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This article was published 20/4/2019 (408 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
MINNEDOSA — A man who shot an RCMP officer in the back of the head near Onanole last August has been sentenced to a total of 18 years in prison — a sentence the victim said sets a low bar on the lives of police officers.
"To state the obvious, the conduct of Mr. Racette-Beaulieu was disturbing and abhorrent," Judge John Combs said in his decision delivered in Minnedosa provincial court on Tuesday. "This was reflected by the suggested sentences by both Crown and defence."
Therae Racette-Beaulieu, 19, pleaded guilty in Brandon provincial court in February to one count of attempted murder — amended from two counts of attempted murder to include both RCMP officers who were shot at — as well as breaking, entering and stealing firearms and robbery of a motor vehicle.
At a sentencing hearing in March, the Crown asked the court to consider a sentence of 20 years, while defence counsel argued a total sentence of 15 to 16 years would be sufficient.
The series of incidents were put into motion on Aug. 29, 2018 when Racette-Beaulieu and co-accused broke into a property near Portage la Prairie, Combs summarized, hitting the property owner with a rake three times before jumping into his truck and speeding off — almost running the man over in the process.
The group then broke into two more properties near Onanole, making away with multiple firearms from one property before getting headed off by RCMP on the way out.
Cpl. Graeme Kingdon ran the stolen truck off the road and into a ditch, forcing the group to flee on foot.
As Kingdon approached the vehicle to clear it for officer safety, Racette-Beaulieu shot him from a nearby hill with a stolen 12-gauge shotgun, hitting him in the back of the head.
Upon hearing the shot, Kingdon’s partner, Const. Mitch Thompson, responded on scene to find Kingdon wounded.
As Thompson tried to secure his injured partner, Racette-Beaulieu repositioned himself and fired another round at the officers — this time hitting the front of the truck, narrowly missing them.
Racette-Beaulieu fired a third shot, emptying the shotgun before fleeing the scene. The officers hit the ground and called for assistance.
Kingdon sustained an injury behind his left ear area with multiple penetrative wounds, as the spray of shotgun pellets fractured Kingdon’s skull and a vertabrae.
There are 17 pellets still lodged in Kingdon’s head and neck, including one lodged within his skull.
The shooting also caused damage to Kingdon’s vertebral artery, which has since developed a blood clot he must treat with blood thinners in order to prevent a stroke.
The aggravating factors in this case were "significant and numerous," Combs said, noting that the officers and their families have been "scarred for life."
Combs also found Racette-Beaulieu’s lack of empathy, as stated in his pre-sentence report, to be significantly aggravating.
"I think I did it because I was mad, mad at the cops because they hit us off the road. I was mad and I shot them," Racette-Beaulieu said in his report. "I hurt all the time and I wanted to hurt someone else. … Sometimes I feel that people deserve things that happen to them."
The report also outlined Racette-Beaulieu’s numerous mental health, social and psychological issues that impacted his behaviour, as well as an abusive and violent past.
"I read this as a disheartening report that describes a severely damaged young individual who has little remorse, empathy or insight," Combs said. "Although he recognizes his need to get help, the prognosis is not positive and he remains, in his present state, a very dangerous individual."
Combs considered Racette-Beaulieu’s young age and his guilty plea as mitigating factors, he said.
Racette-Beaulieu was sentenced to 15 years for the charge of attempted murder, which will be served consecutively to a total sentence of three years on the remaining charges.
He is also entitled to a credit for pre-sentence custody, shaving nine months off the total sentence.
Racette-Beaulieu’s lawyer, Andrew Synyshyn, said this was a very difficult and sad case, but that the judge gave a well-reasoned decision.
"I think it was a reasonable decision. I can’t see any issue with it. I know it probably doesn’t do justice to the family or the victims. I think nothing can," Synyshyn said. "If you look at (Racette-Beaulieu’s) background and everything else he’s been through, it’s a very sad case, if nothing else. It’s unfortunate."
Kingdon told media outside the courthouse that he expected the sentence that was handed down.
"I think it sets the bar fairly low on police officers’ lives. For two of us to be shot at and a 15-year sentence, that’s way to low," Kingdon said. "Other than that I think the rest of it was fair."
He also wasn’t surprised by the lack of remorse Racette-Beaulieu showed for his actions.
"I think his guilty plea was a ‘you caught me’ plea, no real acceptance of responsibility," Kingdon said. "It’s an ending. I can’t say I feel any relief or anger — it’s over."
The incident has completely changed Kingdon’s life and the life of his family, he said.
Kingdon is now just returning to work in a limited fashion, he said, and it remains unclear whether he will ever be able to return to full duties.
"I want to prove that I can, but I know that it’s going to be extremely difficult for my family to see me put that uniform on again and step out the door and know I’ll be OK," Kingdon said, adding that his young daughters ask him if he will get shot in the head if he returns to the line of duty.
The community, however, has been an incredible support for Kingdon and his family, he said.
"I grew up in Minnedosa, this is my home," Kingdon said. "The community was awesome. They supported us in every fashion and I can’t say enough about how impressed I was."
The other men accused in this case — Tommy Edward Beaulieu, Shane Donovan Beaulieu and Delaney Marcus Houle — are facing various charges, including breaking and entering, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and weapon-related offences.
None have entered pleas and they are expected to appear in Brandon provincial court next week.
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