About three weeks before he shot a fellow soldier in the leg, a troubled soldier reached out for help.
For some reason, he didn’t get that help. Nor were mental health authorities warned of his impending transfer to CFB Shilo where the shooting later took place.
"I think that this was a very demoralized man when he came to Shilo," psychologist Ronald Richert testified at the shooter’s court martial this week. "He had lost a lot of his hopes and dreams."
Master Cpl. Clarence Joseph Stillman, 41, was convicted during a three-day court martial this week of aggravated assault and four firearm offences.
Stillman was invited back to the on-base home of two fellow soldiers in the early morning of July 29, 2012, to continue a night of drinking.
There was an argument and Stillman, badly beaten by one of his hosts when he initially refused to leave, went to his quarters and returned with a .45-calibre semi-automatic handgun.
He shot his assailant in the leg and fired another shot that narrowly missed the victim’s roommate.
The soldier who was shot has essentially made a full recovery and no longer needs medical treatment.
The gun wasn’t a service pistol. It was registered and Stillman had a licence for it, but not authorization to carry the loaded and restricted firearm concealed at Shilo as he did.
Following the shooting, he was released on strict conditions and the supply technician continued to live and work on base while pending on his charges.
On Wednesday, Richert, who assessed Stillman following the shooting, described how the soldier’s life was "crumbling" around him shortly before the incident.
A decorated soldier who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, Stillman is a first-time offender with a previously clean military record. However, Richert said, Stillman started to show mental health and addiction troubles in 2004 following his return to Canada from a deployment in Bosnia.
In 2005, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and continues to show symptoms to this day.
Richert said that condition may be linked to Stillman’s service in Bosnia, but also may be the result of abuse he suffered as a child.
Stillman received treatment for his addiction and PTSD and was doing well for a time. But by 2011, he began to display problems again. He’d been taking anti-depressants at some point, but by February 2012 had stopped taking his medications and his drinking increased.
He’d also gone through the breakup of a one-year relationship.
Shortly before the shooting, Stillman was transferred from CFB Edmonton to Shilo, a move that came as a disappointment to him.
In July 2012, two weeks prior to his transfer, he went to a clinic in Edmonton and presented himself in crisis — he was threatening to burn down the base, go after people with a baseball bat and shoot himself or others.
A social worker took Stillman to a medical doctor at the base. Stillman was sent home with crisis phone numbers, told not to drink and given a followup appointment within a few days.
Richert said that, for some unexplained reason, the followup appointment never happened and mental health staff at Shilo were not warned of Stillman’s impending arrival as they often received in such cases.
The shooting happened nine days after Stillman arrived at Shilo.
Following the incident, Richert assessed Stillman as having a mood disorder, substance use disorder, non-specific personality disorder and "residual" signs of PTSD.
Those findings were similar to a previous assessment conducted by a different doctor in January 2011.
Stillman is relatively small in stature and past bullying may also have played a role in his reaction to the beating he received the night of the shooting, Richert said.
Defence lawyer Maj. Phillipe-Luc Boutin described the assault on Stillman — in which he was punched about 10 times and left with cuts, bruises and swelling to his head — as "vicious" and played a significant role along with mental illness.
However, Richert said, in the end the shooting would have been far less likely if Stillman hadn’t been drinking.
At the conclusion of the court martial on Thursday, military judge Lt.-Col. J.G. Perron sentenced Stillman to six years in prison and dismissed him from the Canadian Forces. The six-year term was jointly recommended by Boutin and prosecutor Lt.-Col. Steven Richards. It was also the legislated minimum.
But Stillman, released while pending on his charges, has been spared from prison at this point.
Perron agreed to allow him to continue to live in the community while he appeals to the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada on a constitutional issue. That process could take up to a year.
Meanwhile, until he’s administratively released from the military — which could take an estimated month to four months — he’ll be allowed to work and live at CFB Shilo on strict conditions.
Following his release from the Forces, he intends to move to Alberta and will continue to live on conditions that include a nightly curfew and regular reporting to RCMP.
Under his sentence, he’s banned from having firearms and restricted weapons for
10 years, and from having prohibited weapons and firearms for life.
If, for some reason, Stillman abandons his appeal or the ruling ultimately goes against him, he’s to surrender into custody and will serve his sentence in a civilian prison.
If he wins his appeal, which could result in his sentence being void, there’s a chance he’ll be charged and tried under the civilian court system.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 26, 2013