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Young offender sentenced as an adult in Ryan Gatzke's death

Terror Squad gang members were tipped off that Ryan Gatzke had won money at the casino in North Battleford. They killed him in a home invasion and attempted robbery in October 2019.

BATTLEFORD – A young offender – and Terror Squad street gang member – convicted of manslaughter in a home invasion and attempted robbery that left 27-year-old Ryan Gatzke dead – has been sentenced as an adult.

On Friday in Battleford Court of King’s Bench, the young offender, who can’t be identified due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was handed a 9.5-year prison sentence.

He was five months away from his eighteenth birthday at the time of Gatzke’s murder on Oct. 18, 2019. If he had been sentenced as a youth the maximum sentence would have been three years for manslaughter. Sentenced as an adult, however, carries a four to 12-year prison sentence.

A four-day trial was held in April 2023 and Justice Heather MacMillan-Brown found him guilty of manslaughter, break and enter with intent to commit an indictable act, and possession of a firearm while prohibited. In May 2020, he was initially charged with second-degree murder.

His sentencing was postponed until after a hearing to determine if he should be sentenced as an adult. In January 2024, the young offender agreed to be sentenced as an adult.

The youth was the last of four people to be convicted of Gatzke’s murder.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Jennifer Schmidt – who had sought a 10-year prison sentence – said the convictions of the four accused disrupted the gun violence in the Battlefords.

“In the trial decision of this case, the Court found that this offence was committed because of the co-accused’s membership in the Terror Squad,” Schmidt told Friday after the sentencing hearing.

“Ryan Gatzke was an everyday sort of guy whose death was a direct result of gang activity in the City of North Battleford. The prosecution of these four co-accused made a significant impact in disrupting the gun violence that the Terror Squad was engaging in at the time of Mr. Gatzke’s death and significant credit goes to the RCMP Major Crimes Unit for providing the Crown with an investigation that allowed us to put forward such a strong case for each of the co-accused.”

June Gatzke read victim impact statements at the sentencing hearings of all four convicted in her son's death. Photo by Lisa Joy /

Gatzke’s mom the real hero, says prosecutor

Ryan Gatzke’s mother June Gatzke read victim impact statements at the sentencing hearings for all four convicted.

“I think the real story here is the strength and resilience of Ryan Gatzke’s mother, June,” said Schmidt. “In the sentencing decision today, Justice MacMillan-Brown recognized both the depth of her family’s loss and the immense courage that it took to stand up in court on four separate occasions and honour her son.  So, as much as this is a case about the impact of gang violence in North Battleford, it is also a story about what it means to be a mother who has lost a son.”

Outside of the courthouse, June Gatzky previously told reporters that coming to court for the appearances of the four accused in her son’s death is difficult.

“It rips my heart every time. It rips my heart every day.”

She said her son was working at two jobs to support his fiancé and the baby they were expecting. He owned the house where he was murdered.

“He had that house and he had a business going. He was a hard worker.

“My life has changed drastically," she added. "There is a huge void in my life without Ryan.”

She recounted the agony of Ryan Gatzke’s brother’s phone call to their mom telling her that Ryan had been shot. And the cries and screams when they were told at the hospital that Ryan didn’t make it.

“I didn’t want to believe it,” said June Gatzky. “He was taken away in the blink of an eye.”

She said she misses her daily conversations with him, his text messages, his hugs, and his laughter.

Ryan Gatzke’s aunt described him as intelligent, kind-hearted, and a hard-working family man who was excited about the birth of his first child. He had bought a home and recently started his own roofing business with his brother.

“He loved to laugh, tease and joke around,” she said, adding that he had chosen to make something of his life.

His daughter was born after his murder and she will never feel the love he had for her, said his aunt.

She told the court that the young offender didn’t take “a nobody," but rather, he took a man with goals.

“We lost Ryan for something as worthless as money,” she said.

