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Lack of German translator prevents family from testifying at shooting trial

The family of Horst Stewin, who were with him in the vehicle when he was shot on Aug. 2, were set to testify at 7 a.m. in court through a closed-circuit television feed as part of the trial for a Stoney Nakoda youth facing five charges, including aggravated assault, in relation to the shooting
Horst Stewin, a German tourist who was visiting Canada, was shot on Highway 1A in 2018. The trial of the teen charged in the case began Monday (July 15).

CALGARY – The wife and son of the German man who was shot in the head last August along the 1A Highway did not get a chance to testify in the Calgary Court on Wednesday (July 17) after issues with a translator arose.

The family of Horst Stewin, who were with him in the vehicle when he was shot on Aug. 2, were set to testify at 7 a.m. in court through a closed-circuit television feed as part of the trial for a Stoney Nakoda youth facing five charges, including aggravated assault, in relation to the shooting. 

However, without a translator on hand for the testimony, the video recordings of their statements to RCMP after the incident were entered as exhibits instead. 

"[We] have to respond to unforeseen circumstances that arose," Judge George Gaschler said after agreeing to accept the transcripts.

Stewin's wife, Ulrike Stewin, who was in the passenger seat behind the driver, his son, Daniel Stewin, who was in the front passengers seat, and Daniel's girlfriend, who was in the back passenger side will have their video statements entered as evidence.

In the roadside statements, the family said they were looking for a ranch and did not realize they were on Stoney Nakoda First Nation lands. Stewin's wife, Ulrike described the shooter as Caucasian, between 30 to 35 years-old and said the vehicle was an older, black, square car. The Indigenous male accused of the shooting was a 16-year-old at the time and in a black SUV. In Daniel's roadside statement, he said he did not see the shooter, but described the vehicle as a black SUV.

The accused was originally facing 14 charges as a result of the last year's shooting, but before the trial commenced on Monday (July 15), the Crown withdrew nine charges including attempted murder.

Prosecutor Dane Rolfe determined conviction would be unlikely in the charges that were dropped, and continued his case against the accused with charges of aggravated assault, assault and three counts of discharging a firearm with intent under the Criminal Code.

In the agreed statements of the facts, Crown and defence confirmed Stewin was shot on the left side of his head while he was driving a black Dodge Durango eastbound on Highway 1A west of Morley. Police and EMS responded to the shooting where Stewin was airlifted to Foothills Medical Centre by helicopter where he was treated for about two weeks before being transported back to Germany.

On Aug. 22, Dr. Matthias Matt removed eight bullet fragments from Stewin's brain, the lasting impact leaving Stewin paralyzed on his right side.

"He is receiving therapy three times per week for his speech, writing and mobility," Rolfe told the Judge on Monday.

"His prognosis for a full recovery is guarded, at best."

An expert in forensic firearms, Lauren Black, confirmed one of the bullet fragments removed from Stewin's brain were consistent in size, composition and design with a fragment of a fired .22 short, long or long rifle bullet.

The seized rifle was a Cooey model 39 single-shot rifle .22 short, long or long rifle. 

The expert noted the bullet fragment was "neither identified nor eliminated" as having been specifically fired from the seized rifle.

Of the four people in the vehicle with the suspect, two were called as witnesses on Monday. Their identities are being withheld so as not to reveal the name of the accused, which is protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

The first witness told the Judge the group was originally just going for a drive to pick up a cellphone when the shooting occurred.

"I was scared. I didn't know what to do," said the 23-year-old female from Stoney Nakoda.

She told the court, the driver of the vehicle, her cousin, had instructed the youth to shoot after mistakenly identifying the driver of the black SUV as someone from the Nation.

“All I remember is [my cousin] tell him to shoot and [the youth] said nothing,” she said.

When asked by Crown counsel what happened, she said, “Obviously he shot him.”

“I wasn’t even watching, I just shut my eyes and covered myself. Would you want to see someone shooting somebody,” she said.

Under cross-examination, defence lawyer Balfour Der asked if the shot was fired through her window, as she was sitting on the passenger side in the backseat and the youth was on the driver’s side backseat, and she said she couldn't remember.

At the end of her testimony, when questioned by defence again, the witness said several times that she saw the accused shoot the gun.

During the second witness testimony, the driver of the vehicle explained the group was drinking vodka and doing methamphetamine before the shooting occurred.

The 25-year-old male from Stoney Nakoda said the two brothers (including the accused) brought two guns when they came to visit. The group was shooting at garbage cans before going for a ride, to pick up his cousin and grab more alcohol.

The driver admitted to being "more buzzed" than usual and said he was all over the road before trying to pass the black SUV.

It was when he was passing on the left when he heard a bang.

“It was a shot,” he said.

“It came from the backseat right behind me.”

The witness said he wanted to stop, but he felt a gun barrel on the back of his head, so he kept driving.

When cross-examined by defence, the witness admitted his memory was not reliable due to intoxication of alcohol and methamphetamine.

Der also asked about an interaction between the driver and his client after the incident where the driver "beat up" his client. The witness admitted there was a physical fight, but did not expand further.

When asked again by the Crown whether or not he remembered the day, the witness said he did. Judge Gaschler denied Der's request to re-cross examine.

The trial was originally scheduled for two weeks, but it expected to be done by Friday (July 19).