MEADOW LAKE, Sask. — A psychiatrist has testified that a teenager who gunned down four people in northern Saskatchewan has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks which have led to suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness.
Dr. Mansfield Mela also told court that the teen has an intellectual disability, major depressive disorder and displays signs of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Mela was testifying for the defence Thursday at a sentencing hearing to determine if the teen will be sentenced as an adult or a youth.
“He has poor reasoning, poor problem-solving and poor intellect,” Mela told the hearing being held in Meadow Lake, Sask.
He said the teen’s mental age at the time of the January 2016 shooting in La Loche was closer to that of a 12-year-old than a 17-year-old.
The teen killed brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine in a home before shooting up the high school where teacher Adam Wood and teacher’s aide Marie Janvier died. Seven others were hurt.
The teen — who cannot be named since he was just shy of his 18th birthday when the shooting occurred — pleaded guilty last fall to two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder.
Mela said he asked the teen during several interviews why he carried out the shooting, but did not get a specific answer.
“He consistently indicated that he wasn’t thinking. He did not know why he wanted to do what he did.”
Mela said most people’s “moral fibre would cause them to hold back.”
“He seemed not to be able to do that and decided that he was actually going to shoot up the school. It may have been that he was at that point becoming more depressed,” Mela said.
“This is my own explanation, that a combination of a foundation of intellectual deficit, inability to reason through his actions, poor moral judgment and social judgment … (led to) that decision without thinking about the consequences.”
Child psychiatrist Dr. Declan Quinn testified for the Crown this week and said the teen “did not come across as being clearly developmentally delayed or slow.”
However, the teen described himself as “quite unhappy and quite depressed and very anxious,” Quinn said.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Katelyn Harker also testified for the Crown and said the teen told her that he was thinking about shooting up the school for six months. But he didn’t tell her why.
Harker said she believes the teen has some cognitive limitations, but no disorder.
The teen’s lawyer, Aaron Fox, has asked court for a Gladue report, which examines an indigenous offender’s background for the judge to use in making a sentencing decision.
Fox said Wednesday some of the information about the youth’s background that has come out raises important questions that need to be answered.
Crown prosecutor Lloyd Stang did not oppose the request for the report, but questioned the timing. He said the report could have been ordered sooner.