Monday, June 29, 2009

Jonathan Wamback: Was the Victim an Angel?

Jonathan Wamback was 15 years old, living in the same town as me, when he was beaten by a group of boys and put into a coma. Charges of attempted murder against three boys were reduced to aggravated assault, they were tried as youths rather than adults, one was acquitted, and the other two served only a few months in prison.

Wamback's family has done a brilliant job, since the attack, of making sure their story got out to the media. Jonathan was an innocent victim of a gang. He had attracted the gang's attention by trying to protect other victims of their bullying, and in one case by painting over some of their graffiti. He had also paid at least some attention to the gang leader's girlfriend, without realizing she and the leader were an item. His parents had ignored warning signs that he was being victimized--indeed, they had started to think he was becoming a bit of a tough customer himself--so they were filled with remorse when he was beaten so severely.

The story was presented again and again as an example of how Canada's Young Offenders Act doesn't work--the attackers should have been tried as adults, the sentences should have been more severe, etc.

As far as I can discover, the attackers have never told their story in public. But the story of Jonathan good vs. other boys evil, which actually made it into a TV movie, seems a bit overdrawn.

"Intrigued by Jonathan's moxy [in protecting another kid], tough girl Courtney [the gang leader's girlfriend] leads him away, both delighting Jon and angering Kyle." So not only did Jon not actively hit on this girl, but he attracted her attention simply by being both tough and noble. Some weeks later: "Outside the washroom Jon is stunned to see Courtney with Kyle - for the first time he realizes they're a couple." He never asked himself what exactly made her a "tough girl"? He never had a single clue? Did he like tough girls in general? On the day of the beating, he is "lured into a trap" by means of, you guessed it, Courtney phoning him. Did he ever phone her? Did they ever go for a walk together in a lonely spot at his instigation? Did he always play the passive role in anything questionable, and the active role only when there was a chance to be noble?

Jon is not alone--he makes contact with other young men. "Afterward, he's approached by Gord Nelson and Jeff Walters, two cool guys who profess to be committed to standing up to Kyle's gang. They come across a Skulls tag (graffiti) spray-painted on a warehouse wall. Jon impresses them when he climbs up and spray-paints over it, turning it into a sword ("tagged over" - thus Tagged). They notify him that by doing so he's effectively declared war on the Skulls."

One thing that provokes the beating: "To make things worse Gord has painted racist remarks over a Skrulls tag in the park washroom and the gang jumps to the conclusion that it was done by Jon." Gosh, what would make "the gang" think that? The fact that Jon had actually painted over some of their grafitti before? Maybe young people have too much imagination, but isn't it possible the anti-Jon gang (the Skulls) came to the conclusion that Jon was in another, er, gang? Isn't it possible that he actually, er, was? Racist remarks: is it possible that Jon and his friends were white, in an upscale subdivision called Stonehaven, and at least some of the Skulls were non-white, and from time to time were made to feel unwelcome?

One highlight: "At a school dance the gang converges on Jon, suckering him into pushing Kyle to the ground." Jon actually pushes the other kid to the ground, but he's suckered into it.

The Skulls follow him into the school washroom where they rough him up and rip his shirt. Just as they're about to attack him Gord and Jeff break in on the scene. With the odds evened-up the Skulls take off leaving Jon with a final threat.

So today we get an update: Jon is at university, living on his own, still suffering from injuries inflicted during the beating 10 years ago. It is difficult to read the text in the Star, what with the halo.

My favourite part:

But Wamback can also see an upside to what happened to him. "Before the injury, I wasn't a scholar, to say the least."

Oh really? What were you like Jon? How did you spend your time, either in school or your free time?

Another detail: Jon walked home after the beating, and then stayed at home, I believe saying he didn't need to go to the hospital, before he was finally taken there. He may have suffered a serious brain injury partly because of this delay. He may have been trying to avoid telling his parents what was going on.


  1. who gives a shit about the graffiti or girlfriend etc etc. Fact is a kid got the total crap kicked out of him by a bunch of bullies which almost caused death & resulted in brain damage etc. And the kids that done it got jack shit for their crimes.

    What a fucking dumbshit thing to say that the brain damage was caused by the delay in getting to the hospital, durrrrrr, it was caused by the kicks to the head by a bunch of arseholes.

