Damage to a windshield from a bullet fired by Gaige Forrest is seen in a court exhibit photograph.
A Yellowknife 18-year-old who shot a man in Hay River and left him severely injured will spend the next four years in prison.
Gaige Forrest fired a pistol multiple times as the 21-year-old victim got out of a truck last December near Hay River’s airport. One bullet went through a lung.
Another bullet cracked the victim’s windshield and a third went through the rear window. The victim had driven to the area in preparation for a street fight, a court heard.
Forrest left the scene with the victim waiting for an ambulance. The 21-year-old required “two chest tubes to allow him to continue breathing” according to an agreed statement of facts presented in court last week.
The man was medevaced to Edmonton’s Royal Alexandra Hospital, where he underwent surgery to remove a portion of his left lung. He was in hospital for 18 days.
RCMP found Forrest at the airport, waiting for a flight to Yellowknife. He was taken into custody when police found the handgun, now out of bullets, in his possession.
Two days before that shooting, Forrest had been in Fort Resolution with the gun. Court documents state RCMP were told he had pointed the gun at a woman in the community and threatened her.
“The woman begged Mr Forrest not to shoot her as she has a daughter,” a court heard in June as the agreed facts were read into the NWT Territorial Court record by Crown prosecutor Brendan Green.
The woman had just broken up a fight between her husband, Forrest, and another man. After she had asked Forrest and the other man to leave, the court heard, Forrest “pushed his way back into the home and pointed a black handgun at her.”
Forrest pleaded guilty in NWT Territorial Court in Yellowknife to three counts:
intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life or safety of another;
pointing a firearm at another person; and
an unrelated January assault on a man in Yellowknife.
Forrest had initially been charged with attempted murder and several other weapons-related offences.
At the hearing, the court heard Forrest came from a broken home and had a traumatic upbringing.
Defence lawyer Jake Chadi said Forrest began using alcohol and illicit drugs between the ages of 12 and 16 – which led to the use of Percocet and Oxycontin – and had faced post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
In jail, Chadi said, he has been taking as much treatment and programming as possible and is working toward his education.
“He’s genuinely remorseful,” said Chadi. “He was operating in a wild and crazy daze fuelled by illicit substances. He knows harm has been done and he wishes healing could take place.”
Deputy Judge Bruce Henning said the firearms charges required a substantial sentence.
Henning accepted a joint submission of 1,822 days for all three convictions, less 282 days of accumulated remand credit, leaving 1,540 days – or roughly four years and two months – to serve.
The judge said the offence could have easily resulted in a death and only “by pure chance” did the bullet miss the man’s heart or a vein.
Forrest will have the opportunity for early release.
Said the judge: ”I wish you luck in dealing with all of your issues and that you can come out of this in a much more positive way.”
Forrest will also have to submit a DNA sample to the national crime databank and be banned from possessing firearms for 10 years upon his release from prison.
Emily Blake contributed reporting.
Correction: July 12, 2022 – 17:11 MT. This article initially stated Forrest had pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging a restricted firearm at a person with intent to wound or endanger life under section 244 of the Criminal Code. He in fact pleaded guilty to a charge of intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life or safety of another, which is section 244.2 of the Criminal Code.