Accused’s conduct after fatal shooting inconsistent with guilt: lawyer

In his submissions to jurors, the Crown prosecutor said they didn’t have to find Heavenfire intended his brother’s death

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Alcohol and firearms don’t mix well, a prosecutor said Monday in asking a jury to convict a Tsuut’ina Nation man of manslaughter over his brother’s death during a drunken hunting expedition.

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But the lawyer for Rylen Heavenfire said his client’s actions after his brother’s fatal shooting were inconsistent with someone guilty of a crime.

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Defence counsel Steve Wojick noted Heavenfire’s conduct after the shooting was inconsistent with him doing anything that led to the death of his older sibling Randen.

Wojick said Heavenfire went to his grandmother’s home after the shooting to inform her of the incident.

“He said to her, Randen got shot, Randen’s dead,” Wojick said, of the Oct. 25, 2019 conversation between the accused and Donna Rowan.

“Call the police,” he told her.

“Rylen was present in the motor vehicle (heading back to the scene) when she called the police. Rylen returned to the scene,” he said, “knowing the police were coming.

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“These are not the actions of someone with a guilty conscience. These are the actions of someone who was distressed and searching for answers.”

Heavenfire is charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of his brother, who was killed with a single shotgun blast to his face.

In his submissions to jurors, Crown prosecutor Vince Pingitore said they didn’t have to find Heavenfire intended his brother’s death.

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“You may conclude that the accused intentionally shot Randen Heavenfire, but that is not something that you have to decide in this trial,” he said.

But Pingitore told the Calgary Court of King’s Bench jury that they should find the accused’s severe intoxication and his careless use of the loaded shotgun he’d taken into the woods while drinking with Randen, the deceased’s girlfriend and their uncle Ian Heavenfire, amounted to manslaughter.

“What you will distill from the evidence that you’ve heard in this case is one straightforward and clear conclusion, and that is that firearms and alcohol do not mix well together,” he said.

“I will ask you to consider how a reasonable person in the circumstances of the accused would have handled a firearm on this day,” Pingitore said.

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The prosecutor said on Heavenfire’s own statement to police, given the day after the fatal shooting, there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty, including the fact he admitted possessing the weapon and that his brother was never in possession of the gun.

“There can be no doubt that the accused’s decision to consume alcohol, become intoxicated and handle a shotgun recklessly and carelessly caused Randen Heavenfire’s death.”

Jurors began deliberations early Monday afternoon after receiving final instructions on the law from Justice Michele Hollins.

On Twitter: @KMartinCourts

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