Iqaluit cop shooter gets four more years jail after guilty plea

Booze, dope, resentment spark near-deadly shooting spree

By GABRIEL ZARATE

(Updated July 14, 2:00 p.m.)

A young Iqaluit man whose shootout with RCMP members on June 19, 2009 behind Inuksuk High School was witnessed by dozens of Iqaluit residents, will serve almost four more years in jail in addition to time already served.

Thomas Josephee, now 21, was sentenced on July 14 to six years jail, with double credit for the 13 months he has already served.

Josephee pleaded guilty July 13 before the start of a scheduled preliminary inquiry to three charges of pointing a firearm, one charge of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, one charge of firing it with intent to harm and one unrelated breach of probation.

In return, the Crown stayed two counts of attempted murder. Those allegations involved an RCMP member and Josephee’s father. Because of his guilty pleas, the preliminary inquiry did not proceed and lawyers moved directly into a sentencing hearing.

The convictions against him left Josephee’s total potential sentencing range between four and ten years.

According to the agreed-upon facts of the case, Josephee was feeling depressed about the upcoming Father’s Day in 2009 because of his hostility toward his own father.

Members of Josephee’s family cried as defence lawyer Scott Wheildon described Josephee’s resentment about his father’s abandonment of him at a young age and the hard childhood he suffered afterward.

On the afternoon of July 19, Josephee got drunk with his sister and went to visit his cousin, who was not home.

Josephee then took a hammer from his cousin’s home and after a half-hour’s teary, drunken deliberation, broke into his grandfather’s shed to take .243-calibre Winchester rifle and corresponding ammunition.

Rifle in hand, he went to the White Row housing area, bought a gram of marijuana from a friend and smoked some.

Drunk, high and depressed, Josephee went to the hill behind Inuksuk High School, intending to watch the town below to spot his father returning from work to his halfway house at the bottom of hill.

But the RMCP received a call about a young man with a gun, and confronted him behind the school shortly before 5 p.m.

Josephee pointed the rifle at himself, then at three police officers who shouted at him to drop the gun. He did not.

Josephee stepped toward the school’s back door, hoping to escape the police, who had all other possible routes of escape covered.

Fearing violence in the school soon after class dismissal, Cpl. Terry Boyd fired three bullets from his pistol into the ground in front of Josephee.

Josephee raised his rifle, put his eye to the scope, aimed at Boyd’s head, and fired from only a few dozen metres away.

Sgt. Peter Pilgrim had been the highest-ranking officer on the scene.

In court Pilgrim’s voice was thick with emotion as he described the fear he felt at seeing a high-powered rifle pointed at him and his colleagues.

“The first thought that goes through your head is, ‘is that a gun?’ Then you see it pointed at a colleague and you see the scope and you know you could easily be dead by now.”

While they arrested him, Josephee told the police the only reason he had missed Boyd’s head was that the scope wasn’t properly sighted and he apologized for his actions.

He then loaded another round into the gun, removed his iPod headphones from his ears, pointed the gun at his own stomach, and then decided to surrender.

Then he waved the rifle around with its barrel to the sky, inviting the officers to approach, but not dropping the gun.

The police approached with their guns trained on him and the officer in the front knocked the gun out of Josephee’s hand and arrested him.

In his victim impact statement, which he read in court, Pilgrim spoke of the need to keep the general public out of harm’s way, which was why the officers risked their lives by breaking cover to approach Josephee.

At the time, Pilgrim was acutely aware of the crowds of onlookers gathered in front of the Northmart below the scene and at the eight-storey apartment building nearby, “hoping to see him kill one of us or us kill him,” he said.

Crown prosecutor Susanne Boucher argued Josephee’s crime deserved the maximum penalty because of the risk to police, to the general public and to Josephee himself, since the police would have been within their rights to shoot him.

She called it a misuse of Josephee’s hunting skills and his grandfather’s rifle, which should be used only to provide country food for his family.

Josephee was only 20 at the time of this incident, but he had already accumulated an adult criminal record since he turned 18, including two assaults on his girlfriend and one on a member of his family.

The court later found out Josephee was supposed to report to a probation officer as part of his sentence for those crimes, but he hadn’t done so in months, so the Crown added the breach of undertaking charge.

Defence lawyer Scott Wheildon characterized Josephee’s actions as “an impulsive act of self-destruction,” minimally planned and committed “in an alcohol and marijuana-induced haze.”

Wheildon said Josephee told him he would never have fired on the police if they had not fired on him first.

Josephee’s time in prison marked the first time he’s been incarcerated in his life and this experience has scared him, Wheildon said, and Josephee never wants to be there again once he’s released.

Wheildon said Josephee understands he has to stay away from drugs and alcohol from now on.

Josephee also can’t have a gun for 10 years after his release. He’ll still be able to help out on hunting trips, but he won’t be allowed to pull the trigger or carry ammunition.

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