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Man involved in North Okanagan shootout sentenced to 7 years

Click to play video: 'Westwold shootout suspect sentenced to seven years' Westwold shootout suspect sentenced to seven years
Nearly two years after a police chase and shootout disrupted traffic on Highway 97 and locked down the Westwold Elementary School, the man at the center of the incident has learned his fate. Darwyn Sellars was sentenced after pleading guilty to 12 charges, many of them related to a crime spree that culminated in the shooting – Sep 22, 2021

A man who shot at police vehicles while trying to flee from officers, in the Westwold, B.C. area almost two years ago, was sentenced to seven years in custody on Wednesday.

With credit for time served, 33-year-old Darwyn Sellars has just under four years and four months remaining on his sentence.

Crime Spree

Sellars appeared by video in B.C. Provincial Court in Vernon on Wednesday to be sentenced on 12 charges.

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Seven of the charges were related to a two-day crime spree that culminated in the Dec. 3, 2019 shootout with police.

It began with a break-and-enter near Merritt on the day before the shooting.

Read more: UPDATE: Police say shots allegedly fired in Highway 97 closure

Court heard that on Dec. 2, 2019, residents at Corbett Lake Lodge returned home to find Sellars, who was armed with a shotgun, inside their cabin.

Sellars, and another person he was with, left the cabin, but took a number of items including firearms and ammunition, the judge said.

Later that day, police spotted Sellars while he was driving in the Kamloops area but he fled, driving in a dangerous manner.

Court heard Sellars managed to evade police, but his vehicle made contact with two police vehicles in the process.

Click to play video: 'Sentencing hearing underway for man who shot at police' Sentencing hearing underway for man who shot at police
Sentencing hearing underway for man who shot at police – Jun 25, 2021

The next morning police responded to a report that someone was trying to steal gas from the gas station in Falkland.

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Officers had reason to believe the report was connected to the earlier incidents by Kamloops and Merritt, and responded accordingly, preparing roadblocks and spike belts.

Police in an unmarked police cruiser encountered Sellars’ vehicle on the road, the judge said.

Read more: Man arrested for pointing laser at planes in flight: Vernon RCMP

Court heard officers thought Sellars was trying to carjack the unmarked cruiser because he slowed down and drove directly towards the police vehicle.

During the ensuing police chase and attempts by officers to stop Sellars’ vehicle, Sellars fired at police vehicles while driving.

Police shot back and, the court heard, at one point an officer in the passenger seat “returned fire through the windshield fo a police vehicle.”

None of the shots hit police or police vehicles.

Officer believed Sellars was also trying to carjack other vehicles during the chase as he drove into oncoming traffic, the judge said.

Click to play video: 'Police incident closes Highway 97 near Westwold, B.C.' Police incident closes Highway 97 near Westwold, B.C.
Police incident closes Highway 97 near Westwold, B.C – Dec 3, 2019

The chase eventually ended in a farm field in the Westwold area after one of the tires on Sellars’ vehicle came off its rim, the court heard.

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Earlier in the police chase, Sellars had driven over a spike belt.

“After several minutes Mr. Sellars exited the vehicle with his hands in the air, but he did not entirely comply with police instructions. He continually dropped his hands towards his waistband and police were concerned he was attempting to retrieve a weapon,” the judge said in his summary of events read out in court.

“A police dog was sent in and he was bit by the dog. He continued to struggle and disobey commands while officers attempted to handcuff him. As a result, he was kicked in the head and punched in the face before the officers were able to secure him in handcuffs.”

Sentencing

The seven-year sentence was longer than either Crown counsel or the defence had asked for.

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The judge determined there were many aggravating factors and decided a stiffer sentence, rather than the five or six years that the lawyers had been arguing for, was warranted.

The judge pointed out that Sellars had a lengthy criminal record with 41 convictions, targeted police officers, put the public at risk, and that the officers involved continue to be “profoundly impacted by the incident.”

Sellars was also on probation and prohibited from using firearms at the time of the shooting.

Read more: Accused pleads guilty to firing at police during North Okanagan traffic stop

However, the judge said there were also mitigating factors including Sellars’ guilty plea, acceptance of responsibility, the work on rehabilitation he has done in custody, and the fact that Sellars had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and cognitive impairment.

Sellars was also facing five charges for non-violent offenses including breach of probation and driving while prohibited in the year before the December 2019 crime spree and shooting.

The seven-year global sentence included those offenses as well.

A co-accused previously pleaded guilty to occupying a vehicle knowing there was a firearm or prohibited item present and received a conditional discharge.

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The Independent Investigations Office of B.C., which is charged with investigating “all officer-related incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there is any allegations of wrongdoing,” has an open investigation into the Dec. 3, 2019 arrest in the Falkland area.

Sellars’ arrest is believed to be the focus of that investigation.

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