Skip to content

Northern Alberta teen sorry for bear mace, pellet gun assault on stranger

Justice gives Alberta teen involved in an early morning assault outside of Tim Hortons conditional sentence.
Barrhead Provincial Court (VM)

A Barrhead teen received a conditional discharge with 12 months probation for assaulting a person with bear mace last summer.

The 15-year-old male, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, pleaded guilty May 28 in Barrhead Court of Justice to assault with a weapon and appeared in court for sentencing before Justice Jordan Stuffco.

"I will give you a conditional discharge because of what I sense from you. I get this vibe from you that you are really upset with yourself. That speaks volumes to me," he said, hoping his emotional compass was not wrong."

Conditions of his probation include keeping the peace, being of good behaviour, reporting to the court when required, reporting to his probation officer as directed, living with his parents at a residence approved by the probation supervisor and attending any counselling sessions or treatment as directed by his probation officer.

As part of his sentence, the youth must write an apology letter to the victim, complete 100 hours of community service, and, for the first six months, be subject to a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He also must submit to a mandatory DNA order.

Crown prosecutor Anthony Estephan said that a pre-sentence report had been ordered at a previous court appearance as part of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. However, the probation office stated it would take an additional 10 weeks to complete.

The youth's lawyer said they would waive their right to the report, adding the family was anxious to put the incident behind them.

"He has been in the court several times; it is closing in on a year, and this is the second time he has come to this court for sentencing," he said.

The facts

Estephan said that on Aug. 2, 2023, at about 1:40 a.m., the Barrhead RCMP responded to glass-breaking alarms at Tim Hortons.

Upon arriving, police learned that the victim had been sprayed with bear mace and shot at with a BB gun.

The victim told police that he was using the free Wi-Fi outside the restaurant when he was approached by two of the three males walking westbound on 51st Avenue towards the Tim Hortons.

"One of the males separated from the two that approached [the victim] asking him, 'What are you looking at?'" Estephan said, adding the two males, one being the accused, were both wearing bandanas that partially obscured their faces and were wearing heavy coats. "After a brief exchange, one of the youths shot at [the victim] with a BB gun [hitting him in the hand] while [the accused] sprayed him with bear mace. They then ran south on 50th Street towards the other [youth]."

The Crown added that two of the Tim Hortons' windows were damaged during the attack.

The other youth, a 16-year-old male, was sentenced to 24 months of probation and 18 months probation and served concurrently in Westlock Court of Justice in November 2023 after pleading guilty to assault with a weapon and mischief under $5,000.

Estephan said the youths were identified by an anonymous tip from a witness who gave an account that matched the victim's account and surveillance video that captured the incident. 

Crown's position

Estephan said the Crown suggested 18 months of probation, 50 hours of community service, and a curfew for the first 12 months, adding the accused did not have a prior criminal record.

Stuffco said he agreed with all the Crown's the length and conditions in the proposed probation order, calling them "fantastic".

"My question is [was the victim] a vulnerable person, homeless, struggling with addiction or mental health issues, and using the Wi-Fi outside a fast food restaurant because he is too poor to have his own Internet access."

Estephan replied it was his understanding that the victim was from a vulnerable population.


The accused's attorney asked for a 12-month conditional discharge and 10 hours of community service, noting that his client was only 13, nearly 14, at the time of the offence and had already abided by several stringent conditions.

"Considering his very young age, his very early guilty plea, entering it as soon as possible, shows that he is taking responsibility, and it is his first time coming before the criminal justice system," he said. "He was with the wrong crowd at the wrong time." 

The accused's lawyer said his client is active in his church, volunteering his time, being involved in several sports-oriented extracurricular activities, and looking to get a part-time job; as such, the Crown suggested 50 hours of community service was excessive, submitting 10 as more appropriate.

"Ultimately, this is a grave offence, and the Crown believes that public confidence would be lost if a conditional discharge was imposed," Estephan countered. "There are strong public attitudes about unprovoked assaults."

He also agreed that several mitigating factors existed, including the accused's age and lack of previous criminal record.

"But the Crown is of the view that probation is an appropriate sentence, as it provides a form of denunciation, but more adequately addresses the harm of his victim and the community."

Justice's ruling

Stuffco said he hoped the victim had no previous criminal record, given his age when the offence occurred. He also called the defence request to reduce the accused's community hours a non-starter.

"Good luck with that. Not in my courtroom .... This kid needs to do a lot of community service. Ten hours is a joke, not meaningful at all, especially if I am giving him a discharge," he said. "No type of violence is acceptable, but attacking in a group, some busted soul that is hurting already, is just cowardly."

However, Stuffco said he believed the accused was a good kid who made a mistake but added that he would have to learn how to deal with the peer pressure that helped lead to this incident.

"I can tell you are a really good country kid," he said. "But there are a lot of bad country kids. Yes, there are bad kids in Edmonton, too, but friends can put a lot of extra pressure on you when you live in a small town. I'm not blind to that. Having lived it myself, in Fort McMurray, St. Albert," he said. You will have to find ways to separate yourself from those people."

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks