Canadian Armed Forces Sgt. Adam Blackwell has pleaded guilty to two firearms-related charges laid over an incident in January 2020, when he discharged a shotgun because he thought a woman was in danger.
At provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Thursday, Blackwell, 34, received a probationary sentence for three years.
As well, the Crown and defence presented a joint submission that included the withdrawal of two other charges that had been laid last winter.
Blackwell was discharged under conditions, which include a 10-year ban on firearms, a lifetime ban on prohibited and restricted firearms, and an order to not contact other individuals involved in the incident.
Three days before the night of the incident, Blackwell had received a text from a woman that led him to believe her physical safety was at risk.
In that text she wrote that if she "f--ked around" on her partner, that man would slit her throat and watch her bleed.
In the early morning of Jan. 12, Blackwell was awoken by a call from the woman who had sent the text.
Believed woman was being choked
According to an agreed statement of facts presented to the court, Blackwell heard a fight and what he believed to be sounds of the woman being choked.
Thinking the woman may have been murdered, according to court documents, Blackwell did not call the RCMP because he feared that if he ended the call to his cellphone, he would not be able to re-establish contact.
Instead, he left his home with a shotgun and headed to the woman's residence. Upon arrival, he could still hear the woman, gasping for breath. Blackwell believed that the man he thought was choking her could be carrying a weapon.
When he saw the man's vehicle, he fired his shotgun through one of its windows. Blackwell had first ensured the vehicle was empty. The identities of the woman and her partner are protected by a publication ban.
Blackwell did this in an attempt to stop what he thought was happening inside the home.
When that didn't work, he entered the home and saw the woman pinned against the kitchen island.
He pointed his firearm at the man. When Blackwell realized the was not carrying a weapon, he unloaded his shotgun and handed it to the woman.
The RCMP arrived shortly after and Blackwell was taken into custody. The statement of facts said Blackwell surrendered to police.
Lawyer says Blackwell's future with military in doubt
As a medical technician in the Canadian Army, Blackwell undergoes firearms training each year. Defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan told court this shows a lower risk of harm with Blackwell handling a weapon.
While Judge Phyllis Harris accepted the submission, she stressed that any time a firearm is used, there is a risk.
While the sentence is in the lower range, Harris said the circumstances are "unique" and "unusual," and said it was unlikely Blackwell would find himself back in court.
She stressed the court does not encourage "the use of firearms, obviously, by the general public as a means of dealing with potential criminal offences."
This guilty plea does come with other consequences for Blackwell, according to Sullivan. This sentencing, especially the firearms restriction, will have implications on Blackwell's employment status with the Canadian Armed Forces.
In a statement, 5 Wing public affairs officer Trevor Ackland said he couldn't comment specifically on Blackwell due to privacy concerns, but added the Canadian Armed Forces "takes matters like these very seriously."
An administrative review may take place when members of the Canadian Armed Forces are involved with various incidents. That review process may lead to "retention without career restrictions, retention with career restrictions and up to and including release from the Canadian Armed Forces."