KAMLOOPS - Six thieves never made away with anything after a botched robbery at a marijuana grow operation near Vernon over two years ago, but a judge gave the only armed man in the incident a five-year prison sentence today, Feb. 3 for his involvement.
Kamloops Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson handed Kenneth Evens, 23, a four-year jail sentence for breaking and entering a residential property near Falkland in November 2013, plus an additional one-year jail sentence to serve consecutively for possessing a shotgun during the offence.
Evens and five others hatched a plan to rob a grow operation at a rural property 20 kilometres outside of Falkland and while the heist was prepared for, the errors, property security equipment and the unknown police surveillance led to all six being arrested.
Crown prosecutor Will Burrows said the six men from the Okanagan travelled in two vehicles to the property around 2 a.m., Nov. 26. Burrows said plants were in two areas on the land — in a trailer and also in the residence where a tenant was sleeping at the time. After parking the vehicles near the gate of the property, four of the men, including Evens, donned balaclavas and attempted to break down three different doors of the residence by using an axe, shovel and pieces of wood.
“The occupant of that residence was terrified at the time that his own home would be entered by these armed and masked individuals,” Josephson said.
With empty garbage bags in tow, Burrows said the men hoped to harvest the plants themselves, but noted "there were a number of hidden flaws in the plan the group put together."
Kelowna RCMP happened to be investigating one of the men for drug trafficking, Burrows said. Through their investigation, Mounties tacked a surveillance monitor on the man’s truck which pinged if he ever left the greater Kelowna area. By the time the men reached Vernon on route to the property, a surveillance team scrambled together and followed the GPS location of the truck.
A security system on the property also tipped off the resident that someone entered the property before the men attempted to break down his doors, which caused him to call 9-1-1.
Burrows added a friendly conversation between Mounties also played into the quick RCMP response. The undercover surveillance team flashed its lights to a Vernon constable on duty while they sped through the city. Since she was a good friend with one of the investigators Burrows said the constable phoned him for a social chat when the two found out police were responding to the same location pinged on the surveillance equipment.
"Police put it all together. Now they knew they were looking for a number of suspects,” Burrows said.
The suspects never managed to enter the residence on the property and abandoned the heist, taking off back towards Vernon. In the meantime, Burrows said, RCMP from Enderby, Vernon, Salmon Arm and Falkland were already responding to the call and searching for suspects.
As they neared Vernon, Burrows said for some reason the men decided to turn their two getaway cars around near the Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club and travel back to the grow-op.
“For reasons we may not know, they stopped by (the) golf course and started heading back,” Burrows said. By the time they neared the property, police had set up a roadblock and arrested all six, including Evens who was found in the backseat of one of the vehicles holding the shotgun on his lap.
Burrows said Evens was still on probation for an aggravated assault conviction at the time and had a record for poor behaviour in jail. He made specific mention to his history of violence.
“Mr. Evens seems committed to this criminal lifestyle,” Burrows said.
Evens’ lawyer, Jay Michi, said there was still hope for Evens, who pleaded guilty to the crime and plans to work in construction following his release.
“He will have to prove it with deeds as his words carry no weight,” Josephson said before handing down his sentence.
Evens has already served 39 months of his sentence since his arrest after the offence. Once released he will have a lifetime ban on owning firearms.
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