'Veteran' gangster jailed

After arresting a Lake Country couple more than three and a half years ago, police said they had halted a resurgence of the Independent Soldiers gang in Kelowna.

On Friday, 48-year-old Donahugh "Blaze" McWhirter was sentenced to five and a half years in jail on drugs and weapons charges, while charges were dropped against his girlfriend, Brittany Stinn.

In his sentencing decision Friday, Justice Barry Davies said he believed McWhirter, who grew up around the Okanagan, was an associate or a member of the gang when he was pulled over on the Coquihalla Highway on Nov. 4, 2014.

The traffic stop was the culmination of a nine-month RCMP investigation after police were tipped off that McWhirter was selling drugs in Kelowna and that he was “taking over” the Independent Soldiers.

Police found 499 grams of crystal meth, just under a kilogram of MDA, and 5,595 MDA pills in the car.

Just under three months later, police raided the couple's Lake Country home on Jolinda Court and found two vacuum-sealed firearms, a pill press, other paraphernalia associated with drug dealing, several vials of steroids and boxes of Independent Soldiers-branded clothing.

McWhirter was under a 10-year firearms prohibition at the time, stemming from two domestic assault convictions in 2012 against two separate women that netted him six months in jail.

At the time of the January 2015 arrest, police said McWhirter was a “veteran IS member.”

Last October, Justice Davies dismissed McWhirter's arguments that the traffic stop violated his Charter rights.

Just before his trial was set to begin, McWhirter pleaded guilty in February to two counts of possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking, two counts of possessing a firearm while prohibited and two counts of possessing a firearm without a licence.

In May, the Crown argued an eight-year sentence was appropriate, while McWhirter's defence said a two- to 2.5-year sentence was fitting.

His family, some in tears, blew him kisses as he was taken away in handcuffs Friday.

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