La Loche shooter to be sentenced in his home community next February

Crown prosecutors summarized their case for why the guilty teen should be sentenced as an adult, saying he knew the consequences of his actions at the time of the deadly shooting spree.

Defence attorney speaks against adult term, saying shooter's judgment was impaired

A teen has pleaded guilty to killing four people and wounding seven others during a shooting spree in La Loche, Sask., on Jan. 22, 2016. His sentencing hearing concluded Friday. A judge is scheduled to deliver her decision on Feb. 23, 2018. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Judge Janet McIvor has reaffirmed her plan to sentence the teen who shot and killed four people and wounded seven others in La Loche in the very community in which he carried out his crimes. 

The delivery of the sentence is scheduled in La Loche for Feb. 23, just over two years since the shooting spree took place.

The mayor of the northern Saskatchewan community has previously voiced doubts, including security fears, about hosting the emotionally weighty decision in the community.

McIvor's confirmation came at the close of final arguments Friday in Meadow Lake, Sask., where all of the months-long, on-and-off sentencing hearing has so far taken place. 

McIvor told the courtroom she needs that much time to review the evidence and make her decision.

The teen previously pleaded guilty to the 2016 shootings. His sentencing hearing has focused largely on whether he should be sentenced as an adult.

Closing arguments

Crown prosecutors say the teenage shooter deserves to serve an adult sentence because "the scale of devastation" he wrought in January 2016 "is of such high magnitude."

"A youth sentence would not be sufficient length to hold the young person accountable," Crown prosecutor Pouria Tabrizi-Reardigan said during Friday's final arguments on the proposed adult sentence for the 19-year-old shooter.

​The teen, who was a youth at the time of his crimes, pleaded guilty to killing four people and wounding seven others during a shooting spree in and outside a school in the small northern community on Jan. 22, 2016. He cannot be named because of his age.

Tabrizi-Reardigan offered a complex, clinical breakdown of why the teen deserves to serve time behind bars as an adult offender.

The argument, deeply versed in case law, was complicated enough to require an accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

Aaron Fox is a defence attorney for the teen. Defence experts say the teen suffered from a host of mental disorders. (Don Somers/CBC News)

It was partly meant to challenge defence lawyer Aaron Fox's argument that the teen couldn't make decisions under pressure.

Tabrizi-Reardigan said the fact that the shooter switched weapons, and that he lured one of his victims, Drayden Fontaine, into a home before killing him, proved the shooter was able to make decisions under pressure.

"He implemented his plan with stark efficiency," said Tabrizi-Reardigan.

Killer knew consequences: Crown 

The crime was premeditated and the killer knew the consequences his actions would carry with them, added Tabrizi-Reardigan.

He pointed to the fact that, among the killer's internet searches before that fateful day, was the entry, "What does it feel like to kill someone?" 

The fact that he didn't kill himself before being apprehended by police — because he knew it would devastate his mother — also proves he possessed insight and self-awareness, Tabrizi-Reardigan said.

The lawyer hit back at the notion that the teen's emotional problems at the time excuse his actions. 

Four people were killed by the teen shooter on Jan. 22, 2016 in La Loche. Clockwise from top left: Marie Janvier, 21; Adam Wood, 35; Drayden Fontaine, 13; and Dayne Fontaine, 17. (Submitted to CBC/Facebook)

"[The shooter] knows that shooting friends is wrong. He knows shooting family is wrong," said Tabrizi-Reardigan.

"He has a moral compass. It just happens to be a moral compass that does not include strangers, community members and [the] school. Even if there was a clear diagnosis of depression, anxiety … their connection with [the shooter's] criminal conduct is tenuous."

Shooter's judgment 'impaired': defence 

The teen's attorney, Aaron Fox, disagreed, saying the shooter didn't fully understand the consequences of his actions owing to a host of mental disorders, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), that impaired his judgment.

"Did he make a decision that day? Yes he did," said Fox. "Was that an impaired decision? Yes it was."

Fox said the shooter has expressed remorse for his crimes and that he cries himself to sleep at night.

He also reiterated that the teen was a victim of bullying at La Loche Community School, particularly due to the size of his ears, and that Facebook posts in which he wrote that he was "done" with life speak to his general despondency. 

"Simply because it's a serious offence, it doesn't obligate the court to sentence the offender as an adult," Fox says.

Teen's mental state key focus of case

The teen's mental state at the time of the shootings was expected to be the crux of Friday's final arguments.

Two defence expert witnesses have signed a letter confirming the shooter has FASD.

That conclusion is based on the findings of a Gladue report, which outlines factors in an Indigenous offender's life that may have contributed to their criminal history.

The report also gives a judge the option to give offenders an alternative to jail time.

"[His] life did have love it in ... but we do know [there were] problems in his life," Fox says.

The months-long sentencing hearing, however, has heard conflicting testimony, a point highlighted by Tabrizi-Reardigan in his final argument Friday. 

Defence experts say the teen suffered from a host of mental disorders. Crown experts have said that aside from abusing marijuana, the teen did not suffer any serious disorders.

None of the experts has suggested the teen was experiencing any kind of psychosis at the time of the killing, but there have been conflicting suggestions about whether the teen fully understood the consequences of what he was doing.

Crown prosecutor Lloyd Stang leaves court on May 16, 2017, after the first day of the sentencing trial for the teen who killed four people in La Loche in 2016. Stang had to be replaced after he was appointed as a judge in August. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The sentencing hearing stretched out over several weeks throughout the summer, beginning in May and continuing in June.

The final arguments were delayed twice — once because the senior Crown prosecutor in the case was appointed as a judge and had to be replaced.


Charles Hamilton is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.