By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 23, 2023.
An arrest warrant has been issued for a Lethbridge man accused of setting fire to the historic Lethbridge Hotel earlier this year.
The warrant was issued Wednesday after Michael Randall Big Swan failed to attend Lethbridge court of justice, and after the Crown pointed out the accused’s lawyer has been attempting to contact him for about three months, without success.
An agent for Big Swan’s lawyer asked instead for a brief adjournment to allow one more attempt to contact the accused, with a judge’s order that the accused attend court in person on Monday.
Justice Jerry LeGrandeur agreed to the adjournment, but didn’t revoke the warrant, noting that if defence is unable to contact Big Swan and bring him to court, he ultimately will be arrested through the warrant.
During a court hearing on Nov. 1, Calgary lawyer Robin McIntyre said she would ask to withdraw as Big Swan’s lawyer if she was unable to contact her client.
Big Swan faces one charge of shopbreaking/commit arson relating to a fire Feb. 24 that destroyed the Lethbridge Hotel on the corner of 5 Street and 2 Avenue South downtown. 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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