Manitoba

New details of 'cowardly' killing at downtown Winnipeg library emerge as 4th teen sentenced

The fourth and final teen to plead guilty for his role in what a judge called the "shocking" and "senseless" killing of Tyree Cayer, 28, at Winnipeg's Millennium Library has been sentenced for manslaughter.

Teen sentenced Tuesday 'started the chain of events' that led to 2022 death of Tyree Cayer, 28: Crown

A man in a cap and gown hugs a woman with blonde hair.
Tyree Cayer, left, is pictured with his mother, Tania Cayer, in an undated photo. Tyree was killed in December 2022 at the Millennium Library. (Submitted by Tania Cayer)

The fourth and final teen to plead guilty for his role in what a judge called the "shocking" and "senseless" killing of a man at a downtown Winnipeg library has been sentenced for manslaughter.

Tyree Cayer, 28, died on Dec. 11, 2022, after being attacked and stabbed at the Millennium Library.

Four teens, ages 14 to 16, were charged in his death — one who stabbed him, and three who assaulted him.

The three other youths involved in the attack had previously been sentenced — one for second-degree murder and two for manslaughter.

None of the teens can be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Court heard the youth sentenced Tuesday, who was 16 at the time of the attack and has been in custody since, wasn't the one who stabbed Cayer. But he is the one who "turned it from a verbal disagreement into something violent," Crown attorney David Burland told provincial court Judge Samuel Raposo.

"He started the chain of events that led to a horrendous impact on the community, and forever changed the lives of dozens of people," Burland said.

Cayer was stabbed three times, including one fatal wound to his chest that perforated his heart, Burland said, in an attack the judge called "cowardly" and "disturbing."

The attack closed the downtown library for six weeks and led the city to reintroduce airport-style security measures, which had previously been phased out, when it reopened.

Burland said the teen "let his anger take control" during the swarm attack that day and that his behaviour in custody since the killing has been "atrocious" — something defence lawyer Barry Sinder said his client knows he has to get a handle on.

A woman holds a framed photograph of her son as she talks to reporters outside a building.
Tania Cayer holds a photograph of her son as she speaks with reporters outside the courthouse in Winnipeg after the sentencing hearing on Tuesday. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Court heard the teen has been assessed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and issues with anger management and impulse control. It's suspected he has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, court heard.

He also had a "chaotic upbringing" that included being apprehended three times from parents who struggled with alcohol abuse, and grandparents who were forced to attend residential schools.

The victim's mother, Tania Cayer, held up childhood photos of her son as she addressed the teen through tears from across the courtroom, urging him to change his life and start being an example instead of "a stereotype."

"I understand you feel your family failed you, but we can't go backwards. You are not the victim here. You are the survivor," she said.

"I understand the dysfunction that has gone on, the generational — I get it, I'm a Métis woman. But you use that as your strength, and you are not victims now. My son is the victim."

After court adjourned, one of the teen's aunts embraced Cayer and told her how sorry she was for what happened.

The Sunday afternoon killing rattled people in downtown Winnipeg, including the library workers on shift that day — some of whom Burland said now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A walk-through metal detector stands in the background, to the left, while sign on a blue background in the foreground says "Millennium Library Security Measures."
Winnipeg's downtown Millennium Library reopened with enhanced security measures weeks after the stabbing death of Tyree Cayer. (Cameron MacLean/CBC)

"A person does not go from organizing books to watching someone bleed out because of a punctured heart and then just go about the rest of their day," he said.

Based on a joint recommendation, the youth was sentenced to an additional 10½ months in secure custody, followed by a year under an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision order — a type of rehabilitation plan that tries to lessen the chance of reoffending by a youth with mental health needs convicted of a violent offence.

Burland said considering the time the youth has already served, that sentence in essence amounts to three years in jail — the maximum allowed for a youth convicted of manslaughter.

The teen was also banned from carrying weapons for five years. 

New details of killing

Details about exactly what happened in the library that day couldn't be shared publicly until after the sentencing of the fourth accused teen Tuesday, which marked the end of proceedings related to Cayer's death. 

Court heard the incident began after the teens got kicked out of the library that day and came upon Cayer near the entrance. 

Video surveillance then shows Cayer and the teens "exchanging words and gestures" before the teen sentenced Tuesday followed Cayer back into the library, where the youth grabbed him, Burland said. 

That sparked a struggle that ended after one of the other teens pulled a knife from his hoodie and stabbed Cayer, he said.

Two people smile together.
Tyree shares a moment with his aunt Chantelle, who died in 2017. Cayer's mom, Tania, said the two were best friends. (Submitted by Tania Cayer)

Burland said the video shows the youth sentenced Tuesday was the one who "charged at Tyree, attacked him, then chased him further and piled on when he was in the library."

"Even after Tyree was stabbed, [the youth] angrily shoved him," he said.

Court heard the teen, who barely spoke when given the chance in court on Tuesday — despite pleas to do so from members of both his and Cayer's families — expressed remorse for his role in Cayer's death in a pre-sentence report.

'I don't know how to hate people'

Cayer's mother said her son, who was a star running back for the Elmwood Giants football team, started to struggle with his mental health after injuries sidelined his football career — struggles that intensified after the death of an aunt in 2017 with whom he was very close.

She said Tyree, who was described as vulnerable and homeless at the time he died, thought of himself as a Robin Hood-type figure and was always trying to help others, even though he hadn't yet figured out how to cope with his own issues.

Now that all four teens involved in her son's death have been sentenced, Tania Cayer said she's looking forward to moving on.

Tyree Cayer shows off his Elmwood Giants uniform in his high school football-playing days.
Tyree Cayer shows off his Elmwood Giants uniform in his high school football-playing days. (Submitted by Tania Cayer)

"I don't know how to hate people," she said. 

"If you were to ask me this like a year ago, my answers would have been different. But I need to move forward."

But looking ahead, she said she doesn't want her son to be remembered as just someone who was fatally stabbed at the library. 

Instead, she hopes people think of him as she does: as a generous, kind person — and No. 33 on the Giants.

New details of 'cowardly' killing at downtown Winnipeg library emerge as 4th teen sentenced

3 months ago
Duration 2:03
The fourth and final teen to plead guilty for his role in what a judge called the "shocking" and "senseless" killing of Tyree Cayer, 28, at Winnipeg's Millennium Library has been sentenced for manslaughter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlyn Gowriluk has been writing for CBC Manitoba since 2019. Her work has also appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press, and in 2021 she was part of an award-winning team recognized by the Radio Television Digital News Association for its breaking news coverage of COVID-19 vaccines. Get in touch with her at caitlyn.gowriluk@cbc.ca.

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