Nova Scotia

Victim in nail gun shooting tells Pictou court 'I knew it wasn't a safe place to be'

A black construction worker in Pictou County who says he faced racial comments on the job testified Tuesday at the trial of a man accused of shooting him in the back with a nail gun. Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with a weapon and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Shawn Wade Hynes has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with a weapon, criminal negligence

Shawn Wade Hynes follows lawyer Andrew O'Blenis into court. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

A black construction worker in Pictou County who says he faced racial comments on the job testified Tuesday at the trial of a man accused of shooting him in the back with a nail gun.

Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with a weapon and criminal negligence causing bodily harm. The charges relate to an incident on Sept. 19, 2018 at a work site in Abercrombie, N.S.

The first witness at the trial in Pictou provincial court was 22-year-old Nhlanhla Dlamini, who told court how he studied carpentry at NSCC and in the summer of 2018 started working as an apprentice carpenter at P.Q. Properties for owner Paul Quinn.

Dlamini, the only black worker on the crew, said he got along with the other workers on the job.

He said he avoided Shawn Hynes after an early conversation he characterized as "weird." Dlamini said Hynes told him while smiling that he "hated everyone equally."

He told court the crew nicknamed him Squiggy. In a past interview with CBC, Dlamini said he was called "Squigger", which he came to learn was a racial slur.

Practical joke

Dlamini also told court about an incident where he took off his jacket to work.

When he came back to get it, the rest of the crew was "laughing and giggling" about a practical joke. When he tried to pick up his jacket, he discovered someone had nailed it to a board.

He said the jacket incident happened earlier on the day the nail gun shooting occurred.

The day of the incident, Dlamini was responsible for putting up staging that Hynes was using to finish putting the top plate on the framed walls of the house.

Dlamini said Hynes was standing on the platform, roughly five feet in the air.

Dlamini told court he was joking around when he said to Hynes, "You ain't done with that yet?" and Hynes responded, "You're not much faster."

Dlamini said the two men locked eyes and then he saw the safety was pulled back on the nailer in Hynes's hand and it was pointing toward him. 

"I knew it wasn't a safe place to be, so I just started running," Dlamini told the court.

Heard the air from the gun

He said he ran toward a shipping container where the staging was stored, but didn't get very far when he heard the air from the gun and got hit in the back with a 3.5-inch framing nail.

Dlamini said Hynes came over, pulled the nail out of his body, and said, "I didn't think I would get you man, I'm sorry." 

Nhlanhla Dlamini says he was intentionally shot with a nail gun by a co-worker on a work site on Sept. 19, 2018. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Under cross-examination, Dlamini agreed with a defence suggestion that it is difficult to remember exact details of what happened one year later, and that he was not facing Hynes when the nail was fired.

Quinn testified to what he saw on the day of the incident and to the safety functions on a nail gun. He was on site, but did not see the incident happen.

Under cross-examination, he said that there is a risk if someone used their fingers to pull back the safety mechanism on a nail gun. It would hurt the fingers.

More than a dozen supporters in court for victim

He said he has never seen anyone on his crew pull back the safety mechanism, or witnessed Hynes engage in unsafe work practices.

More than a dozen supporters of Dlamini were in court Tuesday. They have said for months the incident was motivated by race, and have held several rallies over the last year calling for more serious charges against Hynes.

In a process that's separate from the criminal trial, Dlamini reached a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission settlement with P.Q. Properties and Quinn over racial discrimination in the workplace.

At the start of trial Crown attorney Bill Gorman told Judge Del Atwood he intended to call 13 witnesses. Defence lawyer Andrew O'Blenis intends to call two witnesses, including the accused. 

The trial continues Wednesday.

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