way out. Just like when he shot us [from behind]."
The trial was originally anticipated to last three weeks, and was further shortened to one week after discussions between the Crown and defence lawyers.
Baumgartner was originally charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.