    The bullies were protected by 'the system' and it all seems unjust. Most intelligent people would understand that you sound like an idiot.

  2. I agree with greaerleo. He actually came to our school after we watched ''tagged'' to talk to us. He's never going to be the same again because of what? a bunch of stupid kids beating him. Brain damage was already there as soon as his head got kicked, delay or not IT WAS THERE. They couldve killed him. Him and his mom explained to us how he was very lucky to survive. If he wouldve died, would you ve blame it on the delay also?

  3. This should never have happened, one boy never had the chance against a gang. Those who did this to him do not deserve to walk this earth and cannot understand why anyone would try to justify those thugs' actions. There is never an excuse for violence. He and his family are an inspiration.

  4. What about that Bitch,slut Courtney, she had a hand in all of this as well.
    If she had not made that phone call to johnathan he would not have the brain damaged that he suffered. She knew what she was doing,she should be blamed for all of this.

  5. I have to say Lloyd,gang presence (or common sense) aside - you sound as if you are saying the child is accountable for what happened to him... to me that sounds like the same argument for "girls that ask for it" by wearing a short skirt and/or heels. Not cool. You're views smack of American. This type of crime has no place in my Canada.

  6. How dare you make this article asking if Jonathan Wamback was an angel? There is NO reason or excuse to beat someone. It doesn't matter what they did, NO ONE deserves that. To the author of this article: I hope someone you love is violently attacked to the extent where you have to spend time next to there bed wondering if they will die and someone can question if they were an "angel" and deserving of it. I don't know Jonathan or any of them but I do know that you are disgusting for writing that.

  7. If he was a relative of mine I'd find those little wannabe gangsters and kick the shit out of all of them. If I couldn't fo it myself I would get some help. A beating like that was totally uncalled for. I think I would have gone to jail if that was my kid but it would definitely be worth it

  8. I am stunned by reading this. The things you are implying are astounding. Grow up, you are disgusting to imply he is to blame in any way. Educate yourself instead of letting your ignorance guide you.

  9. The guys that did this should get the same beating as punishment An eye for an eye!!! (what they did will not escape the eyes of God!) The offenders may go on to live normal lives as adults but come Judgement day They will all have to stand before God! There will be a comfy place in Hell for em!

  10. Very disappointing read. I think the movie was to message to all young people to make good choices. And Mya - reading your comment is even more disappointing. People's actions will not escape the eyes of God, but an eye for an eye is old testiment. If more people stood to pray for a safer world, a world with less hate, perhaps we'd see more good in the world. Those who resort to violence are hiding behind a world of pain, masking it with a tough attitude, using substances to escape from the pain, etc - they need prayer too. We live in a world where men, boys are not to be gentle, compassionate beings or they are sissies. No wonder we end up with the troubles we see before us.

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  12. Lloyd, I actually think you must be some sort of idiot to think there is "anything" a kid can do that would justify a beating this bad! I mean really, where is your thought process!!!!

  13. Oh wow so bulling and senseless violene should be condoned because victim here had it comming to him or was asking for it! What a load of shit thats all you piled higher and deeper degree is worth if you actually believe what you wrote, no wonder there is so much violene in this world with people such as your self promoting this post modernisim world view.

  14. Government employee and a PHD, your a contradiction right off the bat.
    Your saying if any gang kicks the PHD out your public service a$$ that would be your fault?
    It is a dilema for science to unscramble and leave justice to the courts. Where it belongs but apparently doesn't exist. In some cases.
    You and our "courts" are the reason public service deserves to be disrespected and abolished. We'll have to go back to old fashioned justice.

  15. They left a boy for dead after violently beating him they should have getting life the law shouldn't protect those who are charged with such violent crimes it should protect the victims of the violent crime if the gang leaders mam was portrayed accurately in the film then she to should be held accountable for her sons crime it seems like she had no idea or cared what he did she just vicitmised the poor boy and his family who her vile son left for dead that in my book makes her just as guilty and vile as her son hope they all get what they deserve someday

  16. Hey guess what, you're a bunch of short sighted, narrow minded, brainwashed faggots without the ability of self-thought and opinion. You just HAD to follow anything you read. I bet you if you read this article first you wouldn't be saying anything. We are doing the "What happened to Johnathan?" article on his website and the ENTIRE grade sevens and eights AND their teachers and colleges both agree that the text was HEAVILY and PURPOSELY biased. Hey guess what? You said you would kick the shit out of Lloyd, GUESS WHAT you now have a reason to. So maybe you're contradicting yourself. This guy is a university professor and WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE? Some nosy idiot who can't understand the obvious things thrown in their face. We used the article to identify OBVIOUS BIAS in a text. Hey guess what? My school is in Newmarket AND I LIVE IN STONEHEAVEN. So YOU GET AN EDUCATION because it seems that educations today have people and students identify stupidity and bias in texts. SO YOU GROW UP.

