KAMLOOPS - Two lives changed forever when a 15-year-old kid from Kamloops was confronted by Michael Forry on the corner of Desmond St. and Tranquille Road last March.
For one—tragedy. But for the other it gave hope of changing a lifetime filled with tragedy.
Forry may never fully recover. Doctors somehow kept him alive through a three-week coma and pieced his skull back together like a jigsaw puzzle, still easier than putting his life back together. Forry, 47, started March 24, 2013 with a good job, nice truck, care-free, a provider to his daughter and his elderly parents. Now, he's lost his home, can’t work, can’t drive. He has brain damage. He can go into convulsions at any moment.
“In an instant, I went from a hero to a zero,” he told a Kamloops Provincial Court judge last week.
That instant was 42 seconds after 5:10 p.m., if the surveillance camera at the Tranquille Road 7-Eleven is correct. That’s when the teen swung and hit him on the head with his longboard.
We can’t tell you the teen's name. Laws protect the identity of young offenders for the same reason Judge Stephen Harrison decided not to punish him. Because the instant he swung his big skateboard and committed aggravated assault was his best chance to put his own life together.
Before details were revealed in the teen’s sentencing hearing in court Feb. 28, local media repeated two different accounts of that day. Kamloops RCMP’s original version was correct on the important point—Forry wasn’t struck from behind.
According to submissions in court, Forry was visiting Kamloops from MacKenzie, drinking with a friend that afternoon at a North Shore pub before told to leave for ‘rough-housing.'
In his decision, Harrison said Forry's friend was driving down Desmond Road when Forry became angry at three teens jay-walking in front of them. The teen flipped him the bird and swung his longboard at the truck then continued to 7-Eleven, followed now by Forry and his friend. They skirmished in the parking lot. According to Harrison, Forry threatened them and shoved two of the teen’s friends. They called police.
You can see the rest on the video below, entered as evidence at the hearing.
Harrison noted the teen wasn’t the aggressor, that "he wasn’t thinking, just reacting.” In court, the now 16-year-old sobbed watching the video.
“I am sorry for what I did,” he said, “I deeply regret what happened. I made a terrible mistake.”
Behind social media forums and comments sections, readers from Brocklehurst—where they report untold damage he’s caused—may doubt his remorse. And maybe his regret will prove to be hollow.
Harrison only gave him a chance by not sending him to prison—no certainties. His judgment was informed by detailed reports from case workers, probation officers and medical professionals from where the teen spent most of the last two months being assessed and treated.
The justice system is a bit like a meat-grinder that way: All misfits wind up there and while processing thugs and thieves, the mentally ill, drug addicts and wayward teens are sometimes pulled out, offered help. It's often how people get the help they need. On minor offences, they might slip right through till the next time. They can avoid supervision, doctors, social services, even police and court orders.
Commit a serious crime and real work can get done.
Once pinned down, doctors diagnosed the teen with tourette syndrome, pervasive development disorder, relative attachment disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder among others. Nearly all are subsets of neurodevelopment attachment disorder. They manifest with aggression, frustration, fear, an inability to control his emotions, fights in school—fuel for his “chaotic, traumatic and horrific childhood,” as Harrison put it.
Harrison said ministry files began when he was five when his mother was hospitalized. He spent the next ten years in group homes, occasionally returned home, only to move on again because of neglect. A predator saw opportunity. In 2012, police arrested and charged his neighbour for repeated sexual assaults on him. He didn't tell anyone because the man threatened to kill his mother if he told, Harrison said. That man was sentenced to a year in prison.
Then, yes, havoc—his name on more than 50 Kamloops RCMP files, though no convictions. Now that he nearly killed someone, then breached orders, he's spent two months in a new program dealing specifically with neurodevelopment disorders. There, he has role models, proper medication, therapy and life skills. Program reports told Harrison they are pleased with his progress, say he's "turned a corner" and is doing well.
“Jail time would not teach the required social skills and subject [him] to further victimization,” one report said.
The Crown suggested a custodial sentence. Harrison sided with the teen’s lawyer, Tom Weiss and put him on probation, keeping him in the program for two years.
“You have been given an opportunity to make changes in your life. Embrace it,” Harrison told the teen. “If you return as an adult, it will be for a very long time.”
And Forry? Before last week's hearing, he was angry, even bitter. When he spoke to Infotel News immediately after the hearing, his feelings hadn't changed.
But then he told CTV: “If he goes to jail for any length of time he’ll come out in a body bag or kill someone else and then where will we be? The only thing I can hope is that he does get enough consequence that he changes. Then he can have a longer life – he’s only 16 now.”
There's no making sense of it.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Cavelle Layes at email@example.com or call 250-319-7494.