'She wants him to get well,' Crown says during sentencing in provincial court
A woman who called the police last New Year’s Day after her ex-boyfriend fired a gunshot at the vehicle in which her family was driving is no longer afraid of him.
Instead, she empathizes with him.
The man, 51, pleaded guilty to charges of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, pointing a firearm, careless use of a firearm and unauthorized possession of a firearm, appearing in provincial court in St. John’s by video Wednesday from another province, where he now lives.
The Crown and defence had presented a joint submission to Judge Lois Skanes for a 12-month conditional sentence for the man, agreeing the incident had been a direct result of a serious mental-health crisis.
Skanes accepted the submission, agreeing a conditional sentence instead of jail time would allow the man to continue with treatment and rehabilitation. The Crown withdrew a charge of recklessly discharging a firearm.
Prosecutor Alana Dwyer told the court the man had been asked to leave a New Year’s Eve party in Renews after trying to pick a fight. His ex-girlfriend and three family members later pulled up in a vehicle at a relative’s home and saw the man outside the residence with a hunting rifle, which he used to fire two shots into the air and one in the direction of the car. The family drove away, uninjured, and the woman called the police.
RCMP officers parked on the road near the home and saw the man pacing back and forth inside, peering out the front door. They watched him come outside with the gun, get into a pickup with the gun and speed away. Police found rifle shells on the patio.
Officers tracked the man’s cellphone and learned he was headed toward the highway. He then turned around and drove back to the house, where a police officer opened the door of the truck, pulled him to the ground and arrested him. The gun was still in the vehicle.
Police learned the man, who had been drinking but had a blood-alcohol level below the legal driving limit, had intended to take his own life and had gone so far as to call family members to say goodbye.
“She is very much in support of (the man) and wants him to get well. Her position has changed from fright to empathy. She says his actions were out of character and not (characteristic of) the person she knows."
Dwyer pointed out the seriousness of the incident, saying that while the man may not have intended to shoot the four occupants of the vehicle, he did fire the gun in the car’s direction. However, Dwyer said, the accused has no prior criminal record and an established history of ill mental health.
“The connection is quite clear,” Dywer told the judge, asking her to consider the man’s health issues as a mitigating factor.
Since he was released on bail, the man has had success with medical treatment, Dwyer said, and has not consumed alcohol since the night he was arrested. He’s no longer a danger to the public, she explained.
The man’s ex-girlfriend had provided a letter to the Crown.
“She is very much in support of (the man) and wants him to get well. Her position has changed from fright to empathy. She says his actions were out of character and not (characteristic of) the person she knows,” Dwyer told Skanes.
Defence lawyer Erin Breen said the man’s history of trauma-related mental-health issues had worsened around the time of his crimes, and it was “apparent to everybody he was cascading downward.” His medications had stopped working, she explained, so he had turned to self-medicating with alcohol. He has since taken steps toward recovery and his health has stabilized, she said.
“I just want to say I deeply regret my actions and I’m sorry for the pain I caused my former family,” the man told the judge. “If I could take it back, I would.”
In addition to the man’s conditional sentence, Skanes ordered a 12-month period of probation and a 10-year firearm ban.
Tara Bradbury reports on the courts and the justice system in St. John's.