Nova Scotia

Nail gun shooting was an accident, defence witness testifies

The trial continues for Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton, N.S., who is accused of shooting a young carpenter with a nail gun on a worksite

P.Q. Properties employee Dan Clark says incident happened after nail ricocheted

Shawn Wade Hynes follows his lawyer, Andrew O'Blenis, at Pictou provincial court on Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

A defence witness testified Wednesday that an incident in which a young carpenter was shot by a nail gun on a worksite was an accident.

Shawn Wade Hynes of Trenton, N.S., 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.

On Tuesday, 22-year-old Nhlanhla Dlamini told the court that he was shot while running away from Hynes, who was allegedly pointing a nail gun at him with the safety off.

At the time, Dlamini was working as an apprentice carpenter at P.Q. Properties for owner Paul Quinn.

On Wednesday, defence witness Dan Clark, an employee of P.Q. Properties, said the incident was an accident caused by a ricocheting nail.

At the time of the incident, Clark said Hynes was working to his left, about a metre away. He said the staging they were working on was about three metres long and 1.5 metres high. 

Witness Dan Clark said the shooting incident was an accident caused by a ricocheting nail. (Robert Short/CBC)

Clark said he was holding plate boards into position while Hynes shot the nails in. 

He testified that as they worked, he saw a splinter "shoot off," which indicated a nail had ricocheted into the interior of the building. He said he didn't know where it went, as their backs were turned.

Ricocheting nails are "more common than you might think," he said, especially when the top plate is wet, which he said it was.

"It happens," said Clark. "I'll have one get away from me a couple times a month."

Clark said he climbed down the staging to get some more wood and saw Dlamini lying on the ground, "screaming something." Clark said he initially thought he had twisted his foot.

Testimony differed from police statement

Clark said it was very noisy at the time as machines were running. He said Hynes jumped down and went over, getting to Dlamini about 25 to 30 seconds before he did.

Dlamini was "rolling on the ground" and saying "it's in me, it's in me," according to Clark. 

He said he believes Hynes pulled the nail out. He said Hynes asked Dlamini if he needed an ambulance or a doctor, but he said he was okay.

Nhlanhla Dlamini said he suffered a punctured lung after being shot with a nail gun by a co-worker on a worksite in Abercrombie, N.S., on Sept. 19. (Steve Berry/CBC)

When pressed during cross-examination, Clark admitted that his testimony on Wednesday was different than the statement he had initially provided police.

Crown lawyer Bill Gorman said in the statement he gave to Const. Shauna Collier, Clark said he was coming back with a piece of wood when he saw Hynes shoot the nail gun, and then he saw Dlamini rolling on the ground.

This differed from Wednesday's testimony that he had only seen Dlamini on the ground after he had reached the ground.

Clark agreed that the two statements were different. He did not give an explanation as to why.

Dlamini had 'a little drop of blood on him'

The Crown called four witnesses to the stand Wednesday, including Keith Jordan, who worked at P.Q. Properties for about 15 years.

Jordan said he was about 20 metres away and said he didn't see or hear the incident happen, but he arrived on scene shortly after.

"There was a little drop of blood on him. He was still in pain then," he said. "After a few minutes he had calmed down."

Jordan said he got the first aid kit, wiped the blood off, sterilized the wound, and put a bandage on it. He said it was a small puncture wound, and they didn't realize how severe it was.

"No one knew the kid was hurt like he was… I would have called an ambulance for that kid in a heartbeat," he said.

Crown attorney Bill Gorman called four witnesses to the stand on Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Jordan said it would be difficult to take the safety feature off of the nail gun, and said it's possible the nail could have ricocheted.

Trial will continue

The defence has two witnesses left, including Hynes. The trial will resume at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Speaking with reporters after Wednesday's proceedings, Dlamini's father, Buhle Dlamini, said the whole situation has been emotionally taxing for his family.

"Sitting in court for the last two days, for me, the hardest part has been the revisiting," he said.

He said there hasn't been much talk in the courtroom about the motive behind the incident, which he and Dlamini's other supporters believe was racism.

"It's harder to prove racism, as we all know," he said. 

The father of the victim, Buhle Dlamini, said it's been difficult for him and his family to revisit the incident in the courtroom. (Robert Short/CBC)

Gorman said that in his opinion, the incident does not constitute a hate crime. But he said that if the judge is satisfied that the defendant is guilty, racism can be used as an aggravating factor at sentencing.

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.