Kelowna judge rejects self defence argument, convicts man of aggravated assault
Convicted of bat assault
A B.C. Supreme Court judge did not believe George Young was acting in self defence when he struck another man multiple times with a baseball bat back in August 2021.
Following a two-week trial in February, Justice Geoffrey Gomery convicted Young of aggravated assault Friday morning, rejecting Young's defence that the victim in the assault was reaching for a gun.
In his decision, Justice Gomery said he was satisfied with witness accounts that Young struck Tyler Takeda several times out of anger, and not out of fear for his safety.
"I am persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Young's conduct after the first blow was struck grossly exceeded what was reasonable and proportionate in response to any threat presented by Mr. Takeda," Justice Gomery said.
"Mr. Young held the upper hand because he held a baseball bat and Mr. Takeda was unarmed. Mr. Young kept swinging."
Young's trial began back on Feb. 6, when the court was shown video of a part of the assault, which occurred on Aug. 14, 2021 in the Kelowna Econo Lodge parking lot.
In the video, Young can be seen striking another man, Tyler Takeda, with a small baseball bat twice, in the head area and the torso. He then is seen pacing around the parking lot with the bat, before leaving the scene.
The video only shows a portion of the altercation, and the crown alleges Young struck Takeda between three and five times. This belief comes from witness testimony and from the injuries Takeda suffered.
Young was arrested later than afternoon and he was charged with aggravated assault the next day.
The trial included testimony from several police officers, eyewitnesses, a doctor and Young himself. Notably, the victim Tyler Takeda refused to testify against Young.
Justice Gomery initially placed a sweeping publication ban on Young's testimony, at the request of Young, but the judge recently limited what the publication ban now covers.
In his defence, Young said he hit Takeda with the bat because Takeda had just threatened him with a gun.
Young testified that he had left his friend Aaron Bielak's nearby home and met Takeda in the parking lot to “diffuse the situation.” He said Takeda had threatened his friend Bielak over an alleged drug debt.
Young said when he approached Takeda, who was near a black truck, Takeda made eye contact with him and placed a gun on the truck's dashboard, to cause intimidation.
He said an associate of Takeda's initially had the baseball bat, but at some point the altercation became physical, and Young said he was able to wrestle the bat away from the man.
At this point, Young says Takeda said “F*** this, you’re toast buddy,” and began moving towards the gun that Young claims was in the vehicle.
He said he was forced to strike Takeda with the bat to defend himself.
“I knew, sure as s*** that he would have shot me if I turned my back or didn’t stop him,” Young testified.
During her closing submissions, Crown prosecutor Mallory Treddenick noted Young's main defence is that he was acting in self defence, or defence of others. But the only evidence that Takeda had a gun during the altercation came from Young, and she said Young is not a “reliable witness.”
“Overall, Mr. Young's testimony within this court was entirely self serving and inconsistent with the evidence,” Treddenick said. “It is not consistent with the eyewitness video, it is not consistent with the evidence of the three objective, impartial witnesses.
“In this case, the evidence overwhelmingly proves that Mr. Young was acting out of anger, not fear, not for protection.”
It appears that Justice Gomery agreed with Treddenick's assessment of Young's testimony.
Following Friday's conviction, a presentence psychiatric report was ordered, to assist the judge in sentencing. Young remains in custody at this time, but sentencing is not expected for at least a couple months.
Treddenick suggested that given Young's previous convictions, Crown will seek a dangerous offender status under section 753 of the Criminal Code. Before that, a Gladue report, which will provide context specific to an Indigenous offender's background, will be prepared.
Young is no stranger to the criminal justice system. He was previously convicted of criminal negligence causing death and failing to remain at the scene back in 2011.
Young had run over Joel Reimer in the early hours of New Year's Day 2010, following a fight between the two men.
He was initially charged with second-degree murder, but he took a plea deal with the Crown and was sentenced to 6.5 years.
Young's matter is scheduled to return to court May 29, when a further sentencing date is expected to be set.
Kelowna charity that serves breakfast to hundreds of school children needs a new packing facility
Food program needs space
Food for Thought needs a new home.
The charity that serves breakfast to over 700 students daily at Central Okanagan public schools is searching for a new packing facility.
“For the past several years, we have been grateful for the use of the space at New Life Centre. But as their facility is being redeveloped, we need to find a new packing location before the start of the 2023/24 school year,” says Food for Thought lead program manager Chloe Kam.
