When Noah Lemaigre-Elliott was in his second semester of Grade 11, he and his grandfather made the long drive from La Loche to Moose Jaw so he could take part in an elite combine series for football.
Lemaigre-Elliott was a talented tight-end receiver; recruiters at the Moose Jaw event told him he stood a good chance of playing football in university if he stayed fit and graduated from high school.
It became his dream. But the dream was dashed less than two weeks later.
Lemaigre-Elliott was in the lobby of the La Loche high school on the afternoon of Jan. 22, 2016 when a student walked through the door with a rifle and opened fire. A bullet pierced Lemaigre-Elliott’s arm and lung. Amid the sounds of other students and teachers being attacked, Lemaigre-Elliott ran outside and flagged down a passing vehicle that took him to the La Loche health centre.
“That’s basically where this really started,” defence lawyer Logan Marchand told a Saskatoon provincial court judge on Wednesday.
“But for that event, Noah isn’t here today.”
Lemaigre-Elliott, now 19, was in court for sentencing on four charges stemming from two incidents that occurred while he was living in Saskatoon last year.
According to facts read in court, Lemaigre-Elliott had a confrontation with his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and her brother on Aug. 10, 2018 that ended with Lemaigre-Elliott spraying the group with bear spray. Lemaigre-Elliott was arrested and charged with assault.
Three months later, on Nov. 6, 2018, he asked two friends to pick him up. When Lemaigre-Elliott was in the vehicle, he showed his friends a sawed-off rifle and told them they were going to rob someone. The man driving the vehicle saw police officers on patrol and pulled the vehicle over. The friends ran out and told police Lemaigre-Elliott was inside with a gun.
Police found him with an unloaded rifle and 19 rounds of live ammunition. He was charged with possession of an unloaded, prohibited firearm, possession of ammunition for a purpose dangerous to the public peace and breach of conditions.
He has pleaded guilty to the four charges.
The Crown is seeking a three-year prison sentence for possession of an unloaded, prohibited firearm and shorter, concurrent sentences for the three lesser charges.
The defence is asking for a mixed sentence of jail and probation that would keep Lemaigre-Elliott out of federal prison.
“He is still a deeply hurt young man. It does the community no better to send Noah to the penitentiary, it does Noah no better to send him away to the penitentiary,” Marchand told the judge. “It should be a sentence that gives him the benefit of the doubt … that maybe this could be the low point and from here on out things could get better.”
Judge Barry Morgan said he will reserve his decision until next month.
Marchand told the judge that, prior to the school shooting, Lemaigre-Elliott had an unstable home life, but had no criminal record. He was an “okay student” and had been taking school more seriously since realizing he might be able to play football in university.
The shooting left Lemaigre-Elliott with post-traumatic stress disorder and “significant” pain in his arm that means he can no longer play football. He turned to alcohol and drugs to cope and bought morphine on the street to deal with his pain, Marchand said. This spurred a “downward spiral” and he eventually bought other illicit drugs as well.
Marchand told the judge that Noah, like other victims of the La Loche school shooting, wasn’t given the proper supports to deal with the trauma he’d experienced.
“Noah’s not an outlier, he’s not alone in this,” Marchand said. “This has impacted a wide variety of people all going through the same things. Noah has been hurt particularly heavily by this.”
Crown Prosecutor Kristin MacLean said it was “extremely difficult” to determine an appropriate sentence for Lemaigre-Elliott. While she acknowledged the teen may be coming before court “with some of the most tragic circumstances,” she said the judge can’t ignore aggravating factors including the seriousness of the crimes, the escalation of violence, the fact that the rifle was likely obtained illegally and that his plan for robbery posed a danger to the general public.
She said the Crown is concerned about risk factors identified by a doctor in a pre-sentence report, including that Lemaigre-Elliott has intrusive suicidal and homicidal thought patterns and does not value his life. According to the report, Lemaigre-Elliott is in the 86th percentile to reoffend according to the Saskatchewan Primary Risk Assessment.
He was joined in court by a half-dozen supporters, including his grandparents and girlfriend. Many, including Lemaigre-Elliott, wept when Marchand recounted the teen’s experience during the school shooting.
Lemaigre-Elliott briefly read from a written statement before proceedings were adjourned. He said he apologized to everyone who has been affected by his actions.
“Substance abuse has been used as a coping mechanism for as long as I’ve been dealing with trauma. But I have realized that it has only impacted me negatively,” he told the judge. “From the time I spent in corrections I realize I want to live a better life and become a positive person in the community.”
Four people were killed and seven — including Lemaigre-Elliott — were injured when a teen went on a shooting spree in La Loche on Jan. 22, 2016. The shooter, who was 17 years old at the time, has pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years. The shooter is appealing his sentence and his name cannot be published until that process is over.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019