A 22-year-old Alberta man will spend 18 months in jail for possession of a stolen truck and leading Yorkton police on a bizarre high-speed chase that involved a collision that wrecked an elderly woman’s car and an escapee from an Alberta psychiatric institution.
Kellen McCalder pleaded guilty Oct 4 to possession of property obtained by crime, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle to evade a police officer, driving while suspended and theft.
In a joint submission with the defence, prosecutor Darren Grindle told the Court that, on September 3, Yorkton RCMP received a report from the Foam Lake detachment that a suspect who had stolen gas from the Husky station was headed east on Hwy 16 in a stolen pickup.
Yorkton officers spotted the truck coming into town, but when they attempted to pull the suspect over near the Western Development Museum, he sped off toward the city running a red light and broad-siding a car passing through the intersection
at Gladstone and Smith Street.
The truck, now with one blown tire, did a 180 then continued south on Gladstone at a high rate of speed. The suspect continued fleeing around Bradbrooke Avenue back to Gladstone and out toward Hwy 52. Police gave chase alerting the Melville detachment for backup.
Grindle described the chase as involving sparks flying from the blown wheel’s rim and dangerous swerving for 45 kilometres until the suspect ran over a spike strip placed by Melville officers blowing out the rest of the tires.
Still, McCalder continued to flee for 2.5 more kilometres before trying to escape through a field where the truck got stuck. RCMP members drew guns ordering McCalder and a second occupant of the vehicle out of the truck.
The officers arrested both men.
Grindle said McCalder was cooperative with police providing a sworn statement that he had stolen the truck in Vermilion, Alberta. Shortly thereafter, he picked up the other man, Justin Somers, hitchhiking and headed east stealing gas along the way.
Earlier in the day, Somers also appeared in Yorkton court. During their investigation, RCMP discovered he was an escapee from an Alberta psychiatric institution. In March of this year, Somers was found criminally not responsible of second-degree murder for stomping Barry Stewart to death in a holding cell at the Edmonton Remand Centre.
In May 2011, Somers was put in the cell with Stewart, a 57-year-old man serving a two-day sentence for refusing to pay a $110 fine for riding the Light Rail Transit system without paying a fare. The two men were housed together because of overcrowding at the remand centre despite the fact a psychiatric nurse and a psychologist had warned Somers, a diagnosed schizophrenic, was exhibiting paranoid delusional behaviour and should be kept separate from other prisoners.
At his March 2013 trial, testimony revealed Somers told police he viciously stomped the victim’s head 26 times because Stewart had been “eating human heads” and had “green smoke emanating from him.”
Judge Patrick Koskie decided to simply send Somers back to Alberta.
In McCalder’s case, Grindle outlined aggravating circumstances including the defendant’s criminal record, the endangerment of the public, the fact he was currently disqualified from driving on similar charges and a victim impact statement from the woman whose car was wrecked during the chase.
The prosecutor also submitted mitigating circumstances. From the time police picked McCalder up, Grindle said, he had shown concern for the driver of the vehicle he hit and offered an apology. He also cited the defendant’s young age and a bail verification report that indicated McCalder suffers from cognitive issues resulting from an acquired brain injury.
The joint submission recommended 18 months in custody.
Before passing sentence, the judge gave McCalder an opportunity to speak. The defendant asked about the existence of a video and asked to see it.
Koskie said, of course it was the young man’s right under disclosure rules to see the evidence against him, but reminded him he had already pleaded guilty and asked if he understood that.
“I haven’t said a thing,” McCalder said.
Koskie temporarily adjourned the case to give defence attorney Doug Ottenbreit an opportunity to consult with his client.
When court reconvened, Koskie again asked the defendant if he understood what was going on. McCalder replied, “not really,” so the judge went through each charge individually asking the young man if he had committed each crime. He responded in the affirmative to all.
Ottenbreit then reiterated the mitigating circumstances saying the sentence was well within reasonable given the facts of the case.
Koskie passed the sentence admonishing McCalder that he needed to change his behaviour before he killed someone or himself.
McCalder asked if he could serve his time in Winnipeg to which the judge explained he did not have control over where a sentence is served. Koskie did, however, say he would attach a copy of the bail verification report to the sentence order to aid the corrections service in finding a place where appropriate programming is available for McCalder’s cognitive issues.