A man who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving was found guilty this week of possessing an imitation firearm with intent in the same incident.
Justice Marlene Carter found LeShawn Forrester guilty of aiding and abetting an unknown male who had the imitation firearm with intent to resist arrest. The unknown male was one of two passengers in Mr. Forrester’s vehicle on the night of June 4, 2017.
The case for the prosecution, as presented by Crown counsel Greg Walcolm, was that Mr. Forrester did not obey a police officer’s direction to pull over at a checkpoint near a link between the Esterley Tibbetts Highway and West Bay Road. Instead, he sped away and led police on a chase in excess of 70 mph. The speed limit in that area is 40 mph.
When he drove the vehicle back to the area near where police originally tried to stop him, at a car park area near Public Beach, officers saw two males jump from the vehicle, run toward the Kimpton hotel and escape, although officers had ordered them to stop.
The evidence of an experienced officer, who was trained as a firearm officer, was that one of the men who ran from the car had in his hand what appeared to be a firearm.
In analyzing the evidence, Justice Carter said she first had to be satisfied that the unknown man had the item, that the item had the appearance of a firearm, and that at the time he intended to resist arrest.
She did find all of those elements, and then had to determine whether Mr. Forrester aided and abetted the unknown male.
The judge summarized evidence that when Mr. Forrester had first stopped at the checkpoint, one of the officers observed the facial expression and body language of a passenger and assumed that the passenger was looking at him. The officer said he then had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit as the car sped away.
Mr. Forrester’s evidence was that he had picked up the two men, whom he did not know, because there was a light rain falling and they wanted a ride. He said that, at the police road block, one of the passengers told him, “Yo, I got drugs on me.”
Mr. Forrester said he panicked and drove off, but then came to his senses and returned to the area. He said he did not know anything about a firearm and no one had mentioned it to him.
The judge noted that he did not explain any of this to officers who approached him, even though he had remained behind the wheel of the vehicle when his passengers ran.
He gave a “no comment” interview and ended up remaining in custody for two months, even though he had said he did not want to go to jail “for someone else’s stupidity.”
Mr. Forrester did not give any account of his actions until his trial. He had been told by officers that it might harm his defense if he did not mention something that he later relied on.
The judge said she was satisfied that he had no answer to give when he was arrested or interviewed.
She did not believe Mr. Forrester’s evidence, but went back to consider the Crown’s case, finding him guilty of possessing the imitation firearm with intent by aiding and abetting the possession of the unknown male.
Defense attorney Lee Halliday-Davis asked for bail until sentencing, pointing out that Mr. Forrester, who will be 25 in November, had no previous convictions. Mr. Walcolm did not object.
Justice Carter granted bail. She ordered a social inquiry report and set sentencing for Dec. 12.
A charge of causing harassment, alarm or distress to a police officer at the checkpoint was not proceeded with.