CALGARY – Defence counsel for the youth accused of shooting German tourist Horst Stewin in the head last August has decided he will not be called to the stand to testify about the events that occurred that day.
The accused, who was 16 years old at the time and cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is charged with aggravated assault, assault and three counts of discharging a firearm with intent. His trial began Monday (July 15) in Calgary's Court of Queen's Bench.
Two witnesses, who were in the vehicle with the accused during the shooting, were called to testify on Monday, providing different accounts of what happened. On Wednesday (July 17), Stewin's family was scheduled to testify on closed-circuit television from Germany, but the translator cancelled and an alternate could not be found in time.
On Thursday (July 18) morning, Judge George Gaschler requested transcripts from the witness testimony from the first two days, noting almost every piece of evidence is contradictory to each other. Closing arguments are set for Aug. 28.
One of the occupants of the vehicle with the accused on Aug. 2, 2018 said the driver, her cousin, instructed the youth to shoot after Stewin was misidentified as someone they knew from the Stoney Nakoda First Nation. A driver of the vehicle said he was driving “buzzed” and carelessly when the shot was fired.
The first witness said she did not see the accused shoot, as she ducked down and covered herself with her hoodie, but when re-cross examined by defence lawyer Balfour Der, she said several times at the end of her statement that she did see him shoot the firearm – a Cooey model 39 single-shot .22 short rifle.
The driver testified there were two guns, one in the front seat and one in the back, and said he did not instruct any shooting.
“It was a shot – it came from the backseat behind me,” he told the judge on Monday.
He said he wanted to stop the vehicle, but he felt a gun barrel on the back of his head and was asked, “What the fuck are you doing?” so he kept driving.
When cross-examined by defence, the 25-year-old agreed his memory is not reliable due to intoxication of alcohol and methamphetamine, but when the Crown asked him again whether or not he remembered the day and he said he did.
Stewin’s family, his wife, son and son’s girlfriend, who were all in the vehicle during the shooting, had their roadside statements entered as evidence instead of testifying.
In the statements Stewin’s wife, Ulrike Stewin, who was sitting behind the driver's seat, said the family was travelling to look at the ranches between Canmore and Calgary and heading eastbound on Highway 1A when a black car drove up on the left and a shot was fired.
Ulrike told the officer the shot came from the front window and described the shooter as Caucasian, 30 to 40 years old.
The accused is Indigenous, was 16 years old at the time of the shooting and sitting in the backseat on the drivers side.
Meanwhile Stewin’s son, Daniel said he did not see the shooter, but described the suspect’s vehicle as a black SUV.
“First I thought it was exploding, like the wheel exploded … and then I looked at my dad and he was sitting like with his head down and I thought, what the hell,” Daniel said in his interview with police.
The son explained how he tried to steer and brake the vehicle from the passenger's seat, while his mom and girlfriend were shouting and crying in the back seat, but he couldn’t get control of the vehicle.
“My mom said 'he got shot, he got shot,' and then I saw, at that moment, I first saw that there was a shooting, [a bullet] hole in the glass,” he said.
In an agreed statement of facts entered into the record before the trial began, Crown and defence confirmed Horst was shot on the left side of his head and airlifted to Foothills Medical Centre where he spent approximately two weeks before being transported back to Germany.
Eight bullet fragments were removed from his head during brain surgery, the lasting impact leaving Stewin paralyzed on his right side.
“His prognosis for a full recovery is guarded, at best,” Crown Prosecutor Dane Rolfe told the judge.