Mental health issues at the heart of Penticton road rage incident | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Mental health issues at the heart of Penticton road rage incident

A 47 year old man with a history of mental health issues will serve a three month conditional sentence for is part in a road rage incident north of Penticton in 2015.
June 19, 2017 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - A Penticton man suffering from mental health issues described himself as being in a “white rage” during a road rage incident north of Penticton in 2015.

Christopher Arthur Shortt entered guilty pleas in Penticton court today, June 19, to charges of assault with a weapon, mischief and flight from a police officer following the July 15, 2015 incident.

Crown Prosecutor John Swanson told court Shortt was driving a Ford van, southbound on Highway 97 when he approached the driver of a Honda Acura, pulling up beside it while glaring at the driver.

He then cut in front of the Acura, causing the driver of that vehicle to swerve into oncoming traffic.

The Acura driver then pursued Shortt in an effort to get his license plate, eventually following the van up West Bench Drive, off Highway 97 at Penticton’s northern outskirts.

Shortt slammed on the brakes suddenly, causing the Acura to rear end the van, extensively damaging both vehicles.

The two men then exited their vehicles, but when the Acura driver saw Shortt with a baseball bat, he returned to his vehicle.

Shortt smashed the Acura’s windshield before leaving the scene.

Police were called by a civilian witness to the incident. They caught up with Shortt, following him as far as Hastings Place at the speed limit.

He refused to pull over until police activated emergency lights.

Defence lawyer Robert Maxwell described the incident as a “typical road rage situation,” noting the victim who tailgated Shortt turned out to be a “big guy” compared to Shortt’s stature.

He said his client had reacted in a self described “white rage” to the incident.

In his own defence, Shortt told court he didn’t wait for police because his passenger was suffering from PTSD and wanted to go home.

Shortt also admitted a lack of faith and trust for police he said dated back to the Robert Dziekanski tasering incident at Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007.

He said he had pulled over on West Bench hill when the victim “came up behind, full tilt,” deliberately ramming his car into the van, causing Shortt to bump his head on the windshield.

Shortt said he carried a bat in the van for pickup baseball games, taking it as he got out of the vehicle, in what he called "a delirious and panicky state" when he saw the size of the other driver.

Judge Koturbash stood the matter down for several hours while he researched case law in instances of road rage.

When the matter reconvened this afternoon, Shortt offered an apology to the court for the tone of comments made earlier in the day.

“I’d like to sincerely apologize for my tone and mannerisms this morning… I’m not used to procedures, I suffer from severe anxiety, bi-polar, post concussion syndrome, PTSD, agoraphobia… I don’t leave my house unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Shortt said, adding it could take up to two hours for him to build up enough courage to leave the house, even to go to the corner store.

“As far as driving goes, I’m terrified of being in a vehicle right now. I’m not concerned about getting my license back any time soon,” he said.

Shortt, 47, further described his life as beset with mental health issues from an early age adding he was guilty of the charges before him after making “the hugest mistake of my life.”

In passing sentence, Judge Koturbash reviewed three similar cases of road rage.

He said his doubts about Shortt’s insight and guilt into the incident were eased somewhat by Shortt’s afternoon address to the judge.

“I do remain somewhat troubled that he commented he did not stop for the police because he did not trust any of them… I’m hopeful, perhaps in giving Mr. Shortt the benefit, that his mental health issues might be getting in the way of his ability to understand he does need to stop when police are trying to effect a traffic stop,” the judge said.

The judge also noted in a pre-sentence report Shortt had worked in the past but had left his last job because he was being picked on, living on a disability allowance for the last two years.

Judge Koturbash sided with defence counsel’s request, noting the severity of the crime and the need for courts to take the offence seriously.

Shortt was sentenced to three months’ conditional sentence order. He is to abstain from alcohol and drugs, and is not permitted to own firearms for 10 years.

He also faces a one year driving prohibition and nine months probation.

“I appreciate and understand that for you attending court today was a lot more difficult than other people because of your condition. I appreciate your comments this afternoon, and I really do hope you do carry on and get counselling and treatment, and don’t be afraid to ask the community corrections officer or probation officer for help along the way,” the judge said, adding he was hopeful Shortt would get back into the work force at some point.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 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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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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