April 22nd, 2024

Shoplifter receives jail sentence for needle threat

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on March 13, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

Nicholas Heavy Runner only faced a single charge of shoplifting, until he threatened a security guard with a weapon.

While on a routine patrol in the Park Place Mall on Dec. 17 of last year, the security guard was alerted to a theft from Sport Check. He caught up with Heavy Runner after he had exited the store with an armful of clothes but had not yet left the mall

The guard recognized the suspect from previous dealings with him, and he was also aware Heavy Runner had been previously banned from the store.

When the guard approached Heavy Runner and told him to stop, Heavy Runner turned around and, with a hypodermic syringe in his hand, walked threateningly toward the guard.

“(The security guard) at that point stepped toward Mr. Heavy Runner…and deployed two strikes to Mr. Heavy Runner’s arm to get him to drop the needle, which did work on the second strike,” Crown Prosecutor James Rouleau said in Lethbridge court of justice, where Heavy Runner pleaded guilty to charges of assault with a weapon and theft under $5,000.

Heavy Runner was detained and the items he stole – two parkas, two pairs of pants and a pair of boots worth a total of $1,132 – were recovered.

Heavy Runner, who has a criminal record with convictions for possession of stolen property, breaches of court orders, assault and numerous thefts, was sentenced to five months in jail and ordered to submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Data Bank.

Rouleau said the five-month sentence is a considerable “step up” from previous sentences Heavy Runner has received in the past for offences, because, given the threat with a needle, the theft from Sport Check borders on robbery, which would have carried an even longer sentence.

“Now the thefts are being coupled with this element of violence, and I think the message has to go through to Mr. Heavy Runner that, one, theft on their own are no longer, or were ever acceptable, but when he’s stepping up and using violence to try to get away with those thefts, his jeopardy goes up quite significantly. This is not a very long distance away from what the court would characterize as a robbery.”

Lethbridge lawyer Vincent Guinan joined with the Crown in recommending a sentence of five months, and suggested while the sentence is at the “lowest possible end of the range,” it is warranted given Heavy Runner’s personal circumstances as a member of the Kainai First Nation.

“Many of the individuals in his immediate family were victimized by Canada’s residential school program,” Guinan said. “As a result of that, he, himself, has some intergenerational trauma that has trickled down.”

At the time of the offences Heavy Runner was living at the homeless shelter and he was suffering from addictions to “poisonous and dangerous substances” related to the city’s drug crisis.

“This attempt to steal winter clothing during the Christmas holidays is just a really sad picture of our current circumstances with respect to the opioid crisis and a number of other things that are going on,” Guinan said.

Heavy Runner was given credit for the equivalent of 47 days spent in pre-disposition custody, leaving 103 days to serve. He is, however, also serving a sentence for unrelated offences.

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