Victim impact statements in abundance at sentencing for man who killed RCMP Const. Shelby Patton

Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post. A portrait of RCMP Const. Shelby Patton, who died while on duty, is seen at RCMP ‘F’ Division headquarters in Regina, Saskatchewan on June 12, 2021.

The Crown is seeking a life sentence, while the defence has suggested a 16-year sentence would be appropriate.

Brandon Harder, Regina Leader-Post

A Regina courtroom was awash with expressions of grief Friday during a sentencing hearing for the man who killed RCMP Const. Shelby Patton.

In September, Alphonse Stanley Traverse, 44, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the June 12, 2021 death. The 26-year-old officer was run over by a stolen truck driven by the Manitoba man, as he tried to flee the scene of a traffic stop in a small Saskatchewan town.

According to Court of King’s Bench Justice Michael Tochor, 21 victim impact statements were submitted prior to Friday’s proceedings. Some were read aloud in court by their authors, while others were read by prosecutor Adam Breker.

Grief flowed from at least three different families Shelby belonged to. One he was born into. One he married into. One he was sworn into. Additionally, court heard about how the loss affected the people from Indian Head, where the constable was stationed, and Wolseley, where he died.

Court heard his mother, Melanie Patton, speak to being “absolutely gutted” over the loss, which she described as making her feel like “a part of me was ripped out and slaughtered.”

“I cannot truly convey the hell I am in,” she said, having relayed sentiments that were common in statements given by other members of Shelby’s family, including his father and his sister, both of whom expressed the deep impact they felt from the loss.

One statement included mention of how the children of the town of Indian Head, who looked up to the officer, struggled to process his death. Many others expressed grief over the children Shelby himself will never have.

A statement from Shelby’s wife expressed that her pain, emotional and physical, has been unbearable.

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post. Alphonse Stanley Traverse pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the June 12, 2021 death of 26-year-old Cst. Shelby Patton.

Further, court heard from a collection of police officers, including Assistant Commissioner Rhonda Blackmore, Saskatchewan’s highest-ranking RCMP officer, who told court she believes Shelby’s’s career would’ve seen him accomplish great things, but it was instead cut short by a “senseless act.”

“We will forever feel the void without him as part of our RCMP family,” she said.

Other officers spoke as well, about the immense and positive impression Shelby made on them, as well as how the loss affected both their personal lives and careers.

“Out of fear, I’ve only completed a handful of traffic stops since Shelby’s death,” one officer stated.

All of this provided groundwork for Breker, whose submissions began by saying the Crown is seeking a life sentence — the maximum — for Traverse, calling the incident a “near murder.”

The prosecutor went on at length about the reasons why the court should impose such a sentence, which in part had to do with the aforementioned impact of the death of a police officer, which extended far beyond his friends and family.

“An attack on a police officer is an attack on society itself,” he said quoting case law in support of his position.

Breker said Traverse deliberately prioritized his own freedom over any other consideration. At minimum, Traverse was either reckless toward, or wilfully blind about, the very serious potential consequences of his actions, the prosecutor said.

Further, the Crown lawyer leaned into Traverse’s 30-year history of offending, noting that any overture the convicted man may make about being prepared to rehabilitate himself should be taken with “less than a grain of salt,” because history has shown he’s made no effort to do so in the past.

Gladue factors, while present, do not “meaningfully or appreciably” serve to reduce Traverse’s blameworthiness, in this case, he suggested.

In contrast, Winnipeg-based defence lawyer Matthew Gould suggested a 16-year-sentence as appropriate for what he referred to as a “near accident.”

This “extraordinarily significant” sentence would take into consideration the “concerning factors” outlined by the Crown, he suggested.

These factors he addressed in turn, arguing Gladue factors should be given the “appropriate weight,” citing from reports that abuse, sexual and physical, was suffered by Traverse as a youth. His client had been through 10 different foster homes and attended Day School, Gould said.

He argued that while his client’s act of driving away as Shelby stood on the truck’s running board carried foreseeability of subjecting the officer to risk of bodily injury, but not serious bodily injury or life-threatening injury.

He provided the judge with a lengthy submission on the analysis of an incident in this regard.

“This was not predictable. This was not likely. It was devastating. It did occur,” he said.

His client should not be sentenced as someone who intentionally killed a police officer, because he did not, Gould concluded.

The judge’s decision on a sentence is to be delivered in February.