Sentencing begins for Pinder in taxi robbery, discharging firearm case

Sentencing has begun for the man charged in connection to a dangerous standoff with RCMP near Delmas last April.

Crown arguments took place Wednesday afternoon in the case of Tristan Pinder in Battleford Queen’s Bench court and defence will present their arguments May 16. Pinder is being sentenced on four counts. One was for a violent April 13 robbery of a taxi van in Regina, in which the driver was stabbed. The three other counts, from April 14, are discharging a firearm at RCMP with intent to prevent arrest near Delmas, flight from police, and theft of gasoline at Lashburn.

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Pinder faces significant jail time for those charges. Crown prosecutors said they were seeking a range of six to eight years on Pinder’s robbery count, nine years consecutive on the discharge with intent charge, two years consecutive on flight from police, and 30 days concurrent for the theft of gas.

However the Crown acknowledged the “totality principle” applied, which would bring down the length of the global sentence. Prosecutors are recommending the overall sentence be no less than 14 years.

Pinder would be credited for time in remand calculated at 1.5 to 1. That stood at 543 days as of Wednesday. The Crown is also seeking a compulsory DNA order, a firearms prohibition of 20 to 25 years, and a forfeiture order, among others.

It was a lengthy hearing Wednesday as Crown prosecutors Charlotte Morden and Alexandra Findlay spent two and a half hours presenting their sentencing submissions to Justice Gerald Allbright.

The submission included video evidence from the taxi cab in Regina as well as from an RCMP vehicle near Delmas. Morden went into the facts of the case in detail, while Findlay’s submission focused on case law in connection to the robbery.

Crown arguments lasted past 5 p.m., leaving little time left for Pinder’s lawyer Ian Mokuruk to present his own argument that day.

Rather than rush things, counsel agreed to defer his presentation until the next court date. Justice Allbright agreed to adjourn sentencing to 1 pm, May 16, back in Queen’s Bench court.

Mokuruk will make his full submission at that time, which is expected to include mention of the accused’s personal circumstances. The Crown will have an opportunity to provide any further remarks as well.

In the meantime Justice Allbright will review the written submissions, in particular the case law provided by counsel.

It seems likely Allbright will impose sentence on Pinder at the next court date, but the judge could reserve his decision until a later date if he requires more time.

Pinder had entered the four guilty pleas at his previous appearance on Jan. 25. His other charges, which include attempted murder, are expected to be stayed by the Crown at the conclusion of sentencing.

Pinder is one of two people to enter guilty pleas in the case. His co-accused, Verena Petruka of Melville, was previously sentenced in North Battleford provincial court to eight and one half years jail, less remand time, for counts of accessory to robbery as well as discharge of a firearm at a police officer. Both counts stem from the April 13-14 incidents.

FACTS:

The mayhem that transpired in Regina and in the northwest region on April 13 and 14, 2018, was outlined in detail by the Crown.

Morden told the court both Pinder and Petruka were in a common law relationship for some time prior to the incident.

On April 13, the two had called for a cab to come to their hotel in Regina, where they had been staying overnight. Petruka entered the front passenger seat and Pinder the rear passenger seat.

The cab driver was Muhammad Umar, 34, who was married and had four children. He was in the front drivers side seat.

Umar began to drive without incident for some time. After several minutes of driving, Morden said, Pinder quickly pulled out a curved blade. He lunged forward, grabbed the cab driver’s forehead from behind, and made a cutting motion across the driver’s throat. Pinder then stabbed him three or four times in the torso. At the same time Pinder was ordering Umar to get out of the taxi van.

A video was then played of the three parties inside the cab on the night in question, which showed Pinder slashing the cab driver across the throat.

That injury turned out to be a “superficial laceration” to Umar’s neck. Umar’s more serious injuries included a punctured lung and lacerated liver. Those injuries were described as life threatening.

Umar was in surgery five to six hours to repair the lung, which had collapsed three separate times. The cab driver was in intensive care for over a week before being released April 23, 2018.

Afterwards, Umar returned to Pakistan to be with family there, and provided his victim impact statement dated Oct 14, 2018 while in Pakistan.

In that statement Umar described the day of the incident as the “worst day of my life”, and said his family had gone through a lot of trauma as a result. Umar had also noted his eldest daughter did not want him to return to work as a cab driver at all.

The cab driver described having nightmares, of being afraid to go out in the evenings and of being mentally disturbed, among other symptoms. He has seen a psychiatrist on a regular basis and has been on painkillers.

“I pray one day I will feel normal,” he stated. Morden said Umar has since returned to work as a taxi driver.

Returning to the chronology of what transpired that April 13 day, Pinder entered the driver’s seat and he and Petruka then took off in the black Dodge Caravan vehicle. According to statements with police, Pinder and Petruka had driven back to Elk Point, where Pinder picked up a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22 caliber rifle.