    Have a good day :3

  17. I couldn't agree more with mogballpooface. This man was only giving the other side of the story because the other side very rarely comes to light these days. You bunch of IDIOTS who can't think for yourselves disappoint me greatly. I thought that society had come to something better than this...perhaps of a more individual tint. But clearly, I was wrong. You blind fools cannot and will not think as individuals and believe everything you read.
    As to the racist assholes who think they are being smart by commenting on mogball's race, you are FAGGOTS. I don't even think he's asian. So please refrain from posting immature comments on this thread because I at least am trying to keep it mature.

  18. JimbyMcGee: I think your point is moot when you try to condemn racists by calling them "faggots". You expose yourself as no less a bigot than those your are chastising.

    A bigot calling another bigot a racist seems to lack the integrity needed to convincingly ensure your point is made.

    Regarding the rest of your comments, and those of others defending the article's writer: Yes, the writer is entitled to his opinion.

    However, I fail to see any significance in whether or not Jon was or was not an angel, or whether their is any injustice in the other side of the story getting out.

    What is significant is that a boy was beaten almost to death, and to this day and beyond will live with the lingering troubles caused by that beating. No such beating could possibly be justified, regardless of the victim's character, or media bias, or the writer's conjecture.

  19. So tag someones paintwork stop them bullying others kiss leaders gf which he wasnt aware of at the time ok lets set the record straight it doesnt matter what he done or what anyone done for that matter noone deserves what jon went through went through a tragedy on same sort of lines only i was stabbed 6 times tied up and left to die anyway not about me jon is very couragous strong and independent and no matter what the two people he needs the most will also be there two support him and what an amazing bravery they all have

  20. Was the victim an Angel? What the hell does that mean? Are you trying to say the kid not being 100% goody goody somehow justifies what his attackers did to him? If so then you sir are not only a complete arsehole, but also a total moron. There is no justification for what these cowards did to him, a lone teenager attacked and beaten by a gang is cowardly and despicable act, regardless of what the victim did or did not do.

  21. As usual, a society with liberal values cannot protect crime victims and punish their attackers because, as in dear old Sweden where I lived for far too may years, crime is the result of an imperfect society and thus not due to the evil inclination that resides within every human being as well as its opposite. Evil is not due to the existence of the devil but part of our psychological make-up as is good. The perpetrators should have been subjected to a pyschiatric evalauation and if found fit to stand trial, should have been tried for attempted murder. The victims' parents should also have been helped to mount a civil action against the parents of his attackers and sue them for every penny they had. There can be no forgiveness without prior repentence and recompense. The moral qualities of the victim are irrelevant and merely a feeble attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

  22. I knew Jon very well at the time this happened. He said racist things, the graffiti he drew were swastikas. He wasn't an angel. Nevertheless, he was still a child and obviously didn't deserve it. I played golf with him a few years later and he was not the same person at all. I have him as a facebook friend still and he is currently an extremely religious Trump supporter who regularly posts about how his father molested him.

  23. One of Jon's attackers, Luke Prince, just opened a club in Toronto called BLVD. It's nice to see that our strict young offender laws haven't held him back in life.

  24. Look it. I was there that day that everything happened. I was at the park that day when the whole thing started and the only thing I wasn't there to witness was the fight or beating or however you want to put it.

    First of all lets get this straight. The movie "tagged" is a complete fabrication from start to finish. Jonathan was not with anybody at the park that day. There is no Courtney. No one was "lured" anywhere and me and my friends did not belong to any gang. This Newmarket Ontario we are talking about not Compton CA. We didn't pick on kids smaller than us, stuff people in lockers or any kind of this nonsense that they tried to depict us of doing. We were however like most kids these days from broken homes from divorce with no fathers around and so we ran a little wild while our mothers were working to pay the bills.

