"Your cowardly attempt to kill me has failed"
RCMP officer shot at Onanole last summer tells his shooter in court
March 25, 2019, 4:42 pm
"Your cowardly attempt to kill me has failed," Cpl Graeme Kingdon told a suspect in court last week at a sentencing hearing for a man who pleaded guilty to shooting him near Onanole last summer.
Kingdon was shot by while responding to a report of a break-in. He says he feels angry and outraged, but fortunate to be alive.
Cpl. Graeme Kingdon addressed the court Thursday morning at the sentencing hearing for Therae Racette-Beaulieu, who earlier this year pleaded guilty to shooting him in the back of the head last August.
"Your cowardly attempt to kill me has failed for now," Kingdon said in a victim impact statement. "You may just get me yet."
Kingdon still has 17 BB-sized pellets lodged in his head and neck, including one that penetrated his skull.
He was shot Aug. 29, 2018, near Onanole, just south of Riding Mountain National Park.
Racette-Beaulieu, who is from Sandy Bay First Nation, was arrested along with three others following a manhunt.
He pleaded guilty in late January to one count of attempted murder, as well as to breaking and entering, stealing firearms and theft of a motor vehicle.
On Thursday, a shackled Racette-Beaulieu was led into provincial court in Minnedosa for his sentencing hearing.
The Crown is seeking 20 years, less 7.6 months for the time he has already served behind bars.
"I feel angry. I try to tell myself that I wasn't angry," Kingdon told the court. "People asked me if today is going to be emotional. It's not.
"An emotional day is the paramedics having to cut my bloody uniform off while surrounded by armed police officers."
"It's my family racing STARS to Winnipeg to see me before I die," Kingdon added. "It's my wife trying to figure out what to tell the kids. It's me waking up in hospital and realizing I'm alive. That's an emotional day."
Kingdon described how he now sometimes can't stand without getting dizzy or stumbling. He said he also suffers from headaches from the 17 BB-sized pellets still in his head, which he said also sometimes itch and burn.
His statement was one of nine read Thursday morning. He said he has lost thousands of dollars in income as a result of being shot and he is still unsure whether he'll be able to resume his career as an RCMP officer.
Court heard that Kingdon's life, and the lives of his family members, have been drastically altered since the shooting due to his injuries.
"I can't do the things I used to do," he said. "I couldn't go fishing or hunting this fall. I couldn't cut firewood with my dad.
"I can't play hockey, I can't build a rink for my girls. I can't teach my girls how to ski this winter."
Court also heard from a number of Kingdon's family members on Thursday, including his wife, Nakella.
"When I arrived at the hospital, I didn't know what I would find," she said. "What I saw haunted me."
Kingdon's sister, Jill Kingdon-Mills, is also a Mountie, and though she wasn't at the scene of the shooting, she also has been unable to return to the job.
"I remember my stomach feeling like it had dropped to my toes," she said about the moment she learned what had happened.
A 14-year member of the RCMP, Kingdon-Mills told court she was on summer holidays, visiting the family farm in Manitoba, at the time.
"Telling my parents what happened was horrible," she said. "All I was able to tell them was there had been shots fired. The shock and hurt on their faces will never leave my mind."
She said she acted on adrenaline after getting a call with the news.
"I was sick with worry that my parents would not get to see him before he died," said Kingdon-Mills. "I found that I had one job to do and that was to get Nakella and my parents to the hospital in Winnipeg."
Kingdon's mother, Gaileen Kingdon, told court she and her husband, Ron, were frantic.
"We did not know if our son was dead or alive, or dying," she said.
"We were so helpless and at the same time, so terribly angry that someone would commit such a stupid and senseless act."
That helpless feeling lingered for a long time, she said, and the anger remains.
"The impact of this hateful crime has left me angry and bitter against a society that cannot see the value of or appreciate its police officers," she said.
"This shooting has far-reaching and long-lasting ramifications — far more than the guilty will experience."
'I knew I was watching my partner die'
Kingdon's partner, Const. Mitch Thompson, also read an impact statement Thursday morning. He said he still lives with the psychological effects of the shooting.
"I can see Graeme standing on that hill, head covered in blood. I can feel the force of the shot that missed me," he said. "I can feel the fear and disbelief."
Thompson recounted how he felt his phone vibrating in his pocket while he was trying to protect Kingdon, knowing it was his wife texting him.
As much as he wanted to text her back to say he loved her, Thompson said, he knew he couldn't — because doing so would leave him and Kingdon at risk of further harm.
"I can't describe the helplessness I felt that night," Thompson added. "I knew I was watching my partner die."
Court heard the night of the shooting began with a crime spree that started in the rural municipality of Portage la Prairie.
A homeowner found Racette-Beaulieu and someone else on his property when he arrived home and was attacked and hit over the head with rake.
Racette-Beaulieu and his accomplice then stole the homeowner's truck and drove away, court was told. They next went to a property near Onanole, where firearms and ammunition were stolen.
Following that, the owner of another property in the area saw a group of men on his property and called police. The man was not home at the time but saw the intruders on a security camera he could remotely access.
That's where Kingdon and Thompson met up with the truck, at about 9:30 p.m.
Shots fired from hill
Crown attorney Mike Himmelman said Kingdon rammed the front of the truck, pushing it into a hole. Three men in the truck jumped out and ran into the nearby bushes, court heard.
Shortly after, three shots were fired from a hill and Kingdon was hit in the back of the head.
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The shooting sparked a manhunt that ended the next afternoon in Neepawa. By the time it was done, four men had been arrested.
Three other men, all from from Portage la Prairie — Tommy Edward Beaulieu, 21, Shane Donovan Beaulieu, 30, and Delaney Marcus Houle, 23 — were charged with two counts each of breaking and entering, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000 and weapons-related offences.
They have yet to enter pleas and are due in Brandon provincial court this week.
'A tragic case'
Racette-Beaulieu's defence lawyer, Andrew Synyshyn, sought a 16-year prison sentence for his client.
Synyshyn said Racette-Beaulieu's upbringing and his parents' and grandparents' involvement in the residential school system were partially to blame for the person he is today.
"This is a young man, a transitional youth — someone who is barely over 18," he said.
"His youth is a huge factor.… This is a tragic case."
He called the shooting a callous and heinous act, and agreed that a strong message of deterrence needs to be sent.
Himmelman said Racette-Beaulieu's actions were fuelled by cocaine and methamphetamine use, as well as alcohol.
The Crown attorney said Racette-Beaulieu has so far shown no remorse and that even though he is only 18, he had been entrenched in a violent criminal lifestyle and had gang affiliations.
Racette-Beaulieu was angry with police and his past dealings with law enforcement were rough, Himmelman said.
"He presents a clear danger to society."
Kingdon told the court he wants to see the maximum possible sentence imposed.
"This is a bigger issue than my injuries and feelings," he said. "It's also bigger than the offender. Bigger than his individual punishment and his prospects for rehabilitation.
"If the sentence doesn't denounce or deter this behaviour to the maximum allowed, it has failed, in my mind," he added.
Kingdon also denounced the handling of the charges Racette-Beaulieu's faced. Initially, he was charged with two counts of attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to one count for both victims.
"I feel that it has already failed," said Kingdon. "It stinks of a two-for-one deal on police officer's lives."
Judge John Combs has reserved his decision until April 23.