After a series of events that seems torn from a Grand Theft Auto video game, one of Penticton’s prolific offenders will soon hear whether he will be spending another five years in jail.
Jesse William Shawcross, 39, appeared for sentencing in Penticton on Sept. 23, for a spree of carjackings and vehicle thefts including a motorbike and ATV between nine days in September 2019. After a lengthy session, which included entering into the record the circumstances of the four different cases being heard, the judge asked for time to decide Shawcross’ fate.
Shawcross, who appeared in court via video from Okanagan Correctional Centre, pleaded guilty to 14 charges across the four cases. Those charges include six separate counts of theft of a motor vehicle, using an imitation firearm, assault with a weapon, resisting arrest and two counts of robbery.
At the end of his crime spree, it took five officers to finally take Shawcross into custody, where he has been ever since.
The spree started on Sept. 15, 2019, when Shawcross and another man broke into a parking area of an apartment building and stole a Honda CRV, which was later recovered in Grand Forks. Shawcross and the other man, who was convicted in his own trial, jimmied open the front door of the lobby before getting into the locked parking area. Shawcross was recognized on security footage by RCMP following the theft.
On Sept. 19, Shawcross broke into another underground apartment building just before 3 a.m., smashing the windows of two vehicles and damaging the ignition of one before fleeing and pepper spraying a security guard. Video surveillance recovered from that apartment building also revealed Shawcross in what counsel called ‘unique clothing’.
That clothing later helped an officer identify Shawcross following that incident.
Also on Sept. 19, another man called to report his Harley Davidson had been stolen overnight from the underground parkade at his apartment building at around 5 a.m. A can of bear spray and a screwdriver were located near where the bike had been parked.
Later that same day yet another individual called the RCMP to report that his vehicle had been stolen from the parking lot at the South Okanagan General Hospital, as well as his wallet and bank cards, one of which was used to buy a cell phone in Oliver. Surveillance footage once again identified Shawcross, this time by his tattoo and clothing, wearing the bike helmet that had been left with the Harley Davidson.
Shawcross then tried to use the cards again in Okanagan Falls.
A woman called the RCMP on the afternoon of Sept. 19, to report her side-by-side ATV had been stolen and surveillance footage from her property again revealed Shawcross.
That latest theft didn’t last long, as Shawcross ended up crashing the Harley Davidson, and then subsequently attempted to carjack a Good Samaritan before successfully stealing a car from another driver. Both drivers were threatened with an imitation handgun.
The carjacked vehicle was later found abandoned. Investigators tested blood found at the scene, which apparently had been left from injuries Shawcross sustained in the crash, and fingerprints identified him as responsible.
The spree finally came to an end on Sept. 24, when an officer spotted and identified Shawcross behind the wheel of what turned out to be yet another stolen vehicle.
Reports came in later that afternoon that the vehicle had crashed into a ditch near Okanagan Falls, the driver getting out and stealing another vehicle before driving off.
Shawcross drove down to Oliver, before dumping that vehicle and finally stealing a van, which was found with Shawcross in the driver’s seat at the Canadian Tire in Penticton.
He attempted to flee as RCMP converged on him, smashing through several parked cars, before getting out on foot. Following the 1 km chase, which went all the way to the Petro-Can parking lot, it took about five officers to finally bring the struggling Shawcross into custody.
Shawcross continued to be defiant following his arrest, shouting at officers including explicit and extremely graphic threats to them and their families.
Crown counsel is seeking a sentence of eight to nine years, while Shawcross’ defence is looking for a sentence of five years, with another five years under custodial supervision and two years of community supervision.
The defence cited Shawcross’ traumatic and troubled history, which included being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, being given up for adoption at age two with his siblings, an early introduction to drugs and then after being put back into the system by his adopted parents at age 14, bouncing between 29 foster homes over the next four years.
“Mister Shawcross was introduced to marijuana at the age of 10, acid at the age of 13, cocaine and crack at 14 and speed at 16,” said Jordan Watt, Shawcross’ lawyer. “With respect to this crime spree, we are dealing with an individual that had been awake for days, an individual that was supporting a $200 to $300 habit of crystal meth per day and was certainly under the influence.”
An emotional Shawcross spoke to his life, including how he had been separated from his siblings and his Indigenous heritage after being adopted, then after being put back into the system being sent to a group home, where he stayed only briefly.
While in custody after Sept. 2019, Shawcross heard that his adopted father had died. He reconnected with his adopted mother and grandmother, and while making amends, however, both died while he was in custody.
A tearful Shawcross said that he would do whatever he could to start the healing process, including speaking directly to his victims, and his need to get healthy and stop the cycle.
Judge Richard Hewson acknowledged that Shawcross’ life was tragic, and he asked for more time to go over the circumstances of the case and the case law that was presented by both sides before making his final ruling.
Shawcross is currently scheduled to appear on Sept. 29 to set a date to hear his fate.
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