W. R. Myers High School shooting

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W.R. Myers High School shooting
Location Taber, Alberta, Canada
Date April 28, 1999
Attack type
School shooting, murder
Weapons Sawed off .22 caliber rifle
Deaths 1
Non-fatal injuries
1
Perpetrator Todd Cameron Smith
Motive Bullying

The W. R. Myers High School shooting was a school shooting that occurred on April 28, 1999, at W. R. Myers High School in Taber, Alberta, Canada. The gunman, 14-year-old Todd Cameron Smith, walked into his school and began firing at three students in a hallway, killing one student and wounding another student.[1] This shooting took place only eight days after the Columbine High School Massacre in Littleton, Colorado, and is widely believed to have been a copycat crime.[2] It was the first fatal high-school shooting in Canada in more than two decades.

The shooting[edit]

The incident began when Smith entered the school campus armed with a registered sawed off[citation needed] .22-calibre rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. As lunch concluded, he fired at three students in a hallway adjacent to the cafeteria. He fatally shot 17-year-old Jason Lang at point-blank range, and then shot at two other students, seriously wounding one, and missing the other.[3] Gym coach Cheyno Finnie managed to wrestle Smith to the floor. He was arrested without further incident by a Taber constable, who also served as the school's resource officer.[3] He was charged with one count of first-degree murder, and two counts of attempted murder.[4]

Aftermath[edit]

Legal proceedings[edit]

Smith's identity and background was originally protected under Canada's Young Offenders Act at the time of his arrest.[5][6] He had dropped out of W.R. Myers High School earlier in the school year. According to court documents, he had suffered severe bullying at school, including having been doused with lighter fluid and threatened to be set alight when he was in the first grade.[2] He was remembered as being intelligent but socially awkward, and had become "reclusive and extremely fearful"[2] by early adolescence. His mother said he had been showing signs of depression throughout his childhood.[6] Smith's family stated that he "snapped" after watching coverage of the Columbine massacre, which had occurred eight days prior.[2]

Crown prosecutors attempted to have then 15-year-old Smith tried as an adult with the potential for a life sentence with the possibility of parole in five years. The Crown also argued that an adult prison would offer greater educational programs than a youth facility could provide. The court denied the motion and he was tried as a juvenile.[2]

Following his arrest and before the trial, a medical examination discovered Smith had a heart ailment that required open heart surgery. During the surgery, he suffered a stroke and fell into a coma. After awakening from the coma, he had speaking and eating difficulties and suffered from diminished mental capacity. His case was suspended until he recovered, as both the Crown and defense agreed he could not stand trial.[7] Following a "remarkable recovery", he was declared suitable to stand trial, and was scheduled to appear in court in September 2000.[8] At his trial, Smith pleaded guilty to all three charges, and was sentenced to three years in prison, and was ordered to live seven years on probation upon his release.[2]

Shortly after the shooting, Reverend Dale Lang, father of victim Jason Lang, forgave his son's killer.[6] Dale Lang preaches the need for compassion and forgiveness, and has become a well-known public speaker and anti-bullying activist.[9]

Smith's release, second arrest[edit]

In March 2005, Todd Cameron Smith was released into a halfway house in Toronto, despite the agreement of the judge that the then 20-year-old remained a threat to society. In August of that year, he walked outside of the halfway house, leaving behind a note stating "he wouldn't be caged any longer and he wouldn't surrender alive."[10] His escape prompted Toronto police to obtain a court injunction allowing them to publicize his identity until such time as he was caught.[11][12][13]

However, Smith turned himself in to authorities the following day and was recaptured without incident. The waiver allowing publication of his identity in Canada lapsed upon his recapture, though not before his name was published and released by several news outlets across the country. Following his recapture, Canadian media were required to no longer use Smith's name or photograph, as they had the previous day.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "One dead, one wounded in Alberta school shooting". CBC News Online. November 10, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Boy charged in Taber shooting gets three years". CBC News Online. November 18, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  3. ^ a b "Alberta town tries to understand". CBC News Online. November 10, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  4. ^ "Taber teen gets new charge". CBC News Online. November 10, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  5. ^ [1], Article Emporium unknown edit date
  6. ^ a b c "CBC In Depth: Tragedy in Taber". CBC News Online. April 27, 2004. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  7. ^ "Teen's illness postpones Taber trial". CBC News Online. January 5, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  8. ^ "Taber suspect fit to stand trial". CBC News Online. November 11, 2000. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  9. ^ Bakh, Sarom, Reverend Dale Lang: Teaching forgiveness, SFU Peak, February 7, 2000
  10. ^ Alberta school shooter loose in Toronto, The Toronto Star, August 15, 2005
  11. ^ Man convicted in Taber, Alta., school shooting walks away from halfway house, Canadian Press via Who Killed Theresa? blog, August 15, 2005
  12. ^ Taber killer escapes in Toronto, Globe and Mail, August 15, 2005
  13. ^ Sister of Alberta school shooter appeals for him to surrender, August 16, 2005