Gunfight combatant sentenced for sawed-off shotgun
A combatant in a drug-related gunfight outside a Prince George drug house was sentenced Friday to a further 2 1/2 years in prison for possessing a loaded sawed-off shotgun.
While B.C. Supreme Court Justice Marguerite Church described Cody Aubrey Lorntsen, 32, as the victim of an ambush, she called his actions “far from benign.”
During the early morning hours of Oct. 22, 2017, Lorntsen found himself exchanging gunfire in the driveway of a 2000-block Tamarack Street home with Michael Campbell-Alexander, who was wielding a .22 calibre rifle.
Video retrieved from a security camera at the home shows Campbell-Alexander leaving the house from the front door and then stationing himself at one end of the driveway. When Lorntsen came out from a side door, Campbell-Alexander opened fire.
Lorntsen, who claimed to have happened upon the shotgun while inside the home, returned fire and they continued to shoot at each other while taking cover behind vehicles parked in the driveway, the muzzles from their weapons flashing in the video.
Lorntsen was hit in the thigh and while the bullet missed his femur, he suffered nerve damage and continues to need a cane to move around. As well, his dog, which he had on a leash, was shot dead.
Campbell-Alexander, meanwhile, was hit in an ankle with bird shot.
Despite the wound, Lorntsen got away and, after wrapping his leg with some clothing he had with him, made his way to Quesnel. Police tracked him to an apartment building where he was arrested and the shotgun was found, loaded this time with slugs, while 17 other rounds were found in a bag Lorntsen had been using to carry the weapon.
At the time, Lorntsen had just begun serving one year probation for two counts of possessing a controlled substance and possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, specifically bear mace, and was supposed to report to an addiction treatment centre in the Lower Mainland.
But on Sept. 24, 2017, he told the probation office he was unable to get a ride and wanted to get the condition changed. But when police conducted a curfew check on where he was supposed to be living, Lorntsen was nowhere to be found and “on the lam” until his arrest.
On Thursday, Lorntsen testified he was homeless at the time but on his way out of the city with the aim of going to the treatment centre when he came across three women who asked where they could find some methamphetamine.
Lorntsen said he took the women to the home, and in the hope of scoring some himself despite a lack of money, also went inside. But upon getting to the top of some stairs, he came across a man he knew, but did not name, with a chrome revolver in one hand and knives tucked into the waist band of his pants.
Lorntsen testified he began to fear for his life when the man called him a “rat goof.”
Campbell-Alexander, who Lorntsen said he did not know at the time, was standing next to the man but then left the scene. At that time, Lorntsen said he noticed the shotgun tucked between the arm and a cushion of a nearby couch, grabbed hold of it and backed down the stairs.
“I acted fast and I grabbed the gun and held it to my side and said ‘nobody’s touching me, I wanna just leave,’” he told the court. “And I left out of the house and wasn’t paying attention and that’s when I got shot and panicked.”
Video showed Lornsten, his dog, and the women entering the home shortly before 6 a.m. and then Lornsten and his dog leaving a bit more than than two minutes later when the firefight began.
Something of a side issue arose over whether Lorntsen was telling the truth or actually had the gun when he entered the home. Evidence from video cameras showed Lorntsen buying a pistol grip from Wholesale Sports the day before but he claimed he was buying it for someone else who gave him $100 and promised to give him a hit of methamphetamine upon bringing back the item.
Church found problems with Lorntsen’s story but not enough to leave her beyond reasonable doubt, noting the bag he carried into the home was black while the one in which police found the gun was red and agreeing with him that loaded firearms are commonplace in drug houses.
Had she found the other way, he was facing as much as a further six months in prison.
As it stood, Crown prosecutor Tyler Bauman argued for 5 1/2 years and defence counsel Talia Magder, who contended Lorntsen would be dead if not for the shotgun, suggested 2 1/2 years followed by three years probation was appropriate. Church settled on four years and Lorntsen, who has remained in custody since he was arrested, received 1 1/2 years credit for time served prior to sentencing, reducing the time remaining to 2 1/2 years.
In July, Lorntsen pleaded guilty to possessing a loaded restricted firearm, possessing a firearm contrary to an order and breaching an undertaking. Nine other counts, including aggravated assault and unlawfully discharging a firearm, were stayed.
Campbell-Alexander remains in custody on seven charges, including attempted murder, killing an animal and discharging a firearm with intent to wound, and his case is currently in the pre-trial stage.