A prolific Okanagan criminal who made headlines four years ago by leading Mounties on a high-speed, gunshot-punctuated car chase through the valley has been labelled a Dangerous Offender in a Kelowna court hearing today.
As a result of the Dangerous Offender declaration, Michael Ellis, 43, will face an indeterminate sentence, eligible for parole after serving seven years in prison.
At a trial that concluded more than a year ago, the court heard that Ellis, in a drug-fuelled haze, was the wheelman of an operation that included multiple car jackings, shots fired at police and civilians alike and an attempt to run a Vernon cop off the road.
For his part, Ellis was found guilty of three counts of robbery, two counts of attempted robbery, four counts of firing a prohibited firearm, dangerous driving and six weapons offences. He dodged an attempted murder conviction for his efforts to run the police officer off the road.
“Extreme recklessness endangering the life of Cpl. (Richard) Gingras does not equate to an intent to kill,” said Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson, during sentencing.
“His intent was to escape police at all costs, even if those efforts resulted in the death of Cpl. Gingras.”
Despite being found not guilty of the most violent charge, Crown counsel Murray Kaay still applied for a Dangerous Offender hearing, which took place in June.
Dangerous Offender hearings are few and far between at the Kelowna courthouse, likely because the designation is reserved for Canada’s most violent criminal and sexual offenders.
In 2014-15, there were a total of 645 Dangerous Offenders in Canada. Of that number, 19 were Dangerous Sexual Offenders and four were habitual criminal offenders.
“A Dangerous Offender is an individual given an indeterminate or a determinate sentence on the basis of a particularly violent crime or pattern of serious violent offences, where it is judged that the offender’s behaviour is unlikely to be inhibited by normal standards of behavioural restraint,” read a comment from a Correction’s Canada employee.