Four young men guilty of manslaughter were sentenced today for their parts in the 2015 beating death of 17-year-old Hilliard Sewap Jr. in Pelican Narrows.
Crown Prosecutor Fran Atkinson said Sewap's death arose from “an ongoing dispute between two groups of individuals” known locally as the “Wong-Streeters” and “Bronxers” after the nicknames of their respective neighbourhoods. In the early-morning hours of May 2, 2015, Atkinson said the Wong-Streeters were chasing a group of Bronxers around the community with 2x4s and other weapons when they managed to isolate Sewap. The Wong-Streeters inflicted a severe beating on the 17-year-old, she said, which led to his death at the scene.
“The two groups were going back and forth… chasing each other,” Atkinson said. “Hilliard either was knocked down or tripped. He was surrounded.”
Among Sewap's attackers, Atkinson said, were Trevor John Charles, 28, Cody Drake Custer, 25, Robbie Lambert Custer, 22, and Brandon Lee Matt McCallum (also known as Brandon Michel), 21.
Although it was difficult for the authorities to determine the exact nature of each man’s involvement in the beating, Atkinson said Charles was seen striking Sewap Jr. with a collapsing police-style baton. Bystanders who attempted to come to the victim’s aid were physically barred from assisting, the prosecutor added.
As Atkinson laid out the facts of the case, sobbing was heard from Sewap's family members, who had arrived in such numbers the proceedings had to be moved into a larger courtroom. The four accused, who appeared in court wearing shackles and leg-irons, showed little emotion as the facts were read into the record.
All four men were initially charged with second-degree murder, but today they pleaded guilty to manslaughter as part of a sentencing agreement between the Crown and defence. Charles was handed a five-and-a-half-year sentence, which was reduced to 634 days after he was credited for the time he has already served. Cody Custer and Robbie Custer each received two-and-a-half-year sentences, of which they will serve 252 and 730 days respectively. McCallum received a two-year sentence, and will serve 511 days after credit.
Atkinson said the influence alcohol had over the incident should not be taken lightly. The beating occurred the day after government cheques arrived in the community, which she said regularly leads to a spike in alcohol consumption and subsequent violence. Sewap’s death has also led to an increase in hostilities between the two factions, she said, describing the current situation as a “gang war.”
“This was a very tragic incident,” she said. “It has weighed heavily on the community of Pelican Narrows.”
Although four men have now pleaded guilty and received their sentences, the lengthy case has not yet entirely concluded. A fifth adult, Marcus Sewap, has also pleaded guilty to manslaughter and will be sentenced in Pelican Narrows Feb. 6, Atkinson said. Two youths – who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act – are also facing charges in connection with the death, she said, and are currently awaiting trials.
On Twitter: @TMacPhersonNews
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 1:36 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2017 to correct a spelling error. A previous version included the term "Long-Streeters" rather than "Wong-Streeters."
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