Strapped for cash, Alberta armoured car guard executed murderous heist

EDMONTON – Travis Baumgartner was 21 and already heavily in debt.

He owed $58,000 on his new pickup truck, his mother was on his case for rent and he owed at least two friends money.

He had a grand total of 26 cents in the bank.

He had recently started a job as an armoured car guard for security company G4S and saw the chance for a quick solution.

Equipped with a .38-calibre revolver on his hip and 18 rounds of hollow-point bullets on his belt, the hundreds of thousands of dollars he and his co-workers ferried around Edmonton during every shift could be easy pickings.

Baumgartner hated the gig anyway.

He’d been there two months and didn’t get along with anyone. His co-workers teased him and made him angry. He thought management was uncaring. The whole situation made him mad at the world.

He took his frustrations to Facebook. He talked about beating up people who made fun of him.

“I wonder if I’d make the six o’clock news if I just started popping people off,” he posted.

Eventually he changed his profile picture to a photo of himself wearing a balaclava, vest and sunglasses.

On June 14, 2012, according to an agreed statement of facts heard in court Monday, Baumgartner reached the end of his rope.

The arguments with his mother over the rent had been ongoing. He lived in the basement of her house in Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton. He was paying her once a month, but she wanted to be paid twice. The battle reached a crescendo right before he reported for his 6 p.m. shift that night.

“You’ll get your money,” he said as he stormed out, warning he might not be back.

He reported for work and was teamed with Eddie Rejano, Brian Ilesic, Matthew Schuman and Michelle Shegelski.

It was a green team.

Rejano, 39, had been on the job for three months. Ilesic, 35, had been with the company for six. Schuman, 25, was moonlighting from his day job as a firefighter with the military. He had been with G4S only three days and had just been given his gun that night.

A typical crew had four members, but Shegelski — who was only 26 but had been on the job for four years — was a trainer. She was there to show the junior members the ropes.

The group was on a routine circuit loading bank machines. Ilesic and Baumgartner were in the back of the truck. Rejano was driving. Shegelski and Schuman followed in a minivan.

Their first armoured car that night had mechanical problems. Baumgartner, already angry from the blowout with his mother, grew more frustrated.

He texted a friend he had known since Grade 7.

“This is the night,” he wrote.

The first two stops were uneventful. The crew rolled into HUB Mall at the University of Alberta shortly after midnight.

The job was to load two bank machines on the second floor of the mall, a shopping centre and residence in the heart of campus.

Ilesic, Shegelski, Schuman and Baumgartner marched up the two flights of stairs with the cash. Rejano waited in the truck.

There was a steel security door at the back of the ATMs — behind it, a vestibule and the inner workings of the machines. The door was strong, locked automatically and could only be opened from the outside with a key.

Ilesic unlocked the door. He and Schuman bent down to load the machine. Shegelski went in behind them to look over their shoulders. Baumgartner was behind her.

The door shut.

With his three colleague looking the other way, Baumgartner unholstered his gun and fired.

He hit all three in the head.

Shegelski was killed instantly. Ilesic was hit twice before he died. Schuman’s skull was blown open, but he wasn’t dead.

Baumgartner fled and closed the door behind him, trapping his gravely wounded co-workers inside. He broke into a run as he moved through the mall, re-loading his gun as he hit the bottom of the stairs.

He approached Rejano, who was still with the truck outside, and opened fire again. The first shot hit Rejano under the eye. Baumgartner fired twice more, hitting Rejano in the back of the head, leaving him to die in a pool of blood on the road.

He hopped into the driver’s seat of the truck and sped off.

Now what?

The statement of facts says Baumgartner headed for the pickup truck he had parked near G4S headquarters. Security cameras captured him loading three packages of cash, initially estimated at $360,000, into his truck and driving away.

He stopped twice to leave money with friends.

He ditched his cellphone for fear he might be tracked.

He then made his way back to his mother’s house, where he changed his blood-spattered clothes. He left $64,000 on the table for his mother, stole her licence plate and took off.

Back at the university, Edmonton police had descended on the campus. Students could hear Schuman moaning inside the locked vestibule and led police to the scene. Blood was seeping under the door.

Officers arrived with a battering ram, bolt cutters, a sledgehammer and a pickaxe and started to work on the door. With all the pounding, Schuman thought someone was firing at him again. Police tried to comfort him as he yelled for help in a slurred voice.

Once officers broke through the door, they started pulling bodies out. They could see Schuman’s brain through the hole the bullet had torn through his head. He pleaded with them to hurry as they rushed him to hospital for life-saving surgery.

Meanwhile, Baumgartner was speeding away from Edmonton. He dumped the gun and his vest in a river in the Rocky Mountains near Banff.

He showed up a day later at a U.S.-Canada border crossing in Lyndon, Wash., without a passport. Authorities had been alerted to look out for his licence plate.

Baumgartner was arrested without event. A total of $333,580 was found bundled in a black backpack.

Now, in custody, a trail of evidence behind him, his options were limited.

He first told authorities he couldn’t remember the last three or four days.

He then told police he was David Webb, one of the names used by fictional super-spy Jason Bourne. He said he remembered being awakened in his truck by a man pointing a gun at his face. He said the man demanded that Baumgartner drive him to Seattle or his mother would be killed.

“I’m just trying to help my mom,” he told a detective.

Under further questioning, however, his story shifted. He was “just mad at the world,” he said, noting his co-workers teased him. He was in a “blind rage” when he fired.

He started crying and wrote a letter to the victims expressing regret.

Police put an undercover officer in Baumgartner’s cell.

The conversation there was much more relaxed — and cold.

“I was using hollow points,” he told the officer about the deadly ammunition he’d used.

“Brains are mush,” he said. None of them saw it coming. “Professional,” he told his faux cellmate.

Sometimes you’ve got to take the bull by the horns when you’re pressed for cash, the officer suggested, looking for more information.

“At least I don’t have to pay for the truck anymore,” Baumgartner responded.

“No, no bills for me.”

In a plea bargain Monday in Edmonton, Baumgartner admitted to first-degree murder in Rejano’s death and to second-degree murder in the death of the other two guards. He also pleaded guilty to the original charge of attempted murder. A sentencing hearing is to resume Wednesday.

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