When another one of Ryan Gatzke’s aunts read her victim impact statement to the court, she said, “I hate North Battleford because it is filled with crime.”

Tashina Peters with her and Ryan Gatzke's daughter. Tashina was pregnant at the time of the home invasion that resulted in her common-law husband's death. Contributed by Tashina Peters

Terror Squad tipped off that Gatzke won money

An employee at the casino in North Battleford tipped off Terror Squad street gang members that Ryan Gatzke had money and (marijuana) in his home, court heard. The staff member worked at the casino before Gatzke's murder and after the murder but not the day of the murder, according to SIGA. 

After a night out at the casino with his pregnant common-law wife Tashina Peters on Oct. 18, 2019, Gatzke, 27, was fatally shot in an attempted armed robbery.

“I just felt so useless because I was six months pregnant and there was nothing I could do,” said Tashina previously.

When three Terror Squad gang members broke into their home, the couple had already gone to bed after a night out at a casino in North Battleford.

“We were out at the casino for a little bit. We won some money. I think we only won like $1,500 at the casino.”

Tashina said she woke up to a strange noise.

“I heard a rattling at our door and then I woke up right away and that’s when everything went crazy. I woke up Ryan and I told Ryan ‘someone’s in the house’ and  he got up and I saw one of them standing there with a gun in Ryan’s face.”

Ryan fought off the intruders and was shot. 

“He protected both of us,” said Tashina, referring to her and their unborn child.

“Ryan was laying there in a pool of blood on the floor.”

She cried softly as she recounted the memory.

“I think my heart is permanently broken because of this. I’m trying to move on. I’m trying to be strong for our daughter.”

Tashina, who is originally from Eastern Canada, said she had to move out of the Battlefords and Saskatchewan.

“There’s memories everywhere there for me with Ryan. We went everywhere together. We did so much together. Everything would bring back the memories.

“I tried to live there. I just couldn’t. I stayed maybe a year but just couldn’t do it because I was always constantly checking my doors, checking my windows, checking on my kids. I wouldn’t sleep all night until they went to school in the morning and then I would sleep while they were at school.”

She said her four-year-old daughter, Halo, is the spitting image of Ryan and so much like him.

“I sit here and look at his daughter and she looks so much like him and she has his personality. She’s so outgoing. She is so popular in school.”

Tashina said every time Halo sees an airplane she says, “Look mommy, daddy’s up there.”

And she still misses Ryan, a lot.

“I miss his smile, his laugh you know. He was so excited to be a dad. I’ve never seen someone so excited to be a father than him. He was just buying everything and getting everything ready. When he found out that we were pregnant, I’ve never seen him smile so hard in my life.”

Tashina said she will never forgive the four people convicted of Ryan’s murder.

She expressed disgust that the Indigenous young offender brought up his childhood abuse as an excuse for his violent crimes.

“I grew up with alcohol. My grandmother went to residential school. I grew up with alcoholic parents. I grew up in the foster care system. I was bounced from home to home. You don’t see me going out and killing people because my grandma went to residential school. That’s not a good enough excuse for him to get off.”

Tashina testified at one of the accused’s trials, which was traumatic.

“I just broke down. I was almost vomiting. I was so sick to my stomach seeing him sitting there crying. Like ‘why are you crying?’ I’m the one who is affected by this and the one that has Ryan’s only child.”

Young offender the shooter: Crown

The young offender, who was 17 years and seven months old at the time of Gatzke's murder, was the shooter, Schmidt told the court.

“He went in there and he was prepared to shoot and he did, and he killed someone. He was principal in the act of robbing Gatzke and he was principal in shooting and killing him.”

The youth’s criminal record, a Pre-Sentence Report, a Gladue Report, and eight victim impact statements were entered into the court during his sentencing hearing on Jan. 22. A psychiatrist who assessed the young offender appeared by telephone.

He is low functioning intellectually, and displays daredevil, risk-taking tendencies, court heard. He likely has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder ADHD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), and Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD), according to his PSR and Gladue reports. He is, however, street smart, Schmidt told the court.

