'It destroyed him.' Lionel Desmond's friend and fellow infantryman recalls firefights

·2 min read

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — An inquiry investigating why a former soldier from Nova Scotia killed three family members and himself in 2017 heard today from one of Lionel Desmond's closest friends and fellow infantrymen.

Orlando Trotter, a former corporal with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, was part of Desmond's platoon during a particularly violent tour of duty in 2007 during the war in Afghanistan.

Trotter described how he and Desmond took part in intense firefights with the Taliban on an almost daily basis over a seven-month period.

He said the battles and the horrors of war took their toll on Desmond, who was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder in 2011 and medically discharged in 2015.

Trotter says Desmond was a gentle and caring person whose core values were at odds with being a warrior.

The former corporal told the inquiry that Desmond's internal struggle eventually destroyed him.

"You have to have a certain personality to go into battle," Trotter said. "He wasn't one of those guys .... It changed him."

On Jan. 3, 2017, Desmond bought a rifle and later that day shot his 31-year-old wife, Shanna, their 10-year-daughter, Aaliyah, and his mother, Brenda, 52, before killing himself in their home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

In the months and years that followed, friends and relatives complained that Desmond's attempts to seek help for his mental illness led him nowhere.

The inquiry is examining whether Desmond had access to mental health and domestic violence services, and whether he should have been able to buy a rifle.

It is also investigating whether the health-care and social services providers he dealt with were trained to recognize occupational stress injuries or domestic violence.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press