LETHBRIDGE - A 29-year-old man has been sentenced to 3.5 years in a federal correctional facility, in connection with a west side shooting in 2014.
Jesse Dallas Hills, now a resident of Cranbrook, B.C., pleaded guilty to discharging a firearm, pointing a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm and mischief/damage under $5,000. The longest sentence imposed was for discharging a firearm, while he also received a one-year sentence for pointing a firearm, and six-months for the rest of the charges. The sentences will be served concurrently.
During the sentencing, Justice Rodney Jerke told the court the combination of events on the night of May 6, 2014 were a continuous, senseless act, and that Hills had a loaded powerful rifle with him the entire time.
Jerke also told the court that a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) was positive, but that a Gladue report did not play a significant role in bringing Hills before the court.
During sentencing arguments, Friday, Feb. 8, Crown Lawyer Vaughan Hartigan asked for a 4-year sentence for the discharging a firearm charge, and a consecutive one-year sentence for the rest of the charges to reflect the seriousness of the events. However, he also noted that it was a difficult case because of the positive rehabilitative efforts Hills has made over the last several years.
Defense lawyer Greg White proposed two different sentencing scenarios. He told the court that there was no reason for what Hills had done, that Hills was an alcoholic and that there was an “unexplainable element” to the crimes.
But White said Hills had family and community support, gainful employment, has been treated for his alcoholism, and has been paying restitution to the family involved, along with the person whose car was damaged. He had no prior criminal record.
Two sentencing proposals were then explained: one, which included a 90-day intermittent sentence that could be served on weekends, followed by a two-year-minus a-day conditional sentence of house arrest. Hills could only leave home for work for doctors’ appointments, or to pick up his young daughter.
White argued that a conditional sentence would achieve more than jail time, but it would also have a punitive aspect to it.
He then alternately offered a second option of 2-3 years in jail.
Justice Jerke told the court “This is by many accounts a very unusual case,” while the Crown then argued that up until sentencing, other than some conditions Hills had to follow, there had been no actual hardship on him.
Hill then addressed the court and his family. As he wiped away tears he said in part, “I can not change anything that’s happened. All I can do is better my life, better my child’s life. It hurts when I think about it… it hurts me to know what I did to (the family). I wish they were here so I could talk to them in person.”
White then asked Hills what he would say to the family in question.
“I would tell them that… I understand every little bit of anger. Everything he (father of the family) feels towards me. I deserve to be in trouble. I don’t remember doing this, but I deserve every little bit of it.”
He told the court that he has “fixed up” his life, for everyone, not just for himself.
“I understand how bad this is. I understand how bad this case is, and I really, really, really am sorry,” he said as he wept.
After Hills was sentenced, he asked Justice Jerke for one week to go back to Cranbrook to say good-bye to his daughter, however, he was told there was no precedent for that to occur, and he was taken away by court Sheriffs.
Hills will receive 106 days credit for pre-trial custody. He will have to submit his DNA to a national registry, will be prohibited from owning or possessing firearms and will have to continue to pay restitution to the people involved in the case.
According to an agreed statement of facts, on May 6, 2014, around midnight, Hills was significantly intoxicated by drugs and alcohol which he had been consuming in the hours prior to the incident. He began walking in the area of Mount Rundle Way and Mount Rundle Road West, carrying a baseball bat and a 303 rifle with a loaded magazine. There were four rounds in the magazine.
An individual leaving a party in his car observed Hills – who he did not know – and as he passed, Hills swung the bat at his vehicle, but missed. The driver stopped and turned back, at which point Hills fired a shot. Believing the shot was at him, the driver then fled the area and called 911.
Hills proceeded to attempt to gain entry to a vehicle, and after failing he smashed out all the windows with his bat.
Neighbours who had been awoken by the incident then saw Hills approach a home and fire a shot through the living room window. The family of four, including two teenaged girls inside, fled to the basement, where they waited until police arrived at the scene and took Hills into custody. Four shots were ultimately fired from the gun, one which had been aimed at the father of the family.
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