Arsonist 'ashamed' after hearing impact of crime on Salmon Arm 7-11 employee - InfoNews

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Arsonist 'ashamed' after hearing impact of crime on Salmon Arm 7-11 employee

July 14, 2020 - 5:00 PM

A Kamloops man who crashed into a Salmon Arm 7/11 and set it ablaze in 2018 listened to the lasting impacts his actions had on store employees and patrons.

Kenneth Robert Laforge, 34, was in Kamloops Supreme Court today, July 14, 2020, facing charges of arson in relation to inhabited property, arson damaging property and mischief under $5,000.

On Aug. 24, 2018, Laforge left his residence in Sorrento and purchased a jerry can filled with gasoline, according to Crown prosecutor Danika Heighes. He then pulled into a parking spot in front of the Salmon Arm 7/11, where video surveillance shows he paced between his car and the front entrance of the store. He got back behind the wheel and backed his car out, then smashed the passenger side into the front window. While the staff and patrons inside were confused about what was going on, Laforge went to his trunk to remove the jerry can and poured fuel on the car. He approached a staff member of the store and allegedly asked if everyone was out. He then struck two matches and set his car on fire, which subsequently set the store ablaze.

When police arrived, Laforge let officers know that he was responsible. Unprompted, he put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.

READ MORE: Arsonist pleads guilty to two of three charges for 7/11 blaze

A staff member who was working at the time of the incident read her victim impact statement today while appearing in court by phone.

“I was working at the till just inside the front doors when you decided to drive your car into the glass window. You stopped at the edge of the car, walked around, stopped. Stared directly into my eyes and smiled and proceeded to grab the jerry can. I watched you pour the gas on to the hood and onto the seats of the car. I heard my boss and customers screaming as I ran out the back door. It didn’t open the first time I tried, and this terrified me…. I was scared, beyond scared for my life. Confused, terrified and in shock. I was in a state of uncontrollable crying,” the victim read.

The victim, a single mother, says that she faced weeks of night terrors and has dealt with anxiety and panic attacks since the event. She is fearful of the smell of gasoline, being in a building with large glass windows and has been seeking therapy and medication to help her during this time. She asked for $12,000 to make up for one year of lost wages, as the store was destroyed in the fire and she has had difficulty maintaining employment due to anxiety.

“I’d like to apologize to the ladies that worked at the 7/11… I didn’t want to hurt anybody and I realize I have,” Laforge said. “It made me feel ashamed to hear she lives in fear.”

The court heard of Laforge’s troubled upbringing, such as finding out he was adopted at 12 years old and being bullied for his First Nations heritage. He dropped out of high school in grade 11 and began using crystal meth by 21.

Laforge, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, believes the arson was an act to bring light to what he believed was a CSIS investigation against him, among other theories. The court heard Laforge had been clean from crystal meth on and off throughout the years, but he had been using the drug for two days leading up to the arson. However, Laforge claims drugs had nothing to do with lighting the store ablaze.

Justice Leonard Marchand heard joint submissions from the Crown and Laforge's defense, and found there was not enough time left to deliver a sentence. He says he would like to issue another bail for Laforge, a first time offender who has now been incarcerated for a total of 548 days in relation to the incident. It is not yet clear what the bail amount or conditions will be, or when the sentencing will occur.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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