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No conviction for drive-by shooting; manhunt in 2016 shut Thetis park

A drive-by shooting case that left two Sooke men injured and involved a five-day manhunt in the summer of 2016 has wrapped up without anyone being convicted of pulling the trigger.
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West Shore RCMP were searching for two armed suspects in the Thetis Lake area in June 2016.

A drive-by shooting case that left two Sooke men injured and involved a five-day manhunt in the summer of 2016 has wrapped up without anyone being convicted of pulling the trigger.

Three men were originally charged in connection with the shooting on Ella Road in Sooke two years ago. Two men have been convicted of drugs and weapons offences — but none of the convictions are for the actual gunman.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Frits Verhoeven has found Josh Lafleur not guilty of discharging a restricted firearm at Gordon Thomas and Travis Twinn on June 14, 2016.

Verhoeven convicted Lafleur of being in a car knowing there was a restricted firearm in the vehicle, possession of a restricted Glock semi-automatic pistol and a prohibited semi-automatic Colt pistol, possessing readily accessible ammunition for the Colt and possessing cocaine, MDMA, marijuana and psilocybin for the purpose of trafficking.

Lafleur and his co-accused, Damien Medwedrich, were arrested on June 19, 2016, after the manhunt closed Thetis Lake Regional Park and prompted public warnings about armed and dangerous suspects. Sooke RCMP surrounded a home on Kirby Road in Sooke and called out the Emergency Response Team. After a lengthy standoff, the two were found hiding in the crawl space of the home.

In his April 27 judgment, Verhoeven found that Twinn and Thomas were shot while they were standing near a car parked on Ella Road. They had driven there with three other people to see the continuation of a fight between two youths.

There was no fight, but shots were fired from a car driven by Medwedrich. Evidence at Lafleur’s trial confirmed Dustin Brown was in the front passenger seat and Lafleur was in the back seat.

Charges were stayed against Brown at a preliminary inquiry in January 2017. He had little recollection of what happened that night due to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

On March 16, 2017, Medwedrich pleaded guilty to three weapons offences and a drug trafficking offence. Medwedrich did not plead guilty to the shootings. He was sentenced to serve a further 16 months of a 30-month sentence after credit for time served.

During Lafleur’s trial in January 2018, Medwedrich testified that he was responsible for all the shootings, the weapons and the drug offences. He said Lafleur and Brown were not complicit.

Medwedrich testified that he owned the Glock handgun used in the shootings and shot it several times on June 14, 2016, on Ella Road. He also testified that he owned the Colt pistol and the drugs.

The Crown argued that Verhoeven should reject Medwedrich’s testimony.

Still, Verhoeven said the evidence establishing Lafleur as the shooter was questionable. He found the Crown had not established Lafleur was the shooter or actively participated in the shootings.

Two Crown witnesses testified that they thought the driver was the shooter.

Twinn, who was seriously injured, testified he saw the driver pointing a pistol at him.

The judge also found it would have been difficult for Lafleur to shoot the gun out the driver’s window from the back seat of the car.

“Nevertheless, I accept that Medwedrich is probably lying about much of what he says. I accept that Medwedrich and Lafleur are close friends. Medwedrich was not co-operative with the Crown. He is biased and has a personal interest in exculpating Lafleur. Although he denied it, Medwedrich may believe he faces little or no jeopardy based on his testimony. He lied about whether he had opportunities to collude with Lafleur while both were in custody,” Verhoeven wrote in his judgment.

Medwedrich and Lafleur had ample opportunity to collude, said the judge. Through an administrative error, they were housed together in the same prison unit and even shared a cell for some time. They were also held together in the same cell at Victoria courthouse.

“As a co-accused who received Crown disclosure and who attended the preliminary inquiry, he had ample opportunity to craft a story that could hang together,” Verhoeven said.

The judge found Lafleur was in possession of a black bag that he dropped as he fled from police at his grandparents’ house. The bag contained the two firearms and the drugs.

“There is no room for reasonable doubt that Lafleur was aware of the contents of the bag, including guns, ammunition and drugs. Medwedrich is probably lying about the bag being his, and that he gave it to Lafleur to carry. But even if this is true, Lafleur was aware of its contents and purpose,” wrote Verhoeven.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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