Appeal denied in gunfire-filled police chase that concluded in Westwold

Crime spree appeal denied

A man involved in a dramatic crime spree that included shooting at police and spanned from Merritt to Falkland has had an appeal of his sentence dismissed.

In a March 15 BC Court of Appeal judgment in Vancouver, the three-judge panel denied Darwyn Sellars' attempt to have his seven-year sentence reduced by a year.

Sellars pleaded guilty to 12 charges following the 2019 drama.

Seven of those stemmed from events on Dec. 2 and 3, 2019, when Sellars was involved in what the trial judge described as "a spree commencing near Merritt and ending near Westwold."

The other five offences took place between March 31 and October 3, 2019, and consisted of two driving while prohibited charges, two breach of probation charges, and one breach of a bail order.

On Dec. 2, the drama began when Sellars terrorized Merritt-area homeowners with a shotgun and fled with items including a laptop, two rifles, two shotguns, and ammunition.

His vehicle was spotted about 2 p.m. near Kamloops, but he manoeuvred to avoid a police stop, making contact with two police cruisers as he continued on.

Just before 8 a.m. Dec. 3, the vehicle was reported near Falkland, involved in stealing gas. Officers located the suspect about 8:45 a.m.

Sellars drove towards two unmarked police vehicles and fired a shotgun in their direction. Police returned fire and gave chase as further shots were fired at them.

Sellars continued driving despite one tire being deflated by a spike belt. He eventually drove off the highway and onto a field, where a police dog and force were used to subdue him.

He appealed his seven-year sentence on the grounds that the trial judge failed to notify counsel of his intent to impose a sentence higher than that sought by the Crown; that the judge relied on an uncharged offence to over-emphasize the principles of denunciation and deterrence; and that too little weight was placed on his being Indigenous and having fetal alcohol syndrome disorder.

However, the appeal panel found the stiff sentence did not warrant intervention, and it was "not an error for the judge to consider the gravity of discharging a firearm in the direction of police officers as an aggravating factor."

They also found the judge appropriately considered the impact of the appellant’s Indigeneity and mental health.

Sellars, a member of the Xat’sull First Nation, has a long criminal record of 41 convictions.

The trial judge said but for Sellars' mental-health difficulties and Gladue factors, his sentence "would have been even higher."

The panel denied Sellars' appeal and imposed additional driving prohibitions originally sought by the Crown –10 years for the dangerous driving and flight from police offences, and two years for driving while prohibited.

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