Halifax man sentenced in 2018 death faced 'hateful, racist insults' before shooting

·3 min read
Rae'heem Downey is shown being escorted out of Dartmouth provincial court in 2018.  (Craig Paisley/CBC - image credit)
Rae'heem Downey is shown being escorted out of Dartmouth provincial court in 2018. (Craig Paisley/CBC - image credit)

A 24-year-old Halifax man has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for the fatal shooting of another man in Eastern Passage, N.S., with a prosecutor saying the accused opened fire after the victim repeatedly called him the N-word and advanced on him with a knife.

Jamie Lee Bishop, 21, was gunned down as he walked along the side of a road on the evening of June 18, 2018. He died later in hospital.

Rae'heem Downey was originally charged with second-degree murder in Bishop's death. But earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Downey was sentenced Thursday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

According to an agreed statement of facts read into the court record, Downey and Bishop had never met before the night of their fatal encounter. A 15-year-old girl called Downey that night, asking him to come pick her up. She had quarreled with Bishop and wanted a drive. Her identity is protected by a publication ban.

When Downey arrived in Eastern Passage, Bishop and the girl were walking along the side of the road. Bishop was carrying a kitchen knife. Downey called out to the girl.

According to the statement, Bishop advanced on Downey's car with the knife, repeatedly shouting the N-word. Downey, who is Black, took out a .22-calibre handgun and fired three to four shots. One of them struck Bishop in the chest. He died later in hospital.

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Bishop was between three and eight metres from Downey when he was shot. Based on calls to 911 and security camera footage nearby, the entire encounter lasted just more than a minute and a half.

Downey took off in his car but was arrested a short time later and has been in custody ever since.

"Mr. Downey's actions amounted to a culpable homicide," Crown prosecutor James Van Wart said outside court following the sentencing.

"Provocation allows for a partial defence to murder, and that's why the plea was to manslaughter. It's not just that Mr. Downey was acting in a heat of passion all of a sudden before he had time to cool, [it] also has to be considered whether or not the provocation was caused by conduct that would amount to a criminal offence, that's one of the other conditions of the Criminal Code."

The other Crown prosecutor, Carla Ball, described the language Bishop used as "violent and offensive."

In sentencing Downey Thursday, Justice Denise Boudreau described the comments as "hateful and disturbing racial epithets."

'No parent is prepared for the loss of a child'

Downey's lawyer, Trevor McGuigan, said his client's actions were "a quick reaction to unexpected, hateful, racist insults." McGuigan said Downey had been shot in the past and that informed his decision to carry a gun.

Bishop's father, mother and grandmother participated in the sentencing hearing by video link from the courthouse in Bridgewater, N.S.

"I was shocked and I was heartbroken," Kirk Bishop told the court about his reaction to news that his son had been killed. "A piece of my heart is missing."

Bishop's mother, Janet Bishop, said her world changed when her son died. "No parent is prepared for the loss of a child," she said.

Violet Bishop told the court that after learning of her grandson's death, she lost the desire to do anything. Two brothers had victim impact statements read into the record by the Crown.

'I can't imagine the pain that I caused you'

Boudreau, who accepted a joint recommendation on sentence from Crown and defence lawyers, addressed the Bishop family in her sentencing decision.

"I cannot imagine what the sudden and violent death of a loved one can do to a person," she said.

Downey also apologized.

"I'm truly sorry to the family for what happened," he said. "I can't imagine the pain that I caused you."

With credit for time already served, Downey faces another six years and nine months in prison.

He's also banned from possessing weapons for the rest of his life.

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