She says the organization needs a location that can accommodate the packing of food items on Monday mornings and is accessible for volunteers. It would need to have space for a fridge/freezer and equipment storage during the rest of the week.
“We understand that finding such a space is no easy task, but we are confident that with the support of our community, we can overcome this challenge,” says Kam.
She calls the school nutrition program a critical initiative that serves children from all backgrounds. “We cannot afford to let it falter. Our team is reaching out to the community for help in finding a new space to continue our operations.”
Food for Thought not only prepares daily breakfasts for hundreds of hungry students, it also runs the Starfish Backpack Program, which sends home nutritious food to families in need. Some of the produce is grown at the charity’s garden at Helen’s Acres in Kelowna.
Kam is asking anyone who might have new space for the packing facility to reach out to [email protected] or call 250-712-2007.
No criminality related to body found in Mission Creek, family says
No criminality in death
A body discovered in Mission Creek Thursday has been identified by family members as Jodi Chmilar.
The family says there is no criminality involved in the death.
"We all knew that she was having a tough time, but we didn't really have any idea," said sister-in-law Tami Johnson.
Chmilar's body was discovered at the side of Mission Creek Thursday just after 3 p.m. not far from the main entrance.
The family has started a GoFundMe for Chmilar's 14-year-old son, who she leaves behind.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I make this post on behalf of the Chmilar and Stienstra families. Earlier today Jodi passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Her body was discovered at Mission Creek Park earlier this afternoon," said Johnson on the GoFundMe page.
"There’s little details at this time but as the family, and especially Jodi’s son Ryan face the road ahead, perhaps we could come together and help ease the burden of her funeral arrangements."
Johnson said Chmilar was well known in the hospitality industry where she worked for years, including the Gulfstream restaurant.
"Jodi’s infectious laugh and fun loving spirit will be missed by all those she touched in some way. Thank you so much for your contribution, or even just sharing," the GoFundMe concluded.
Fundraiser for Ukrainian newcomers brings in close to $50,000
$50,000 for newcomers
The smiling faces of the children say it all.
A fundraiser earlier this week, organized by Hearts and Hands for Ukraine raised nearly $50,000, and donations are still coming in.
Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh was one of the organizers of the event. She says close to 500 people attended the Blue Jeans, Burgers & Bevvies event at the Kelowna Yacht Club Tuesday.
“It was very heartwarming to see the outpouring of love for the Ukrainian families who now call Kelowna home,” said Singh.
Singh says the Kelowna Professional Firefighters Charitable Society made a $500 donation. Firefighter Kyle Jacobson brought hats and colouring books for some of the children at the event.
Eighty per cent of the money raised at Blue Jeans, Burgers & Bevvies will be used to buy essentials for about 200 Ukrainian families in the Central Okanagan. Another 100 are expected to arrive in the next six weeks.
Twenty per cent of the donations will go to Kelowna Community Resources to support programs for immigrant families.
“We are hoping to do more to help those who are looking for a safe place to call home,” adds Singh, who says another Hearts and Hands for Ukraine fundraiser is in the works for July.
Mother of man stabbed to death is planning memorial service in Vancouver
Memorial plans for slain son
The mother of a former Kelowna man who was fatally stabbed Sunday evening at a Vancouver Starbucks says her family is still reeling.
Kathy Schmidt says her son Paul moved to Vancouver from Kelowna a few years back and he had been working and living in the city with his wife Ashley and their young daughter.
Their lives changed forever when Paul was fatally stabbed after a confrontation with a man over vaping near his daughter.
"Paul asked him not to vape near the stroller," says Paul's mom Kathy Schmidt.
From there, the situation escalated quickly and ended with Paul bleeding to death on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop while his wife and daughter looked on. The stabbing and Paul's death was captured on video and watched by millions of people on social media.
"I'm still trying to get my head around what happened, we are taking things minute by minute," Kathy says.
Schmidt says the family is planning a memorial service for her son next week in Vancouver.
"Paul's friends, co-workers, most family and Ashley's family are in Vancouver. We are currently arranging a venue in Vancouver," she said.
A GoFundMe has been started to help the family cope financially and has already raised almost $150,000 for the family. The bulk of the funds will be used to set up a trust fund for Paul's daughter.
The organizer of the fundraiser says Ashley and the rest of the family are "extremely grateful and touched."
"We are getting close to the target and it would be so amazing if we could reach our goal of $200K!! The road ahead will be very difficult and all your support will make the journey for Ashley and her daughter less challenging. Thank you all for sharing and caring," wrote organizing group, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society of Vancouver.
Vancouver police arrested 32-year-old Inderdeep Singh Gosal shortly after the altercation and he has since been charged with second-degree murder.
Kelowna company busy with dog poop removal
Need help with dog poop?
Spring has sprung and the snow has melted, meaning anyone who didn’t pick up after their dog over the winter is now left with quite the smelly backyard.
But a unique Kelowna business specializes in just that problem. Castanet met up with a local clean up crew to get the scoop on poop.
“For the most part, 98 per cent of people are very receptive to the service," said Poo Worx owner Mary Bermudez. "They think it’s a great idea, which is awesome. Once in a while, we will run into somebody who will say oh I can’t believe some people are that lazy."
"It’s not that some people are that lazy, it’s that they’re that busy. We help them not have to do the poopy job."
Poo Worx does weekly removal for people all over Kelowna year round, but the also do a lot of disinfectant work through the spring.
"It’s very important you do it every spring, once a year. We go around after we pick up the poo and we spray the yard. We spray where most of the poo is concentrated. That spray, that disinfectant will kill any bacteria that was growing there through the winter time," added Bermudez.
It can be quite the messy job for Bermudez and her staff, but she tells Castanet meeting new dogs every day makes it all worth it.
“I love dogs. I had a chocolate lab myself. He was the inspiration for this business. His name was Luke and I love him, but I lost him. I go to these yards and when the dogs are out they’re just lovely to deal with. It’s the best part of the job," she smiled.
"The owners, they love that. They love that we spend some time with their dogs, and you know, it's a benefit to everybody."
New Indigenous Justice Centre coming to Kelowna
Indigenous justice centres
Indigenous residents in Kelowna will be able to access “culturally appropriate justice services” by the end of this year.
Earlier this week, the BC First Nations Justice Council announced five new Indigenous Justice Centres that are being built across the province, in Kelowna, Surrey, Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo.
The council says the centres will help provide Indigenous members of the community “culturally appropriate” information, advice, support, and legal services.
“We are unwinding and undoing the powerful and destructive effects that the current justice system has had on our relatives,” said Rosalie Yazzie, acting chair of the BCFNJC.
“Through strong Indigenous leadership, a team of valued, subject-matter experts and experienced competent staff members, we are pushing forward to create a better justice system for First Nations peoples.”
There are currently three operating Indigenous Justice Centres across B.C. in Merritt, Prince Rupert, Prince George, and a fourth one will be opened in Chilliwack this spring.
The site will also see Continuing Professional Development events for lawyers and paralegals that will focus on proper applications of Gladue principles across the existing criminal legal system.
One virtual Indigenous Justice Centre is also available online, which provides no-cost legal services to Indigenous people regardless of where they live.
The BCFNJC says the Kelowna site is expected to open its doors by the end of 2023. Initial site visits to the five new locations will take place between April 3 and May 5, although an exact location of the Kelowna site has yet to be determined.
Last November, Premier David Eby announced the provincial government will fully invest in the establishment and long-term operation of ten new IJCs over the next two years.
Accused Kelowna drug trafficker detained after he jumped bail for fourth time
Detained after 4th no-show
An accused Kelowna drug trafficker is once again back behind bars.
Jason Keehn, one of five men charged in a massive Kelowna drug bust back in October 2020, has been taken back into custody after he jumped bail earlier this month and remained on the lam for three weeks. This is the fourth time a warrant has been issued for his arrest in this matter.
The five men were arrested about three years after the Kelowna RCMP's Project E-Precedent investigation targeted the Lower Mainland-based Red Scorpion gang's alleged drug trafficking in the region.
The large investigation involved 15 search warrants at homes and businesses around the Kelowna area in 2017 and 2018. Police said they seized 5.5 kilograms of fentanyl and carfentanil, 3 kilograms of methamphetamine, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, as well as GHB, ecstasy, and other pharmaceutical drugs in the bust. They also said they found a Mac-10 sub-machine gun, two semi-automatic 9-mm handguns, a .45-caliber handgun, a .38-caliber handgun, other semi-automatic rifles and long guns, and over $130,000 in Canadian cash.
As a result of the investigation, 37-year-old Keehn is facing two drug trafficking charges, four possession for the purpose of trafficking charges and 10 weapons charges. All offences are alleged to have occurred in December 2017.
Keehn failed to show up to his court date on March 3 and a warrant was issued for his arrest. That warrant remained in place until last week, when he was re-arrested. On March 24, Judge Lynett Jung issued a detention order for Keehn, and he remains in custody.
Keehn's next court appearance is set for June 19, when a preliminary inquiry will be held in Kelowna court. A preliminary inquiry is held in particularly serious cases, where the Crown will present its evidence before the court and a judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence for it to proceed to a Supreme Court trial.
Keehn missed his very first court date on the matter back in November 2020, but he was arrested and granted bail in late December of that year. More than a year later, he once again failed show up to a voir dire appearance on Feb. 1, 2022 and a warrant was again issued. He was taken back into custody and then released again on Feb. 22, 2022.
He pulled his third no-show on April 11 of last year, but he was re-arrested two days later. Once again, the Crown consented to his release and he was granted bail again.
“If you don't follow the conditions, you could get arrested and be charged with a breach. If you don't come to court when you're required to, you could get arrested and you could be charged with a failing to appear charge,” Judge Monica McParland told Keehn last April.
But according to online court records, it appears Keehn has not been charged with any failing to appear charges.
In March 2022, the Crown stayed charges against Keehn's co-accused, Jonathan Sierra, although it's not known why. Another man charged in the Project E-Precedent investigation, Benjamin Bridger pleaded guilty in August 2021 to possession for the purpose of trafficking and possessing a prohibited firearm. He was given a three-year suspended sentence, which allowed him to serve his sentence out of custody.
Nikolas Parisee, another of the five accused, also struck a plea deal with the Crown in February 2021 and was handed two years of probation.
Travis Cumming, who's facing four charges of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one firearm charge, was scheduled to face trial in February 2023, but the trial was delayed. New trial dates have yet to be set.
While police said Project E-Precedent targeted the Red Scorpion gang, they did not say if any of those who were charged were allegedly affiliated with the gang.
Crews douse house fire on Dougall Road
No gas in Dougall Road fire
UPDATE 10:21 p.m.
Gas was not involved in the Dougall Road fire, according to Fortis BC.
At the request of the fire department, Fortis crews arrived just after 9 p.m. and have since left the scene.
UPDATE 9:05 p.m.
Tammy Kasper spotted the fire while getting gas.
She says the fire is now out, but police and firefighters remain on the scene. Kasper said she saw five fire trucks and two police officers at the scene.
FortisBC has also now arrived.
ORIGINAL 8:56 p.m.
A Castanet reader sent in photos of a fire reported to be burning in Kelowna, in the Rutland area.
The fire is believed to be burning at Highway 33 and Dougall Road.
Police and firefighters appear to be on the scene.
Castanet will update this story as information becomes available.
Body found in Kelowna's Mission Creek Greenway
Body found near greenway
UPDATE 7:15 p.m.
Images sent to Castanet suggest the body found Thursday in the Mission Creek Greenway belonged to a woman.
A witness at the scene told a Castanet reporter he was sitting on a bench in the sun when the police showed up and started taping off the area.
According to the witness, a woman led the police to a body in the bush off an embankment near the creek, just east of the main entrance on Springfield Road.
When Castanet arrived, police were patrolling the scene and waiting for the coroners to arrive. Moments later, a body was pulled out of the bush and placed in the back of the coroner's van.
The investigation by RCMP is in the early stages at this point, and the cause of death is currently unknown. Castanet will update the story as soon as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: 4:45 p.m.
Kelowna RCMP have confirmed a body has been discovered in the bushes in an area off the Mission Creek Greenway near the entrance to Mission Creek Regional Park.
No further information has been released.
Castanet News has a reporter on the scene and will update the story as information becomes available.
ORIGINAL 4:15 p.m.
Mission Creek Park and the Mission Greenway are closed for what Kelowna RCMP are calling an investigation.
Police are saying only that they were called to the area shortly after 3 p.m. Thursday.
"An investigation is underway and the police are asking people to stay away from the area," police say in a brief email.
"Access to Mission Creek Park is limited and the greenway portion is closed to foot traffic."
Further details are expected to be released when information becomes available.
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