Man who led police on dangerous January chase that caused schools to lock down avoids jail

No jail for wild police chase

A man who led Kamloops Mounties on a wild and dangerous chase in January that saw a number of downtown schools placed on lockdown has avoided jail.

Charles Mathew Luttman will instead spend eight months on house arrest, followed by a lengthy probation term, after being sentenced in Kamloops provincial court on Thursday.

The 35-year-old pleaded guilty to charges of theft of a motor vehicle, dangerous driving, theft under $5,000 and two counts of break-and-enter.

Court heard Luttman was in the midst of a heroin and crystal meth binge on Jan. 18 when he stole a large pickup truck from a North Shore auto dealer. The next day, the distinct truck was spotted on surveillance at Bed Bath & Beyond in Sahali, where Luttman entered the back of the store and later came out with $700 worth of blankets.

He sped off in the truck and happened upon Mounties a short time later conducting radar on the Summit Connector. The officers recognized the stolen truck and tried to get Luttman out of the vehicle.

“Mr. Luttman accelerated, nearly hitting [one of the Mounties], and then veered over an island on the road, struck a road sign and then headed south on Hillside Drive in the northbound lanes — so driving against traffic,” Crown prosecutor Brendan Ward said.

Luttman nearly ran another driver off the road, court heard, and eventually made his way to Notre Dame Drive and then onto the Summit Drive off-ramp of the Trans-Canada Highway, once again driving against the flow of traffic.

On the highway, Luttman nearly struck an ambulance and then hit another pickup truck. He then fled on foot, prompting the Kamloops-Thompson school district to place Sagebrush schools on hold and secure.

A police dog found Luttman hiding in a compost bin in someone’s back yard.

Luttman also pleaded guilty to an unrelated break-and-enter charge stemming from an April 29 incident at Surplus Herby’s on Tranquille Road. Court heard a passerby called Mounties after seeing someone breaking out of the store with an injured leg.

Police determined Luttman broke in through a vent in the ceiling and dropped 25 feet onto the store's concrete floor, breaking his leg.

He pleaded guilty to a second unrelated break-and-enter charge, as well, at the Praxair building on Dalhousie Drive on Dec. 29, 2020.

Luttman, a father of two, has no prior criminal record. Defence lawyer Marcel LaFlamme said the COVID-19 pandemic sent Luttman into a “downward spiral” that landed him in court.

“Because of this monster of COVID, he lost his employment and it’s been downhill ever since,” he said.

“Things went to hell. He started using drugs and he had no money. … It is mind-boggling that somebody would have two children and commit this kind of offence. You cannot understand it. It’s just tragic.”

Luttman will spend eight months on 22-hour house arrest and then a year on probation. The Crown had been seeking a three-year driving prohibition, but court records do not indicate how long Luttman will be banned from driving.

“Lives were put at risk,” provincial court Judge Kenneth Skilnick said in handing down his sentence, noting most offenders in Luttman’s shoes would be going to jail.

“The fact the vehicle was driven in the manner it was driven on one of the most well-travelled highways in this country, that’s obviously aggravating. It is a circumstance where, in the majority of cases, a custodial sentence in an institution would be called for.”

Luttman, who lives near Chase, said he plans to undergo residential treatment for his drug addiction.

He was ordered to submit a sample of his DNA to a national criminal database and to pay restitution to Praxair and Surplus Herby’s for damage caused in the break-ins — more than $1,000 in all.

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