Saskatoon

Sentencing hearing reveals La Loche, Sask., school shooter's actions before killings

The accused in the deadly La Loche, Sask., school shooting in 2015 talked about his plans a year before the slaying of four people, a sentencing court heard.

Warning: This story contains graphic details

A memorial sits in front of the school in La Loche, Sask., nearly a year after a school shooting. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC)

The teen accused in the deadly La Loche, Sask., school shooting had attended classes in the morning before going home at lunchtime to pick up ammunition, a sentencing court was told Tuesday.

Seventeen years old at the time, he retrieved the ammunition from his bedroom before the January 2016 shooting spree that left four dead and seven wounded.

He wasn't drunk or high, and he had talked about his plans a year before the shooting.

"If someone came into the school one day and shot it up and they told you it was me, would you believe it?" the shooter is reported to have told a friend in September 2015.

The friend didn't take him seriously.

Hearing to decide on adult or youth sentence

The hearing for the now 19-year-old man is revealing more details about what happened on that day in northern Saskatchewan, partly based on an agreed statement of facts.

Marie Janvier was killed during the shooting at the school in La Loche, Sask. (Facebook)

The sentencing court hearing in Meadow Lake, Sask., which was live streamed to La Loche, will determine whether the shooter should be sentenced as an adult.

On Jan. 22, 2016, days before his 18th birthday, the teen walked into the community's high school and started firing. 

Teacher Adam Wood, 35, and teacher's assistant Marie Janvier, 21, were killed. Seven other people were injured. Brothers Drayden and Dayne Fontaine, 13 and 17 respectively, were shot and killed in a house in the village prior to the school shooting. 

The shooter, who has pleaded guilty to the crimes, can't be identified because of his age at the time of the offence. The Crown prosecutor wants him to be sentenced as an adult.

Fear and panic

The sentencing hearing went through a lengthy timeline of what happened the day of the killings. The court was shown graphic crime scene images, and excerpts of 911 calls gave the court a sense of the fear and panic inside the school.

The day before the killings, the shooter researched firearms and ammunition on the internet. He also searched the phrase "what does it feel like to kill someone?" as well as details on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.

On the day of the shooting, he attended classes before going home during the school lunch. He ate lunch, then picked up the ammunition from his bedroom and drove to the home of the Fontaine brothers.

A painting by Russell Thomas depicts Dayne and Drayden Fontaine, two brothers who died in the La Loche shooting. (Submitted by Russell Thomas)

It was there that he obtained the 22-calibre rifle he used to kill Dayne and a shotgun he used to shoot Dayne's brother Drayden. The court heard that Dayne was shot 11 times. He begged for his life, telling the shooter he didn't want to die, and was shot in the back multiple times as he tried to get away. Finally, he was shot in the head.

Dayne had already been shot when Drayden, the younger brother, arrived home. The shooter invited him inside the house before shooting him twice, once in the face and once in the head.

Bullet holes are seen in the front door of the La Loche Community School in January 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

After shooting the two brothers, the accused took a shotgun to the school, where about 150 students and teachers were going about their day.

Surveillance footage of shooting

The court was shown images of the youth entering the school with the shotgun extended, firing at teachers and students.

Three students were hit in the main entrance and foyer area.

A 911 call was made by teacher Adam Wood who told police that there was a shooter in the school. Wood was shot once in the torso, and once after he fell on the floor. He died of his wounds.

In one of the 911 calls played to the court, wails could be heard as the caller told one of the victims, "Don't give up." The victim referred to in that call was one of the survivors.

Another caller was locked in a storage room with 20 students during the shooting.   

Dispatch told people calling from the school to stay quiet and hidden and lock the doors, assuring them that police were on their way.

Teacher Adam Wood called 911 before he was shot to death. (Facebook)

A staff member at the school later described how she could hear Wood dying after he was shot, saying it felt like it happened yesterday.

The search for the shooter began when RCMP arrived at the school.

​At one point, the youth went into a washroom with one unspent shell. Court heard he contemplated suicide.

Instead, he came out of the washroom without the gun and surrendered to police.

The youth had fired the gun 13 times inside the school.

Lingering doubt and fear at school 

Witness statements illustrated the continuing effects of the shooting on the community and the school.

School staff described the feeling as "being part of a club that nobody ever wants to be a part of."

The La Loche Community Safety Board said the school is no longer regarded as the safe place it was, and that "doubt lingers."

The board said enrolment at the school is down. The court also heard that staff absenteeism had increased in the wake of the shooting.

The number of gunshots reported in the community has also increased, some related to gangs, others to people partying in the bush, according to the safety board.

"Some are angry, some would like revenge … we want justice," said the safety board statement.

The board described the killer as cold-blooded, saying he knew what he was doing and did not consider the value of the lives he took.

Crown prosecutor Lloyd Stang says the list of those affected by the shooting is 'endless.' (CBC)

The hearing is scheduled to last two weeks and will hear from witnesses, police and victims of the school shooting. 

Psychiatric reports are also expected to be presented at the hearing.

Speaking after the first day of the hearing, Crown prosecutor Lloyd Stang noted the impact the shooting had on the community of La Loche.

"It had an obviously tremendously terrible effect on all the families, the victims, the community members, the school, the list is endless, frankly, it was such a tragedy," he said.

Defence lawyer Aaron Fox said it was an undeniably "horrific" crime but that was not the only consideration.

"You have to look at the youth that you're dealing with and decide whether or not this person should be sentenced as an adult, or should you look at some of the other sentencing alternatives that are available," he said.

He previously said the onus is on the Crown to prove why he should be sentenced as an adult.

Fox said the Crown will present its case for an adult sentence this week. Afterward, the defence will get its turn. ​

Defence lawyer Aaron Fox says there is no doubt the crime committed by his client was horrific, but this week's hearing must focus on deciding if he should be sentenced as an adult. (CBC)

The shooter pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder in October. 

La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre said people in the community will be watching the case closely. 

The judge is not expected to make her decision in the case until sometime after the hearing wraps up next month. 

CBC reporter Charles Hamilton will be reporting live from court this week. 

With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen

now