Edmonton youth pleads guilty to stabbing bus driver

A 15-year-old boy who repeatedly stabbed a bus driver has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and possession of a concealed weapon.

Boy, 15, repeatedly stabbed ETS bus driver at Mill Woods transit centre in September

A 15-year-old boy was arrested after a 65-year-old bus driver was stabbed more than a dozen times in September at the Mill Woods Transit Centre. (David Bajer/CBC)

A 15-year-old boy who repeatedly stabbed a bus driver in September has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and possession of a concealed weapon.

The boy's face brightened momentarily as he entered the courtroom Monday and waved at his grandfather in the gallery before slumping in the prisoner's box, flanked by two sheriffs.

The 65-year-old victim, who was briefly hospitalized following the attack, was also in the courtroom with his daughter.

The boy can't be identified due to his age. CBC News is referring to the youth by the initials, J.S.

Details of the incident are laid out in an agreed statement of facts obtained by CBC.

At 3:15 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 26, the teen jumped in front of a bus at 86th Street and Roper Road, forcing the driver to stop abruptly.

J.S. banged on the door and boarded the bus. At Mill Woods Transit Centre, two passengers disembarked and J.S. asked to be taken to his grandfather's house. But his behaviour changed when the driver called the control centre to arrange transportation.

Stabbed multiple times

The boy pulled out a knife and demanded to be taken home.

"The accused began to stab [the driver] multiple times as he was stuck in the driver's seat unable to disengage his seat belt," states the agreed statement of facts.

"[The driver] kicked the accused in the chest and he fell out of the front entry door of the bus."

The teen recovered his footing and resumed stabbing the man, who used his forearms to protect his head.

When the driver finally broke free and tried to flee, J.S. directed him to get off the bus. The driver locked himself in a bathroom and called for help.

The teen then tried to drive the bus but could only move it a few feet. He was arrested by patrol officers at 3:47 a.m. without incident.

On Monday, J.S. also pleaded guilty to charges in five separate incidents between March 2017 and his arrest last September. The details are contained in the statement of facts.

In March 2017, he threatened to kill a student and made threats against her school. He sent her a photo of a loaded rifle and another one of a male pointing what appeared to be a double-barrelled shotgun at the camera.

I'm going to see myself up on the news I'm closing their eyes forever.- J.S. wrote a threatening message to a girl in March 2017

"U make me so mad she dead," J.S. wrote to the girl in a Facebook message.

"I'm going to see myself up on the news I'm closing their eyes forever look how nice I was and they go shady I can't hang that's no real friends." 

In May of 2018, high on drugs, unprovoked and yelling, the teen came at two men with a screwdriver. J.S. attempted to stab a bystander who intervened and bit his neck.

J.S. also racked up charges in the days leading up to the attack on the bus driver.

J.S. threw rocks, broke a neighbour's window and attempted to climb onto the balcony. He also attacked his uncle with bear spray. 

Violent past

After the stabbing, CBC News spoke to the boy's family members who said they had warned authorities that J.S. was a danger to himself and others.

Family members said J.S. grew up exposed to violence and the intergenerational trauma of residential school. He spent time in foster care. By the time he was 13, he was using crystal meth.

His grandfather said he had long-tried but failed to access adequate help for the boy from Children's Services.

Shortly after the family spoke out, the province launched a review of the case.

The case prompted another family to speak out about their own failed attempts to get sufficient support for a 16-year-old Edmonton gang member who has taken a gun to school and on public transit.

At the time, the province said it was developing an action plan to improve the child intervention system, including potential changes to legislation that would improve services provided in secure settings.

On Monday, the court ordered psychological and risk assessments as well as a Gladue report for J.S.'s sentencing in March. Gladue reports provide the court with the personal background of an Indigenous offender in areas such as substance abuse, poverty and experience in residential schools or the child welfare system.

"If he has underlying issues — which I don't what they are, the courts won't release that to me — is he capable of making these decisions on his own?," asked his grandfather, who said he wasn't consulted on J.S.'s plea, outside court.

"It was hard because he didn't look too happy ... What can I say?  I can't even go over there and just give him a big hug, which sometimes they need."  

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar

Clarifications

  • The youth's initials have been changed to further protect his identity.
    Jan 22, 2019 2:51 PM MT

About the Author

Andrea Huncar

Reporter

Andrea Huncar reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous issues, youth at-risk, the justice system and extremism. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca