Editor’s note: As the Coquitlam resident has not been charged with or convicted of a crime, and considering that some details of the case could be injurious to his reputation, we have decided not to publish his name.
More than 18 months after police seized his firearms, a Coquitlam man is set to get his guns and ammunition back, following a recent ruling in provincial court.
Wednesday’s ruling stemmed from a February 2022 incident when a Coquitlam resident called 911 and told the dispatcher that men with guns were breaking into his home.
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Coquitlam RCMP officers arrived later that day.
After finding no signs of forced entry, an RCMP corporal concluded the man hallucinated the break-in, according to the judgment.
A sport shooter who frequently hunts in the Nicola Thompson region, the Coquitlam man told the 911 operator he had shotguns and rifles but they were locked up.
Due to the firearms in the house, the RCMP corporal called in an emergency response team.
During the trial, the Coquitlam man said he’d been using cocaine. He also told the 911 dispatcher he’d drank alcohol and used marijuana.
The RCMP officers detained him under the mental health act.
The Coquitlam resident was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital for an assessment and was released “later that evening,” according to the judgment.
While searching the house, the emergency response team was in contact with the man to get the codes for his many security doors.
After some initial problems remembering, the resident gave the codes to the officers.
Police eventually found nine boxes of ammunition and seven rifles and shotguns. The Coquitlam man had a licence to own the guns and ammunition.
While most of the guns were locked away, two firearms were found in an upstairs closet and were unsecured, according to an RCMP constable who searched the house.
Access to that closet required going through two security doors with individual keypad access codes.
A constable reported that one of those firearms appeared to be loaded with a live round.
The Coquitlam resident told the court he thought a round became stuck in the gun about two weeks before the incident. He said he wasn’t sure if the gun was loaded with a live or dummy round.
The constable told the court his safety concerns were based on the man’s drug use and mental health. He also raised a concern about unpredictability, given that the resident didn’t immediately comply with police demands that he leave his home.
The key question
The Crown was asking the court to dispose of the seized firearms and ammunition and to prohibit the Coquitlam man from owning any weapons or ammunitions for as long as five years.
The Crown needed to prove – on the balance of probabilities – that it was in the interest of public safety for the resident to be banned from owning guns.
Addiction and psychosis
A report from the Coquitlam resident’s psychologist, Dr. Carla Dassinger, concluded that he: “does not pose a significant risk regarding his access to firearms.”
The resident doesn’t have a pattern of violence or difficulties managing emotions, Dassinger added.
However, if he were to relapse, “his access to firearms should be restricted and arguably an indefinite restriction should be considered,” Dassinger stated.
If the Coquitlam resident is to be allowed to access firearms, Dassinger recommended he also attend addictions counselling and either find a sponsor or join Cocaine Anonymous.
The man followed those recommendations, Judge Wilson Lee noted.
A letter from the resident’s counsellor stated he is: “learning new tools for maintaining his sobriety and managing stress.”
Lee noted that the Coquitlam man referred to his previous relapses as “slip-ups.”
While that language raised concerns with Lee, the judge ultimately said he was satisfied the Coquitlam man understands both: “the seriousness of his addiction and the risks it poses when there is access to weapons.”
During the trial, the Crown noted that police had to evacuate the resident’s neighbours during the February 2022 incident.
“This was a precautionary action only and in hindsight was not necessary,” Lee wrote.
The judge added there was “no evidence” the man had either accessed or intended to use his guns.
In his dealings with police, the resident was: “polite and apologetic. He never presented himself as a threat,” Lee wrote.
Besides having no history of violence, the resident has taken steps to deal with his addiction, Lee concluded.
The judge dismissed the crown’s application.