WETASKIWIN, Alta. — Three young people involved in the shooting death of a five-year-old boy on an Alberta reserve have received the maximum youth sentence for manslaughter.
The teens took turns firing a rifle at a home on the Samson Cree reserve south of Edmonton in July 2011. One of the bullets hit Ethan Yellowbird in the head as he slept in his bed.
Court heard two of the youths fired bullets into the home and one fired a shot over the house.
The three, who were 13, 16 and 17 at the time of the shooting, pleaded guilty last fall to manslaughter.
The judge who sentenced the teens called the crime an act of domestic terrorism.
The maximum manslaughter sentence under the Youth Criminal Justice Act is three years of supervision with varying degrees of restriction.
The oldest boy, who shot over the house, was given six months of secure custody, six months of open custody and two years of supervision in the community.
The middle teen was sentenced to six months of secure custody, one year of open custody and 18 months of conditional supervision.
The youngest received one year of open custody and two years of supervision.
The teens all came from homes filled with violence, drinking and drugs and were in and out of foster care.
Court heard the three were hanging out and came up with a plan to walk to a nearby house and shoot at it in the middle of the night. The oldest fired one shot above the home, then passed the rifle to the two other boys and walked away. They each fired two bullets at the house. One passed through the wall above Ethan’s mattress and struck him in the head.
Ethan’s father, his girlfriend and their one-year-old child had all been sleeping in a bed next to Ethan. They woke up to screams and blood.
The teens picked up the shell casings outside, dropped them into a hat and ran off. They broke the rifle into two pieces and hid them outside near some tree stumps.
They were arrested six months later.
Defence lawyers had asked the judge to take into account the youths’ troubled upbringing in determining the sentence.
The Samson reserve and three others in the Hobbema area have been beset for years by shootings and stabbings as rival gangs fight over the drug trade. More than half of the 14,000 people who live in the area are under 18 years old.
Two months after Ethan’s death, his aunt was shot and killed outside the home next door.