The second of two men who fled from police in Penticton, prompting an arrest at gunpoint on Kelowna's William R. Bennett bridge, will spend an additional 75 days in jail.
Michael Dennison, 25, pleaded guilty in Kelowna court Thursday to dangerous driving, driving while disqualified, and breach of probation, after he and 33-year-old Ryan Regan sped away from a police cruiser in Penticton and drove north.
Police in West Kelowna attempted to stop the car on Highway 97, near Gorman Bros. Mill, but were unsuccessful. Officers eventually nabbed the men at gunpoint on the bridge, halting traffic for almost two hours. Several cars, including a police cruiser, were smashed during the arrest.
Dennison was also facing charges of possession of stolen property under $5,000 and flight from police, but those charges were dropped. He was given six months for dangerous driving, but after credit for time served, he will remain in jail for 75 more days.
Additionally, he was given 30 days jail for breach of probation and one day for driving while disqualified, but those sentences will be served concurrently. He was also given a year of probation, a two-year driving prohibition and a $500 fine.
Dennison had recently been released from jail prior to January's incident, after serving 102 days for theft of a vehicle and dangerous operation of vehicle. He was on probation and a driving prohibition when he was arrested.
Regan, Dennison's co-accused, pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of a vehicle, flight from police and assault with a weapon last Thursday. Sentencing is expected in May.
A short circuit in a space heater sparked a house fire overnight in West Kelowna.
Firefighters responded to the blaze about 1:45 a.m. this morning at a home on the 1400 block of West Kelowna Road.
Flames from the heater spread to nearby furniture, and smoke was billowing from the front of the two-storey home. Smoke detectors alerted residents to the fire, and they had successfully knocked down the flames with fire extinguishers when fire crews arrived, assistant fire chief Darren Lee said.
Firefighters removed several pieces of burned furniture, but damage to the home was limited mostly to smoke.
Two residents were placed in the care of Emergency Support Services overnight, and fire investigators are expected to return to the home this morning.
While the residents were able to suppress the fire, WKFR reminds anyone using a fire extinguisher that ensuring your own safety takes precedence over trying to save property.
Following a similar fire in December 2016, the department alerted the National Fire Protection Association and B.C.'s fire commissioner to the following stats:
Heating equipment fires accounted for 16 per cent of all reported home fires in 2009-2013 (second behind cooking) and 19 per cent of home fire deaths (second behind smoking materials).
Space heaters are involved in two of every five of home heating fires and accounting for 84 per cent of associated deaths.
The leading factor contributing to home heating fire deaths (56 per cent) was heating equipment too close to furniture, clothing or bedding.
The number of homeless people living in West Kelowna is increasing and a church wants to make sure people know the truth about those people.
Parks and fleet supervisor for the City of West Kelowna said earlier this month that a number of parks in the community have been affected by broken glass, intentional damage, public defecation, urination, graffiti, camp fires and litter.
Just a few metres down from the Emmanuel Church there are at least five people who have taken shelter in the park and set up a community of tents. Jeff Bjorgan, lead pastor at Emmanuel Church said homeless people have been living in that area for years.
Sean Airth is the manager of the cold shelter program at the church and said the people that come to them are hard working and many have jobs in society.
“Our guests and the homeless community in general are very hard working, very resilient people – and I would like people to know that,” he said.
The shelter had to bump its occupancy from 10 to 15 this year, after the number of people that were showing up for their services increased.
“We were having to turn people away quite frequently which is a terribly heartbreaking thing to have to do,” he said.
Individuals who want to stay at the shelter need to arrive by 7 p.m. and respect the rules of the program.
They are then provided with a shower, a meal in the evening, laundry, a safe spot to store belongings, breakfast and a bag of lunch in the morning.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in homelessness, there is a housing crisis in West Kelowna and in Central Okanagan,” he said. “Vacancy rates are extremely low and if you add onto that maybe the person has developmental disabilities, maybe physical disabilities, maybe they are elderly, maybe they have pets – it becomes very hard to find a place around here.”
In the report, it stated there are unfortunate spinoffs from the Emmanuel Assembly Church’s honourable humanitarian efforts to better our community.
City staff are currently investigating solutions.
“From the people I know here I can say our guests are very kind people, respectful, I can think of five of them who leave here and go right to their jobs first thing in the morning. Some of our other guests have developmental disabilities and some of our guests here are elderly,” he said.
Airth said he believes the shelter is part of the solution and does help people. The church is planning on speaking to city council about their report on March 28 at 8 p.m.
“I don’t think we are doing enough,” said Airth. “I’d like to do more.”
A West Kelowna Church and two schools have new neighbours living in tents, just down the road.
At least five people are living in tents on Emmanuel Church's property, right beside Highway 97 and Glen Canyon Regional Park.
Three tents and several dogs are visible from the highway, tucked behind the trails.
The lead pastor at Emmanuel Church said they are aware of the people living on their property.
“We haven’t traditionally policed down in the gully areas because for many years homeless have lived down there,” said Jeff Bjorgan. “Certainly, if there are concerns from the neighbours we will investigate and tell the people living down there to remove themselves from the premises”
A Castanet reader said he was concerned about how close the people were living to the school.
“This is a long-term problem,” said Bjorgan. “It’s not new that people have been living in the Glen Canyon area.
Bjorgan added there is a homeless situation on the West Side and “we need to learn how to deal with it.”
“When we tell them to leave our property they will find another piece of property to live on.”
Regan, 33, pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of vehicle, flight from police and assault with a weapon Thursday morning. A presentence report will be prepared for Regan, and is expected to be completed by May 11.
The other man in the vehicle, 25-year-old Michael Dennison, is expected to plead guilty next week. He faces charges of possession of stolen property under $5,000, dangerous operation of a vehicle, flight from police, operating a vehicle while disqualified and breach of probation, but it is unclear what charges he intends to plead guilty to.
Both men have prior convictions.
Regan has previously been convicted of fleeing police, and spent a year in jail for a break and enter in Kelowna in May 2010.
Dennison had recently been released from jail prior to January's incident, after serving 102 days for theft of a vehicle and dangerous operation of vehicle. He was on probation and a driving prohibition when he was arrested in January.