More than two years, four surgeries and 1,200 stitches later, a teenager shot in the head in a crowded downtown food court recalled on Friday what little he remembers of the attack that left him so close to death.
In his victim-impact statement, Connor Stevenson, 15, told Superior Court how he heard gunshots at the landmark Eaton Centre in June 2012 that left two people dead and injured him and four others.
“People started to panic,” Connor said.
“My head felt funny, and then just total darkness.”
Connor was left with a shattered skull that is now made in large part of plastic and bullet shards still lodged in his head. He has frequent headaches and had to give up contact sports, court heard.
Christopher Husbands, 25, who shot Connor, is facing sentencing for convictions on two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Nixon Nirmalendran and Ahmed Hassan at the mall.
He was also convicted of aggravated assault and criminal negligence in the shooting that sparked panic and horrified the city.
Connor’s mom, dad and older sister all spoke of the devastating impact: the ongoing fears, the feelings of guilt and helplessness, the constant revisiting of the horrors that befell the family that evening.
“A trip to the Eaton Centre cost my son years of painful operations,” his mother, Jo-Anne Finney, told the court.
“How could I put my son in this situation?”
The shooting, she said, has left her with a feeling of “extreme fear or true absolute terror.”
Taylor Stevenson, 17, who helped cradle her brother as he lost consciousness on the food-court floor, said she wakes up every morning worrying about his safety.
The “meaningless, heartless event” changed so many lives, she told court.
“One of the worst things has already happened to us,” she said, fighting tears.
“I’m worried that Connor blames himself and is scared of the world around him.”
In his statement, father Craig Stevenson said the family had earlier lost a child at the age of 18 months and Connor’s shooting rekindled those terrible feelings.
He remembered Taylor calling to say Connor had been shot.
“I couldn’t comprehend what I’d just heard,” he just said.
He found his wife and daughter at the hospital, both covered in blood from head to toe from the stricken boy.
“Christopher Husbands has inflicted a life sentence of pain and suffering on Connor and many others,” he said, directly addressing the accused, who mostly sat expressionless in the prisoners’s box.
The Crown had argued the shooting was the result of a feud between Husbands and the two men he killed, who were earlier involved in a vicious attack on him.
Hassan’s sister, Amren Hassan, wept on the stand as she said her “baby brother” had been gunned down.
“Ahmed, contrary to his portrayal in the media, was a caring and loving young man,” she said.
“He spoke no ill words of others and wished no harm on them either.”
Nirmalendran’s mother, Vigneswary Nirmalendran, described how her small family had been devastated by what occurred.
She said she was at a loss as to how he had been caught up in the events that led to his killing.
“Everyone will say my son was bad,” Nirmalendran said. “But for me, he was not like that.”
Jurors had recommended Husbands be ineligible for parole for between 15 and 25 years.
But on Friday, Judge Eugene Ewaschuck allowed the Crown’s application for Husbands to serve consecutive sentences — instead of 10 to 25 years, he could serve 20 to 50 — though it’s up to his discretion.
Husbands’s lawyer Dirk Derstine is challenging the decision under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Both sides will be back in court on March 30 for the argument and sentencing.
Read the below documents for other victim impact statements. Mobile viewers, click here.
With files from Toronto staff