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Killer loses bid for damages over Quebec jailhouse standoff

Ontario Court Justice Melvyn Green’s criticisms of federal justice policy add fuel to a simmering battle over mandatory minimum prison terms and harsh penal reforms.


A knife-wielding prison inmate disarmed by a gunshot to the hand by a corrections officer has lost his bid for injuries suffered during the jailhouse standoff.

The Federal Court has dismissed the $45,000 lawsuit brought by convicted killer Shem Trotman, who along with another armed inmate advanced on a prisoner in the gymnasium of Donnacona Institution in 2007, having ignored at least four warnings shots fired by guards at the maximum security penitentiary near Quebec City.

The shot that halted the attack was the culmination of a violent spree that evening in which three other other inmates were allegedly stabbed in altercations involving Mr. Trotman, who is serving a life sentence for the 2002 murder of his 24-year-old girlfriend in his apartment in Burnaby, B.C., a knife attack a judge called "one of extreme violence and of a sadistic nature."

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Donnacona prison was under a state of high alert following the initial attacks, and inmates were searched and ordered to return to their cells. At least three inmates remained in the gym: Mr. Trotman, Jason Kooger and Jason McGowan.

Knives drawn, Mr. Trotman and Mr. Kooger were approaching an unarmed Mr. McGowan, who was apparently following a convict's code and refusing to walk away, the court said. He was bleeding from the ear after being stabbed by Mr. Trotman about half an hour earlier. The pair, holding shanks, or homemade knives, ignored several warning shots fired by at least three officers.

The corrections officer who fired the final shot, Stéphane Beaulé, submitted an affidavit to the court in which he said the pair were approaching Mr. McGowan from either side of the pool table.

Mr. Beaulé had opened a window in his guard station and told Mr. McGowan to leave the area and another officer opened a door to allow him to leave.

"Shem Trotman and Jason Kooger looked like two predators waiting for the right moment to attack their prey. I truly felt that if Shem Trotman and Jason Kooger got to Jason McGowan, they would kill him," he said.

"We had tried using several methods to stop them, but they continued. I sincerely believed they were going to kill Jason McGowan or seriously injure him. I made several attempts to stop them; if I hadn't taken action right then we would have lost complete control. Shem Trotman and Jason Kooger were close to Jason McGowan and were ready to jump him and attack him with their shanks.... So I shot him in the hand that was holding the shank. I made the decision because I had to stop Shem Trotman before someone got killed."

In his statement of claim seeking damages for his injured hand, Mr. Trotman said the guard had less harsh measures available to him, and that there was no danger that anyone was about to die.

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But the court official who ruled on the case said video evidence and testimony from other officers proved prison staff acted as "reasonable, prudent and diligent officers."

"The court feels that this measure was taken by Officer Beaulé as a last resort after several prior dissuasive measures had yielded no tangible results. The correctional officers, and Officer Beaulé in particular, acted incrementally and took a measured approach," wrote Richard Morneau, a prothonotary.

Both Mr. Trotman and Mr. Kooger are serving life sentences for second-degree murder. Mr. McGowan, the intended victim, was serving a sentence for a string of violent offences.

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