A Campbell River man who repeatedly punched and kicked a man lying helplessly on the sidewalk has been sentenced to four years in prison for manslaughter.
In January, Justin William Arnet pleaded guilty to the October 2020 beating death of 59-year-old Dean Dool.
Although the Crown had sought an eight-year prison sentence, provincial court Judge Reginald Harris found Arnet’s moral culpability was reduced because he experienced intergenerational trauma and had witnessed violence and substance abuse as a child. Harris gave Arnet credit of three years, one month and three weeks for time spent in pre-trial custody. This means Arnet must serve a further 10 months in prison for manslaughter.
Court heard that on Oct. 15, 2020, Dool was out drinking in downtown Campbell River. Sometime after 10:30 p.m., he ran into Arnet, who was out with two other men. Arnet thought Dool had made a racist comment and pushed Dool.
In the confrontation captured on security video, Dool pulled out a knife. Arnet pushed it aside several times, then punched Dool in the face. Dool fell to the ground, landing on the roadway at the edge of the sidewalk. Arnet kicked and punched him in the head several times. Arnet stepped away, then circled back, kicking and punching Dool again. This happened three times, the judge noted in his March 7 decision.
Arnet and his friends then moved Dool onto the sidewalk and up against a building. Again, Arnet hit him several times. Dool remained lying on the sidewalk. He tried to get up, but fell to the ground striking his head. Paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital where he died a few days later.
An autopsy revealed bruising and abrasions to his head, torso and limbs. He had internal bruising to the right side of his neck and a fractured hyoid bone. The pathologist determined cause of death was head trauma.
Arnet was arrested on Jan. 28, 2021. During a police interview, he started to cry and express remorse when he was shown video of the beating.
“Mr. Arnet’s use of excessive violence needs to be denounced and deterred. I say this recognizing and appreciating the impact of the racial comment and the production of the knife, however, Mr. Arnet went too far. Simply, he continued to inflict violence after Mr. Dool was incapacitated and he did so when he had an opportunity to walk away,” said the judge.
Dool’s death has created a huge void and much sadness for his partner and his family and friends, Harris noted.
In her victim impact statement, Dool’s sister, Cheryl Campbell, said she has a broken heart, misses her brother and has difficulty sleeping. His partner is gripped with grief and her sense of security is shaken.
“The letters describe how wonderful and unique Mr. Dool was. They also describe understandable feelings of sadness, anger and a sense that their community is unsafe,” said the judge.
Arnet also pleaded guilty to robbing Maxine Cooke, a vulnerable homeless woman who was sleeping outside Campbell River Library in the early morning of Jan. 23, 2021. Court heard that Arnet and another man carrying a baseball bat approached two women as they slept. Arnet awakened Cook by brandishing a two-litre bottle of alcohol over her head. He punched Cook in the face and stole her cellphone and her backpack with her birth certificate inside.
A Gladue report prepared for sentencing noted that Arnet, 32, is an intergenerational residential school survivor. He was born in Campbell River. His mother is a member of Kyuquot First Nation. His father is a member of Michel First Nation, a blend of Iroquois, Cree and Métis.
His parents separated before his birth due to substance misuse and his father’s violent behaviour. Arnet stayed with his mother but suffered mental, emotional, physical and verbal abuse. When he was 12, he was sent to live with his uncle and was moved from family member to family member. As he got older, Arnet started working and abusing drugs and alcohol, and ended up on the streets. He left school in Grade 10. He has worked in commercial fishing, construction and forestry.
His maternal grandmother went to Indian Day School and spent a year tied to a bed at Nanaimo Indian Hospital. His grandfather was raised in the foster system and is a residential school survivor.
Arnet’s involvement in the criminal justice system is related to unresolved traumas, lack of coping, general life skills, poor judgment, addictions and criminal associations, the report found. The judge found it aggravating that Arnet continued to assault Dool when he was clearly incapacitated. He found Arnet’s guilty pleas, his remorse to be mitigating.
Harris sentenced Arnet to six months for the robbery, followed by two years of probation to assist with his rehabilitation.
During his probation, Arnet must take counselling and programs as directed by his probation officer. He must also complete 75 hours of community service.