    We smoked weed,skateboarded and drank on the weekends with all the other teenagers in Newmarket. We weren't vicious people. And when we found out that Jonathan was in a coma we were just as shocked as everyone else.

    Let me say this before I tell my side of the story. If Jonathan had been my brother or friend I would want my friends to pay as well. I just happen to be on the other side of this situation.

    This whole thing started because Jonathan wrote "nigger loving kikes" and drew swastikas all over the walls of the bathroom in Stonehaven where we used to hang out. One of our best fiends was a black kid and we were really pissed off.

    In the movie they try to make it look like another kid did but we caught him red handed with the marker still in his hand. Its was a complete load of horse shit that someone else did it. We saw him do it and that is how it really started. My friends nor I had ever seen Jonathan before that day. I didn't even know he went to the same school as us. There was no confrontation at school because none of the crap ever happened.

    No girl was ever called to lure him to the park. I don't even know where they got that from.

    After we caught him at the park, there was about five of us there and we asked him why he was doing that. Jonathan was didn't say anything and just stood there. He knew he was caught writing some very disturbing things.

    One of the guys pushed him and told him to get out here. I'm sure the wording was more like get the fuck out of here but I don't remember everything that was actually said as it was so long ago. No punches were thrown. No kicks. He was just told to leave and he did.

    A car pulled up a few minutes later with about three friends of ours. One was our black friend. When he saw what Jonathan wrote he became very angry and so did everyone else. Four people got back into the car plus the driver and took off. Myself and maybe 5 other people stayed at the park.


  25. From this point on the only people that know what really happened was the five people in the car and Jonathan. There were no other witnesses to the fight. And that's why all the things people read in the papers and saw in the movie was complete bullshit. Jonathan did not remember what happened so the media just fabricated a story. The first one I remembered reading was a terrible gang of hoodlums wearing steel toe boots and carrying baseball bats viciously beat Jonathan while he was walking his dog for absolutely no reason at all.


    What I was told by the only people that were there was that they were driving down the road and they saw Jonathan. They called out to him and as said "Why the fuck did you write that on the wall." Jonathan gave them the finger.

    Three people got out of the car. One ran up and punched Jonathan three times in the face. Another kicked him and the third did nothing. They stopped and told him to never write shit like that again. They all got back in the car and Jonathan got up with a bleeding nose and started to walk home. He was not left there to die.

    The car pulled back up to the park the guys got out and told us what I just described to you. About a minute later I saw Jonathan walking back to his house as I learned later that he lived on the street where the park bathrooms were. I could see his nose was bleeding but he had no black eye he wasn't limping or anything like that. He looked fine other than the bleeding nose.

    After he went home he told his dad he had a headache. Don't you think that if he had been beaten as bad as they say in the movie and the papers his dad would taken him to the hospital?

    His father thought it was nothing gave him some painkillers and Jonathan went back to his room. What he didn't know was that some swelling had started in the brain and the painkillers only made it worse. They found Jonathan later and then he was sent to the hospital.

    We got a call the next day that he was in a coma and we were shocked. Things got very crazy after that very fast.

    Our friends did feel bad for what happened to him. None of us were happy that he was in a coma. Even though the things he wrote were terrible.We're not monsters. We were angry sixteen year old kids trying to protect our friend.

    I'm not going to go into the court case and everything thing else because it was all a joke. Many people in the police, politics and even his own father used this case to push their careers forward. Things got so out of control so fast.

    My last point is that this could of happened to anybody. Your kid could be the one being made out to be a horrible person in the papers and on TV. Are you trying to tell me you don't know anyone who had ever punched someone? You don't think your kids will ever get into a fight? Something can go wrong so easily and then your right in the same situation as our families.

    He didn't deserve to be in a coma but he was no angel either. My friend did do two years in prison and the other did six months to a year. I'm not saying its fair but that's the truth.

    They have grown up to be good people and they have their own families now. Their kids are growing up to be good people.They are not proud of what they did but they are trying to make up for it by being decent people now.

    I hope Jonathan can go on to live a happy and fulfilling life. I know he has been through many struggles trying to get himself back on track.

    All I can say is that I am sorry and I wish you all the best.