Nunavut man to serve nearly four more years for shooting home invaders
"Shots taken in anger fall outside the privilege of self-defence"
Chris Bishop, the man who defended himself against four home invaders in Cambridge Bay in 2007 — but did so with excessive and unjustifiable force — will now serve just under four years in prison in addition to the nearly eight years in jail he’s already served.
In a judgment released Jan. 22, Justice Robert Kilpatrick of the Nunavut Court of Justice accepted a joint submission from Crown and defence lawyers that agreed Bishop should receive a 20-year sentence after he entered guilty pleas to three counts of manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder. (See document embedded below.)
But Kilpatrick gave Bishop two-for-one credit for the extensive amount of time the accused has already spent behind bars which leaves only 1,430 days, or 3.9 years, of jail time left in his 20-year sentence.
“The hardships associated with detention at the Baffin Correctional Centre are notorious. The substandard conditions of detention at this facility were the subject of a report dated 2013 and authored by the Federal Correctional Inspector. These hardships are well known to the court,” Kilpatrick wrote in his written decision, as partial explanation for granting the two-for-one credit.
Since 2010 amendments to the Criminal Code, judges are restricted to a maximum of 1.5 credit for time spent in pre-trial custody but Kilpatrick noted that this crime occurred before those amendments came into force.
But aside from noting the hardship that Bishop faced in prison, Kilpatrick made ample reference to how the families of the victims suffered and how they must now find a way to move past the traumatic events of a decade ago.
“Those who participated in the foolhardy home invasion have paid dearly for their folly,” Kilpatrick wrote. “Those who were lucky enough to survive the carnage are now scarred with a memory that is a living nightmare.
“The court extends its condolences to all those who have suffered loss or injury, and wish them well in the long healing journey ahead.”
In his sentencing report, Kilpatrick described the events that led to that notorious and deadly night in Cambridge Bay.
In the weeks prior, Bishop was involved in a number of “verbal and physical confrontations” with the three now-deceased men — Dean Costa, 29, Keith Atatahak, 30, and Kevin Komaksuit, 22, Kilpatrick wrote.
Those men, along with Logan Pigalak, went to Bishop’s residence in the early morning of Jan. 6. “They are intoxicated and combative,” Kilpatrick wrote.
They pounded on Bishop’s door, Bishop called the RCMP, but the pounding stopped and police decided not to dispatch anyone.
The group returned 15 minutes later, eventually breaking through the front door and also the bedroom door where Bishop was hiding.
They had weapons: a sword and a broken golf club. Bishop was also armed. He had a semi-automatic rifle with an illegal banana clip that held 30 rounds of ammunition.
After they broke down the bedroom door, Bishop started shooting and the men fled. A fifth member of the group was outside: Antoinette Bernhardt.
According to forensic evidence, 25 shots were fired in the house and outside, 20 of which became lodged in their human targets.
Investigators determined that two of the dead were shot in the back as they tried to run away.
“At this point, shots taken in anger fall outside the privilege of self-defence. The law does not condone the infliction of deadly force beyond that which is reasonably necessary for self-preservation,” Kilpatrick wrote.
“The moral blameworthiness associated with Mr. Bishop’s actions in deliberately shooting down his fleeing antagonists is extremely high. The Court is satisfied that the 20-year sentence proposed by the Crown and Defence, being at the extreme high end for manslaughter offences, is nonetheless justified in this case.”
A long and convoluted legal process unfolded after Bishop’s initial arrest in 2007.
A 12-member jury found Bishop guilty on three counts of second degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in 2010 but Bishop appealed that sentence and in 2013, the Nunavut Court of Appeal overturned those convictions and ordered a new trial.
He remained in custody, however, awaiting a new trial that was scheduled to take place in April 2015.
But on Jan. 14, he came to court in Iqaluit and plead guilty to three counts of manslaughter and two counts of attempted murder.
Aside from the jail time imposed, Kilpatrick has prohibited Bishop from possessing or using firearms for 25 years, despite Bishop’s aboriginal heritage.
He also ordered Bishop to provide a blood sample for the national DNA database.