Two cars tore through Stettler in a “bumper car”-style chase, ending when one man shot another all over a $750 drug debt.
Darren James Bauer, 32, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to three charges relating to the New Year’s Eve 2014 shooting in Stettler. An attempted murder charge was withdrawn by the Crown.
Bauer pleaded guilty to possession of a restricted weapon, a .45-calibre handgun; possession of stolen property over $5,000, a vehicle; and discharging a firearm at David Byrt, 37.
The pleas were entered by his counsel Kevin Schollie on Wednesday in Red Deer provincial court.
A six-year jail term was added by Judge Jim Hunter to Bauer’s already lengthy stay in custody. He is serving a five-year sentence handed down on Feb. 3 of this year.
Throughout the day of Dec. 31, 2014, Byrt and Bauer texted back and forth. They considered each other friends, however that friendship was strained over a drug debt Byrt owed Bauer. Prosecutor Ann MacDonald said Byrt owed about $750 and Bauer was demanding payment.
Byrt at one point apologized to Bauer for having the debt and not having the means to pay it, but Bauer refused to accept. As the texting exchange continued, the messages became hostile. At first the debt threatened the friendship, then Bauer threatened to end Byrt.
MacDonald said Byrt interpreted this to mean Bauer would kill him.
Later in the day, the two met while driving in Stettler and a chase ensued. MacDonald said the two drove “in a manner described as bumper cars.”
At one point, the cars came to a stop facing each other and Byrt got out of his vehicle.
Bauer pulled a .45-calibre handgun and shot Byrt twice — in the chest and in the lower spine. Byrt is now paralyzed.
Bauer then went home and loaded his family into the stolen vehicle and they fled to Calgary.
On Jan. 1, 2015, Airdrie RCMP located Bauer in the vehicle they identified as stolen.
After several hours of waiting and being cautious in their approach, police arrested Bauer. They found a sawed-off shotgun, shells, marijuana and about $400 in cash. At the time, Bauer was out on bail on drug possession, weapons and stolen property charges.
MacDonald noted that possession of a restricted firearm carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. Bauer has a lifetime weapons prohibition as a result of a 2001 conviction.
MacDonald and Schollie agreed to a sentencing recommendation of six years consecutive to Bauer’s existing five-year sentence.
MacDonald noted the guilty plea was a quid pro quo arrangement, saying there was little physical evidence at the scene and containment of the scene was limited. The .45-calibre handgun was never recovered.
Schollie said a trial would have centred on statements and the reliability of those providing the statement, including Byrt.
Hunter agreed with the joint sentencing submission of six years. He also included an order for Bauer to provide a sample of his DNA, the forfeiture of the sawed-off shotgun, marijuana and money that police seized when he was arrested, and added a lifetime weapons prohibition.