POLITICS

Eaton Centre shooting trial hears from teen victim who took bullet in head

11/13/2014 01:10 EST | Updated 01/13/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Moments after hearing gunshots ring out in the crowded food court at Toronto's Eaton Centre two years ago, Connor Stevenson felt dizzy and found it hard to move. Then he heard his mother say, "Connor, have you been shot?"

The now 16-year-old, who still has some shrapnel from a stray bullet lodged in his head, recounted his memories of that day in June 2012 as he testified Thursday at the trial of the man accused in the shooting, which killed two people and injured a number of others.

"I was kind of dazed at the moment. I remember my mom holding me," Stevenson recalled. "My head felt warm and I just felt pretty dizzy."

Christopher Husbands, 25, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting and has denied that he went to the mall with the intention of killing anyone.

He has also pleaded not guilty to five counts of aggravated assault, one of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and one of recklessly discharging a firearm.

The trial has heard that his lawyer plans to argue that Husbands was indeed responsible for the deaths and injuries that resulted from the shooting but that it was a "chance encounter'' with a group of five men that prompted him to open fire.

Stevenson, who was 13 at the time, told Husbands' trial that he didn't remember seeing anyone with a gun that day.

He was at the mall with his mother and his older sister. They had just come from a play at a nearby theatre and stopped at the Eaton Centre to shop and grab a bite to eat before heading home to Port Hope, Ont.

Surveillance video from the mall's food court has shown Stevenson and his mother in line to buy sushi while Husbands stands off to the side holding shopping bags.

Not long after the Stevensons had sat down at a table to eat, the teen remembers hearing a few gunshots that sounded "like pops of air."

"I rushed to try and hide, everybody was panicking and then my mom was holding me," he said. "As we were on the ground my sister was talking to me, giving me instructions to keep my mind alert."

Stevenson's mother, who also testified at the trial on Thursday, said her son went stiff and lost consciousness minutes after he was hit.

Jo-Anne Finney said she dove under a table with her two children and then noticed "kind of a funny look" on her son's face.

When she heard a gentleman call for people to "get back, get back," Finney said she tried to move towards a pillar with her children at which point she noticed a pool of blood on the ground.

"Connor wasn't moving. He was awake, but he wasn't moving," she said. "As we were pulling him back, I recall looking at his head and just seeing it looked like something was sticking out of his head."

Finney asked her son if he had been shot and then put her hand up to his head.

"I felt at the time there was a bullet in his head," she said.

Finney used her sweater to wrap up her son's head and apply pressure to his wound as her daughter talked to Stevenson, asking him math questions to try keeping him awake.

"Shortly after, I looked up and I see police officers come in...I said 'my son needs help, he's been shot,'" Finney recalled, adding that her son had lost consciousness by the time paramedics arrived.

"He had stiffened out."

Stevenson ended up having four surgeries to treat his injuries. He still requires regular check ups, sometimes needs treatment for headaches, but otherwise he leads a normal life.

"The take-away for me in all of this is that it affects so many lives, one 10-second act of violence," Finney said outside court. "Violence...it has a reverberating effect."

Husbands turned himself in to police two days after the shooting rampage that shocked the city.