'I'd like to move forward': Oliver arsonist apologizes to court

Arsonist sorry for actions

An Oliver arsonist who caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to local businesses says he is remorseful and ready to walk a better path.

Steven Gallagher, born in 1992, appeared in Penticton BC Supreme Court Tuesday, expecting to hear his sentence.

Gallagher had previously been found guilty of arson, following a string of incidents in the early hours of May 15, 2021.

During a multi-day trial in May 2023, court heard that Gallagher had allegedly had an altercation with police at his property, then shot at vehicles parked at the Oliver RCMP station, set fire to a truck downtown and then set fire to the nearby Oliver Pharmacy Remedy’s Rx.

Surveillance footage showed Gallagher setting merchandise ablaze in the pharmacy, then stopping to grab a drink from the fridge at the front before leaving through the door he had smashed earlier to gain entry.

He was found guilty of arson, and before passing sentence, the judge ordered a Gladue report; a legal tool in Canada that provides courts with information on the unique circumstances of Indigenous offenders. Gallagher is a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the Crown and for Gallagher made their submissions before Justice David Crerar.

The Crown called the crime spree “chilling,” and a “planned attack” without a specific goal other than to cause trouble, saying that makes Gallagher a danger to the community and deserving of 3.5 to four years behind bars.

The pharmacy reportedly sustained $428,000 in damage to the building structure alone, plus the loss of all of their inventory.

Next door, a physiotherapy practice lost $43,000 worth of equipment inside.

Defence lawyer Nelson Selamaj said his client has been making “serious strides” to address underlying problems related to his mental health, addictions issues, and family history, all during his time behind bars.

“I've never been able to walk into court for somebody who has done this much work in custody,” Selamaj said, explaining Gallagher has been taking courses, holds down a job within the correctional centre, and has been committed to sobriety.

“Any inmate could just go to sleep, put their head in the sand and do their time … but that’s not what Mr. Gallagher chose.”

Selamaj argued for a lengthy probationary order following a jail sentence of up to 25 months, or just over two years.

Gallagher himself addressed the court, expressing his apologies to everyone impacted by his actions during what he described as a “dark time” in his life.

“I'd like to move forward, I'd like to put this behind me," he said, adding he hopes victims can do the same.

"I'll continue to put in the work to make sure that I don't victimize anybody like this again."

Justice Crerar decided he needed time to consider, and will give his sentencing at a later date.

Meanwhile, Gallagher remains in custody. He has another pending sentencing, for a Canada Day 2022 shooting in Osoyoos that left a 22-year-old Maple Ridge man with injuries.

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