Alleged Kootenay bank robber gets 5 months for escape

Andrew Stevenson, who is accused of holding up several financial institutions, was sentenced today for fleeing from custody.

The man accused of holding up several local financial institutions has been sentenced to five months in jail for an escape attempt last fall.

Judge Don Sperry sentenced Andrew Stevenson, 34, today in Nelson Provincial Court. The jail term was a month longer than what Crown counsel and defence jointly sought. Stevenson, who admitted to the crime, still faces trial on another 20 charges related to the robberies.

On September 15, while deputy sheriff Dave Zarikoff (pictured below, left) was escorting Stevenson into the Nelson courthouse for an appearance, he threw off his crutches — which he was using after suffering a hip injury while being arrested the previous April — and ran several blocks before being tackled.

In handing down his sentence, Sperry told Stevenson: “You’ve been well represented by [defence lawyer Ken] Wyllie and fairly treated by [Crown prosecutor Sunday] Patola. The thing that troubles me most is the question of whether you were exaggerating the extent of your injuries so as not to be shackled and manacled.”

Sperry said the sentence had to denounce Stevenson’s conduct and send a message to other prisoners that “consequences are certain and very real if you try to escape from the sheriffs. You put the sheriff at risk. He had to chase you. You put yourself at risk and the general public.”

Before sentencing, Patola outlined the circumstances of Stevenson’s escape attempt. Around 9 a.m., Zarikoff was holding open a side door at the courthouse so that Stevenson could enter.

Instead, he ran up the stairs to Vernon Street, across the street to Touchstones Nelson, then up Ward Street as Zarikoff pursued him, yelling for him to stop. Stevenson ducked into Herridge Lane and was nearly hit by a small car as he headed down Josephine Street toward Vernon.

Zarikoff then collared him with “minimal force,” pinning him to the ground on his chest. Stevenson obeyed an order to put his hands behind him. A second deputy sheriff arrived as he was handcuffed. “I just wanted to see my kids,” Stevenson reportedly said.

Wyllie said Stevenson “suffers from a debilitating condition” which the escape attempt only made worse. He also said Stevenson acknowledged “this was an impulsive and foolish thing to do.”

“Poorly planned and badly executed,” Sperry added.

Patola, who called the act a “desperate situation,” said Zarikoff had no reason to believe Stevenson was an escape risk.

She couldn’t find any applicable case law, and initially wasn’t sure how much time the offence should merit — the maximum is two years in prison. But Sperry remembered an incident at the Rossland courthouse in 1978, where a man escaped out the bathroom window and was at large for a year before he was caught. He was then sentenced to nine months.

In meting out a sentence greater than what the Crown requested, Sperry said “If I’m wrong, I wouldn’t mind the Court of Appeal’s guidance.”

Stevenson appeared in court today via video link from jail in Kamloops, still using his crutches. He was also ordered to pay a $100 victim surcharge within 60 days.

Stevenson is charged in the robberies of the Nelson and District Credit Union, Kootenay Savings in Castlegar, Johnny’s Groceries in Robson, and Kootenay Currency Exchange in Nelson, in which a shot was fired. He and co-accused Krista Kalmikoff have preliminary inquiries scheduled for January 28 and 29.

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