Boy, 12, accused in Brandon car theft had troubled past in Winnipeg

He has been on the radar of Winnipeg police for years — and now a 12 year-old boy with a troubled past has been arrested for numerous offences in Brandon, Man.

The boy has been on police radar in Winnipeg since he was 5

Tenants in a Brandon building hit by a bus were forced to leave overnight Friday for safety concerns, police said. (Liam Pattison)

A 12-year-old boy facing criminal charges in Brandon, Man., has been on the radar of Winnipeg police since he was five, reportedly connected to a number of criminal acts including theft, arson and even a stabbing. 

According to police, a 2011 Lincoln MKS was stolen from a home Fourth Street Friday afternoon. A short time later, police say the 12-year-old driver of the sedan sped through a red light at the corner of Princess Avenue and 10th Street, colliding with a northbound transit bus which then crashed into a building.
Police say the 12-year-old driver of this blue sedan struck a transit bus, which then crashed into a building in Brandon on Friday. (Liam Pattison)

The boy can't be identified because he's a minor.

Building significantly damaged 

Phil Dorn is the owner of Samson Engineering, a firm in the building hit by the bus. He said his building was significantly damaged in the crash. 

The business was empty at the time as the firm closes early on Fridays. He got a call from 911 dispatchers. 

"Well, this probably isn't good," he said was his reaction upon listening to a message left on his phone. 

Phil Dorn, owner of Samson Engineering, wasn't at work at the time of the crash. One of the building's support beams was hit by the bus. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Dorn said the impact of the bus compromised one of the building's concrete support columns. Two offices, including his own, were littered with debris. Support beams were installed to shore up the building shortly afterwards.

Dorn said if he had been in his office at the time, he could've been badly injured.

"If I [had been in the office and] didn't hear anything, what would have happened is I would have been impacted quite substantially by brick and debris," said Dorn.

He said the shockwave travelled though the building and was felt by staff working in a bank across the street. He said residents in an upper-floor apartment were temporarily forced out due to fears the second floor could collapse, but they've since been allowed to return. 

Plywood covers a hole in the offices of Samson Engineering in Brandon where a bus hit the building on Friday afternoon. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

It's the second time in a year his building has taken a hit. Last December, he said a car hit and damaged the front of the building. 

"Our joke is in the office that we don't work Friday afternoons … in anticipation of events like this," said Dorn.  

Bystanders chase suspect 

Dennis Pozo arrived at the scene moments after the crash happened. He was on his way home when he came across the scene.

"All I saw was the kid taking off," said Pozo, who was faced with a decision: either help the passengers in the bus or chase the suspect.

Adrenaline rushing, Pozo said he and another bystander chased the boy and caught him a few blocks away.

"I was like wow … I just couldn't believe it," said Pozo. "Especially when I saw the kid … I was so shocked."

The boy has been charged with vehicle theft and a number of highway offences. 

Police contact since 5 years old 

Winnipeg police have kept close tabs on the boy for most of his life but, until now, he couldn't be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and, because of the laws in Manitoba, he couldn't be detained in a secure facility to get help.
Insp. Kelly Dennison told CBC News in August 2016 the Winnipeg Police Service has had contact with the boy since he was five years old. (CBC)

Winnipeg police Insp. Kelly Dennison told CBC News in August 2016 that the force's specialized investigations division has had contact with the boy since he was five years old.

"There's no secret, this young person has been involved in criminal activity, from minor criminal activity to some very serious offences that have involved other people being very seriously injured," Insp. Dennison said.

The boy's parents have faced various charges over the years and have spent time behind bars.

At the time Billie Schibler, CEO of the Métis Child and Family Services Authority, told CBC News her agency planned to move the boy, who had been in the organization's care, into a placement with more "intense therapeutic services."

It's not clear if that placement was located in Brandon, although police described the accused as a Brandon resident in a news release on Saturday.

Schibler wouldn't update CBC News on the boy's case or status when reached by phone on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Manitoba Families Minister Scott Fielding said she would look into the case.

Last year, the minister said the province wasn't looking at developing any new policies, such as creating a secure facility to detain children under 12 so they could get help, in response to the boy's story.

"We're obviously going to work with the authorities, we're going to work with all the partnership agencies that are involved in this," he said at the time.
A 12-year-old boy facing criminal charges in Brandon, Man., has been on the radar of Winnipeg police since he was five, reportedly connected to a number of criminal acts including theft, arson and even a stabbing. 1:28

With files from CBC's Caroline Barghout