The two camped out in the van in Elk Point for the night, then drove the vehicle to Edmonton the next morning before they made the decision to head east, where they stopped in Lashburn for the gas and dash.

On April 14 at around 11:25 a.m., a complaint came in to RCMP of a gas and dash at Lashburn. The vehicle involved matched the description from the Regina incident the previous day.

An RCMP member from the Maidstone detachment located the suspect vehicle travelling eastbound. He followed the taxi van on Highway 16. After confirming the license plate of the suspect vehicle, he activated his lights and attempted a traffic stop.

Soon after Pinder sped up and Petruka leaned outside and pointed a 12 gauge firearm outside the vehicle, firing off one round. The firearm was then dropped outside the window and fell into the ditch. It was later recovered and found to be still loaded with two further rounds.

The pursuit lasted some time. The van ended up turning off Highway 16 onto what turned out to be a dead end access road near Delmas. The RCMP followed. By the time the RCMP member was able to locate the van, he saw Pinder standing outside the vehicle with a loaded rifle. Pinder then fired three or four shots towards the RCMP vehicle, hitting the driver’s side windshield and front pillar of the vehicle. The RCMP member returned fire and Pinder returned to the vehicle.

North Battleford RCMP and police dogs then arrived on scene. By this point Petruka had been handed the rifle and was firing from the passenger window. Another RCMP constable fired at the van, and struck the door. At this point the taxi van was fleeing back down the access road towards highway 16, but there was considerable backup RCMP on the scene by this point. In trying to drive around the police vehicle, the cab ended up driving into a ditch and got stuck there.

Several RCMP members had by this point exited their vehicles. A police dog had gained entry to the open passenger window of Ms. Petruka and bit her on the arm. It was at this point Pinder exited the vehicle with his hands up and the two were arrested.

No officers were significantly injured, though one constable did sustain a small cut to his hand.

Several photos from the scene were filed: one was of the police vehicle of an RCMP constable, a second was the hole in the windshield from the second shot fired by Pinder, a third photo was of the “shattering circle” seen around where the rear view mirror connects to the windshield.

Upon arrest Pinder and Petruka provided statements, at which time Pinder “candidly admitted” his actions in Regina and Lashburn, and Petruka also admitted to “quite a few of her actions,” said Morden.

A search of the van revealed loose marijuana, a grinder, a hammer and a red bandana. Also found were five 12-gauge rounds, two folding knives, one hunting knife, luggage, a disconnected GPS unit, some alcohol, and a bong for smoking marijuana. Eight trays of 40-round ammunition were located, as was a prescription from an Alberta medical clinic.

Also found near the rear seat area was a Saskatchewan driver’s license belonging to a woman. This item proved significant. According to Pinder’s statement, Petruka had recognized it as having belonged to a young Indigenous female who had gone missing.

Pinder stated to police that Petruka showed him the identification. He stated he thought the driver had “raped and murdered” the missing woman in the ID, and feared for Petruka’s safety.

Pinder then proceeded to slash and stab the cab driver.

“He didn’t put up a fight. I did it quick and simple,” Pinder told police in his statement. He added, “I didn’t care whether he lived or died.”

Morden said Petruka’s sworn statement raised further questions about whether there was even a driver’s license being handled inside the vehicle at all at the time of the stabbing. The video from inside the cab showed no indication of a driver’s license being handled.

Further, in her statement to police Petruka said she didn’t realize the identification belonged to a missing girl for “a couple of hours,” Morden noted.

“Any license that was found or would have been spoken about would have been after the fact of the stabbing,” Morden said.

 

Aggravating/mitigating factors:

In calling for a lengthy term of incarceration for Pinder, the Crown pointed to the need for protection of the public. Morden found the lack of an obvious motive troubling.

She described the robbery as a “random, public and violent attack” and said Pinder had “no respect for the rule of law.” His blameworthiness was “almost as high as it could be,” Morden said.

His mitigating factors included his youth, early guilty pleas, and providing a statement. Aggravating factors included the attack on vulnerable victims, his carrying of a large concealed knife, his disregard to whether he lived or died, and his attack on the driver while the cab was operational and driving. Also aggravating was the use of a firearm against a police officer and his “carelessness and disregard for the constable’s life.”  

The impact on victims was also aggravating, as was the risk to multiple lives and the fact they had “concocted a story” of the driver’s license as false justification for the robbery.

Morden also pointed to several distinguishing factors to Petruka’s sentencing. She noted Petruka did not know what Pinder was going to do to the cab driver, had entered her guilty pleas early, and all of Petrucka’s actions were less aggravating or more mitigating.

© Copyright Battlefords News Optimist

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