Courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)

Driver in car chase following 2016 drive-by shooting receives seven-year jail sentence

Crown counsel and defence counsel agree on joint submission

A driver involved in a car chase that followed a 2016 drive-by shooting in the Wakesiah Avenue area will spend seven years in jail.

Inderpal Singh Aujla, 22, who entered guilty pleas to use of a restricted firearm for attempted murder and fleeing from police, was one of two arrested and charged in the March 2016 incident.

Nick Barber, Crown counsel, and Paul Dutt, Aujla’s legal counsel, agreed on a joint submission. Aujla was sentenced to seven years for the firearm charge and two years for failure to stop for police by Judge Ted Gouge and will serve those sentences concurrently. He didn’t have a prior criminal record.

RELATED: One pleads guilty as 2016 drive-by trial starts

The drive-by shooting took place near the intersection of Wakesiah Avenue and Jingle Pot Road and Barber said a total of nine shots was fired. Several shots hit the side door of the car of Motaz Al-harbi, who was not physically injured and it appears to have been a targeted attempted murder, although Al-harbi wasn’t the intended target. Crown isn’t clear about what the motive was, said Barber.

Barber said there were aggravating factors. There were the number of shops, residences and a daycare in the vicinity of the shooting and it was in the middle of the day with pedestrians. Armaan Singh Chandi, the other man arrested, and Aujla were found on Cedar Road and led police on a dangerous chase through Ladysmith, where a police SUV was damaged and police officers suffered injuries before RCMP forced the two to stop in Duncan.

Barber said five years is the mandatory minimum on the attempted murder, with life the maximum, and seven years is near the low end of the range. Mitigating factors are the guilty pleas and the fact Aujla has done well while out on bail, Barber said.

Dutt said the court was dealing with a youthful and first-time offender and someone whose prospects of continuing on without criminal involvement are high. He said Aujla feels remorse, has the support of his parents, who were in court, and reiterated what Barber said about Aujla’s good behaviour while on bail. In addition, he said Aujla suffers from depression, anxiety and seizures.

“Mr. Aujla wanted to express that he does take responsibility for his actions,” Dutt told the News Bulletin afterwards. “He’s expressed that for some time and I think this is the right way to do that, by pleading guilty to the charges … that is the rationale for his plea. Having the sentence, I think a fit sentence and a sentence that is favourable to him, was just an end result of that.”

It has not yet been determined where Aujla will serve his sentence, but Dutt said it would be at a federal institution.

Crown hopes Aujla learns from this, said Barber.

“It’s a joint submission, a seven-year sentence, which seems appropriate given the circumstances of the offence and Mr. Aujla being a young man who appears to be truly remorseful for his part in all of this, so it’s a fit sentence,” Barber told the News Bulletin. “It’s a long sentence for a young man, but it’s a clean start for him, so hopefully we won’t seem him back.”

Aujla will also be banned from owning firearms for life.

Chandi will see a decision in his Supreme Court trial on Monday, Feb. 11.



reporter@nanaimobulletin.com

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