Guyanese Lloyd Charles, previously convicted of robbery in Canada, was last week found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm by a Canadian Judge.
Charles, 31, who left Guyana in 2000, was found guilty of the October 15, 2010 offence last Wednesday, according to court documents seen by this newspaper. It is unclear when he would be sentenced.
Charles, who described his immigration status as that of a landed immigrant, was previously convicted in July, 2007, of robbery and he received a non-custodial sentence, including a 10-year firearm prohibition order and a requirement that he report to immigration authorities every three months.
After migrating to Canada, Charles got married and he has five children, including three with his wife. He worked as a welder for some years, but by October, 2010, he had been unemployed between three and four years. According to Charles, he worked “here and there” for a temp agency doing unskilled labour for Cdn$8 to $9 per hour. However, money was “hard to come by” since he had no vehicle of his own.
Charles said on the day of the incident, when he was arrested by police officers in the stairway of a high-rise building in the Mississauga area, considered a high-crime location, he was on his way to visit a female friend with whom he had one time shared a relationship. He denied that he was present at the location in the capacity of a drug dealer armed with a handgun as a tool of the trade. He further denied that he ran because he was in possession of a firearm.
The court, however, concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Charles got rid of the weapon while running from the officers.
The two arresting officers testified that they had observed Charles exit a vehicle, go into the building and come out again. He was approaching a vehicle with his hand under his hooded-jersey, leading the officers to believe that he was armed with a gun. Upon spotting the two officers, Charles made an about-turn, dashed into the building and started to climb the stairs with the officers in pursuit.
When he was finally arrested, Charles was found to be wearing a Kevlar bulletproof vest under his white hoodie. On his person, they said they found a flick knife in his pants pocket, two cell phones and $340—one $100 bill and 12 $20 bills—as well as a small quantity of crack cocaine concealed in the brim of his baseball cap.
The prosecution, through its witnesses, told the court that the firearm was located on the third floor landing, where Charles said he was running.
Charles explained that he bought the bulletproof vest from a friend about a year prior to his arrest and had been wearing it because he was going to a bad building, where a friend had been hurt. He said he felt his life might be in danger.
He admitted ownership of the cocaine, but said it was in the right side pocket of his shorts and not in his hat. He had started using cocaine a couple of months earlier, he said, and he purchased the drug earlier that day and thought he might at some point go to a park and smoke it. Asked about whether the flick knife was illegal, Charles replied, “Not really.” Asked whether his possession of the knife was problematic, he responded, “I’m not supposed to have no weapon but the day it was just on me that day.” He stated that the knife was purchased at a flea market and that he had it with him, not for offensive or defensive purposes, but to “mush” up his crack cocaine into powder to sprinkle it on marijuana, which he would then roll into a cigarette to smoke.
Charles said he ran from the police because although the bulletproof vest was legal, if police saw him wearing it he would be in trouble. He noted that he also had the cocaine and the knife. He agreed in his evidence that he knew that once he ran from the police, if caught, he would be searched.
“…The evidence of the police constables is accepted beyond reasonable doubt,” the court however, found, while adding that Charles’ evidence was unbelievable.