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Cape Dorset shooter gets 15 months

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 2, 2011

IQALUIT - A young man who fired nine shots at citizens and police officers in Cape Dorset last summer is going to remain in jail for another six months.

Qavavau Shaa, 18, was sentenced to 15 months in jail for the shootings which occurred on July 28, 2010. He pleaded guilty to two counts of pointing a firearm with intent, careless use and or storage of a firearm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and mischief.

Shaa has been in police custody since then and received nine months credit for time served, leaving him with six months left to serve.

Shaa's crimes were the first in a rash of violence that rocked the community last summer, putting it in the national spotlight.

"This case could have easily turned into a murder file," said Sydney Thompson, Crown attorney at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit on April 21.

Thompson had asked for a sentence of three to five years at a federal prison, specifically the Fenbrook Institution, a medium security prison in Ontario with programs for Inuit offenders.

"A penitentiary sentence for this young fella at this time in his life is not useful for society or for him, said Judge Rene Foisy.

The day of the incident, Shaa had been in Iqaluit at the hospital because of an ATV injury, was treated with narcotics and flew back to Cape Dorset, Thompson said.

This was on the same day that 22 shipments of legally-ordered alcohol arrived via air cargo to the community.

RCMP got a call from a neighbour at about 10 p.m. who said they heard shots being fired inside the house where Shaa lived with his 74-year-old grandfather and three other people.

They described Shaa as being "heavily intoxicated and out of control."

Two constables went to the residence and upon driving by saw Shaa break a window and shoot at a group of people, including children about 75 metres away. No one was hit.

"Mr. Shaa is lucky that he or anyone else was not seriously hurt or killed," Thompson said.

The officers approached the house with their pistols ready and tried to contact Shaa by phone but the calls went unanswered and he responded with gunshots. A third constable was called in as back-up and arrived on scene with bulletproof vests and with a rifle.

Community constable Markoosie Etidloi and hamlet staff cleared the area but were unable to stop a driver and a passenger on a scooter who drove by the residence. Shaa pointed the gun at them and then at one of the RCMP officers.

A gun was fired again and the kitchen window broke. Another window was broken.

Const. Alex Benoit saw Shaa point a longbarrel firearm out a window at Const. Daniel Comte and Sgt. James McLaren.

Shaa then came out of the house holding a shotgun, pointing it at the houses along the water yelling at the officers "to come and get him."

Then he went back inside, broke yet another window and fired a shotgun round into the air and over the house.

A highly intoxicated bystander went into Shaa's house and came out with a .22 calibre rifle. RCMP removed a live round from the chamber and the bystander said Shaa was passed out on the couch.

Shortly afterwards, Shaa left the house, fell down the steps, dragged himself on the ground and then passed out. Thompson said officers had to carry him to the RCMP vehicle, that he smelled of alcohol and had cuts on his hands.

Shaa was taken to the health centre and then into custody. Thompson said the whole incident lasted one hour and 15 minutes.

The RCMP emergency response team had been called in but the standoff was resolved before they arrived.

When police went back to the house they seized a .308 rifle from a bedroom, other guns and found a .22 calibre bullet lodged in the window frame of the storage room.

Shaa fired shots nine times and broke five windows.

There were several civilian witnesses, including one who filmed the event. One man said he took his grandchildren to their furnace room for safety.

"He was putting the lives of citizens and the RCMP at risk," said Thompson.

Defence lawyer Gary Magee asked for a sentence of 10 months to one year in jail for his client.

He said Shaa was born in an outpost camp, had a Grade 9 education, was a carver and was raised by his grandparents. Magee said Shaa considers his grandfather as his father figure. He was supposed to go to Toronto last fall to show some of his carvings.

Magee asked Foisy not to send Shaa to a federal penitentiary as prisoners at the Baffin Correctional Centre told him he would be raped.

The RCMP still have all of the firearms Shaa fired, which belong to his grandfather. Magee said Shaa's grandfather has not been able to hunt since July.

Also in his sentence, Foisy said Shaa will serve three years probation, will have to take traditional counselling when he returns to his community, including courses on alcohol abuse and anger management and he will be under a firearm prohibition for 10 years.

In a letter, Shaa's grandfather said he accepted his son's apology.

"That means everything to an Inuk and it doesn't mean anything to the white man," Foisy said.

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