He quit school when he was 13, started drinking and smoking marijuana when he was 12, and then started taking cocaine.

He puts Terror Squad above everything else in his life. When he was remanded on the murder charge, he showed his gang tattoo to jail staff and asked to be put into the Terror Squad wing, said Schmidt.

“He’s entrenched in the gang and has no motivation to change.”

Once in jail, he got another tattoo and “double-downed” on his gang identity.

“He wants to be a gangster and wants to get some economy out of it,” said Schmidt.

During his bail hearing in April 2021, court heard that the young offender was a member of the Terror Squad since he was nine years old.

He lacks remorse, doesn’t take responsibility for his actions, has no insight into his crimes, and is a high-risk to re-offend, argued Schmidt during the Jan. 22 sentencing hearing.

At the time of Gatzke’s shooting death in October 2019, the young offender had been ordered by the court not to possess firearms and was unlawfully at large on charges from two months prior, court heard.

On Aug. 23, 2019, Battlefords RCMP had responded to four shots fired at a home on 108 Street in what appeared to be an incident against rival gang West Side Outlawz. The next day, Meadow Lake RCMP responded to shots fired at a home. The young offender was arrested in both incidents and released from custody, court heard during his bail hearing in April 2021. 

Young offender victim of inter-generational trauma: Defence

Defence counsel Katherine Pocha asked the court to hand down an eight-year prison sentence. She told the court that her client was from Flying Dust First Nation near Meadow Lake. Growing up, he liked to hunt with his grandfather and spend time with his grandparents.

“He was happy-go-lucky and liked to make people laugh.”

Both sets of his grandparents attended Residential School, including one that was notorious for abuse.

His mother grew up with alcoholic parents and didn’t know how to love, Pocha told the court. There was domestic violence in their family home and his father walked out on them when he was about five or six years old. About two years ago his father came back into the young offender’s life.

In 2015, the young offender and his family moved to North Battleford. He became rebellious so his mother reached out to the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, who recommended that she place him in Eagle’s Nest, a group home.

“He felt abandoned,” said Pocha.

At the group home, he attempted suicide.

His criminal involvement began when he was living at Eagle’s Nest, Pocha told the court.

“He has been in institutions since he was 13, in and out.”

While at the youth centre on remand, his cell mate found him unresponsive in their cell.

She said while in custody, no programming was ever offered to him.

“He spent 21 hours a day in his cell since he was 17.”

Pocha pointed out that jails put people in the gang units even if they only have a lose gang affiliation.

She said the Gladue Report reveals his mother drank when she was pregnant with him, and FAS is related to ASPD.

The young offender’s last violent incident in jail was in November 2023 and as he gets older, he gains more insight and isn’t as hot-headed, said Pocha.

“He is growing up. He is starting to manage his anger.”

She said he wants to make changes to his life but doesn’t know how.

The young offender was also sentenced to six years in prison for break and enter with intent to commit an indictable offence and one year for possession of a firearm while prohibited. These sentences will run concurrent to his 9.5-year sentence for manslaughter.

With 2,180 days remand credit, the young offender has 1,270 days left to serve in prison, or 3.5 years.

Three others sentenced

Jacob Ballantyne was sentenced to eight years in prison. Photo by Averil Hall / Mcphedran Phocus

In June 2023, Jacob Ballantyne was sentenced to eight years in prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was initially charged with second-degree murder. 

In February 2023, Isaac Melko was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. He was initially charged with second-degree murder.

Isaac Melko from North Battleford was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Photo by Averil Hall /Mcphedran Phocus

In March 2022, Charles McLean pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to four years in prison.

RCMP had found Gatzke in his home in the 100 block of 26 Street West in Battleford on Oct. 18, 2019. He was badly injured and taken to the North Battleford hospital by EMS where he was later declared deceased.

This report by first publislhed on May 10, 2024.

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