LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - A southern Alberta man has been given a life sentence for viciously attacking two aboriginal men — one of whom died — in an incident the Crown says was motivated in part by racism.
Bradley Francis Gray, 33, had originally been convicted of second-degree murder in the 2008 beating of George Many Shots in Lethbridge.
The Alberta Court of Appeal knocked that conviction down to manslaughter, but on Friday a judge still gave Gray a life sentence without a chance at parole for 10 years.
The Crown argued the sentence was merited because Gray had a deep-seated animosity toward native people in his neighbourhood.
"We're going to denounce, not only the offender, but deter others who might be inclined to take their frustrations out on groups of individuals, in this case, for ethnic reasons in part," prosecutor David Labrenz told reporters.
"The judge made it clear that this type of conduct could not be tolerated and he specifically referenced Lethbridge in that regard."
Court of Appeal documents say Gray and a neighbour were hanging out in his back yard late one evening when Gray started complaining about aboriginal people committing petty crimes in the area.
He told the neighbour he didn't think the police were willing or able to respond effectively.
Just then, Many Shots and his brother-in-law, Percy Panther Bone, walked past Gray's house. The neighbour testified the pair weren't doing anything, but Gray suddenly went after them and started punching and kicking Many Shots.
When Many Shots collapsed, Gray ran after Panther Bone, caught him and started beating him as well, though Panther Bone was eventually able to get away and make his way to a friend's house.
Court was told neither man resisted.
While Many Shots lay unconscious in the alley, Gray went into his house and put on a pair of boots, then returned and repeatedly kicked Many Shots.
He then broke a beer bottle beside the critically injured man, apparently to make it look like Many Shots and Panther Bone were fighting over booze and called police to report finding the man beaten.
EMS and police arrived and took Many Shots to the hospital, but he died of his injuries, which included multiple facial fractures, broken ribs, a lacerated liver and a ruptured abdominal artery.
Gray told police Panther Bone had carried out the beating, and police tracked him to the friend's home and arrested him. However, Panther Bone was himself suffering from a broken wrist, broken cheek bone and broken ribs, and told the officers they had been attacked by a white man.
According to Appeal Court documents, Gray complained to the officers who responded about how slowly they reacted when he had called them previously about a theft.
"Two Indians get into a fight and you've got the fire department, the police department here and you're here in no time," he told them.
Gray insisted at trial that he had not beaten either man and that Panther Bone and Many Shots had fought each other.
It took three interviews with police investigators before the neighbour admitted what had happened.
Gray's lawyer had recommended a sentence of five to eight years, but Gray addressed the court briefly Friday to say he would accept whatever decision the judge made.
The time Gray has spent in custody since his arrest in 2008 will be deducted from his sentence.
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