A Caledon man has pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he accidentally shot and killed his best friend with a machine gun at his uncle’s home in 2018.
Jonathan Weir, nephew of former CBC Dragons’ Den star and entrepreneur Michael Wekerle, and Tyler Swartz were 20 and 18 years old at the time of the incident, respectively. The pair had spent Dec. 27 at Weir’s uncle’s sprawling Caledon property northwest of Toronto using firearms for target practice and rabbit hunting.
After successfully shooting a rabbit, Weir and Swartz invited two friends over to the property to have a barbeque and cook the rabbit, according to an agreed statement of facts obtained by CTV News Toronto.
At approximately 6:30 p.m., the pair called the two friends to inquire about their arrival time. Weir and Swartz were heard laughing and court documents show it “sounded like they were having a good time.”
Shortly after the call, Weir came into possession of a Colt R75 machine gun, which is prohibited in Canada, and “inadvertently” pulled the trigger. Two bullets were fired with one pull of the trigger, fatally injuring Swartz. An Orangeville court heard that Weir did not know the gun was loaded, did not intend to fire the weapon, and did not intend to harm or kill Swartz.
Weir’s guests arrived shortly after the shooting took place. They described him as being hysterical and crying.
Later, surveillance video on the property captured a pickup truck, similar to the one Weir had been seen driving earlier in the day, headed to an area of the property that contained a pond. This took place before a call to 911 had been made reporting that Swartz had been shot, court documents show.
Weir would contact authorities at 7:23 p.m. to report that Swartz had been shot. However, Weir indicated to the 911 operator that he was walking his dog at the time when he heard a shot and went back to the house to find Swartz suffering from a gunshot wound.
Police would arrive on the property to find a male on the ground who was unresponsive. Officers would find a different gun, an SKS rifle, near his body.
Swartz was pronounced dead at 7:49 p.m. An autopsy would find that he died due to a perforated gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Weir was arrested on the day of the shooting. He was charged with first-degree murder on Dec. 28.
A forensic scientist would later find that the SKS rifle was not the firearm that caused Swartz’ injuries. As a result, investigators with Caledon OPP returned to the scene in July of 2019 and drained the pond on the property and found a Colt R75 machine gun.
Following cleaning and analysis of the weapon, it was determined that the ammunition within the firearm was consistent with the bullets that were fired and caused Swartz’ death.
Weir’s charge was later downgraded to second-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty to that charge but guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in connection with the incident on Wednesday.
Wekerle told the Toronto Star in January of 2019 that he was out of the country at the time of the shooting.