July 16th, 2024

Lawyer can’t find man accused of setting fire to Lethbridge Hotel

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 2, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Calgary lawyer who represents a man accused of setting fire to the Lethbridge Hotel earlier this year can’t find her client.

Robin McIntyre told a judge Wednesday in Lethbridge court of justice that despite repeated attempts she has been unable to contact Michael Randall Big Swan, who is charged with one count of shopbreaking/commit arson.

Big Swan was not in court Wednesday, and McIntyre told Justice Paul Pharo if she’s unable to contact him, she will ask to withdraw as the accused’s lawyer.

The Feb. 24 fire destroyed much of the Lethbridge Hotel on the corner of 5 Street and 2 Avenue South, and a portion of the front façade was later demolished for the safety of the public and workers. Following an investigation and remediation of material because of asbestos contamination, investigators determined the fire had been deliberately set. The site has since been cleared.

Police subsequently identified a suspect, and on April 6 Big Swan was arrested without incident and charged.

Less than a month earlier fire destroyed the historic Bow On Tong building just a block to the east of the hotel. What remained of the building had to be demolished before investigators could safely do their job, and because of the extensive damage the cause of the fire could not be determined.

Police suspected the Bow On Tong fire was also deliberately set and they identified a person of interest, but there was insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges. There isn’t any evidence to suggest the two fires were connected, police said.

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No surprise with our justice and penal systems! There is a complete disrespect for law and for citizens by this group of people who commit crimes at will and laugh at us!
This individual is probably on the streets in another city, starting fires and endangering the public, with no ID and giving police false names, which is the trend for many of the people who hang out all night on the streets commiting crimes. Many of the people who refuse to go to a shelter or take services have warrants issues for their arrest, but due to our laws which were changed a couple of years ago, police can no longer walk up to a person and ask for ID if they are not doing anything wrong.
That makes it hard to find those with outstanding warrants and those people stay on the street, where they don’t have to give up their name for any services.
We need to have out police armed with handheld digital finger printing machines to help them find these offenders who hide in plain sight while committing more crimes and further endangering the public. It is only a matter of time that an innocent person dies in a fire started by one of these criminals. I am not referring to the truly homeless, but the criminals who are out all night on the streets!