A Delburne-area man who in the space of three weeks led RCMP on two wild vehicle chases down rural roads, through farmers’ fields and a fence was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday.
Dean James Johnstone, 39, pleaded guilty in Red Deer provincial court to charges of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, possession of stolen property, resisting arrest, theft under $5,000 and failing to stop for police.
Crown prosecutor Murray McPherson said Johnstone came to the attention of police on April 23 after they got a complaint of someone spinning their wheels and driving a pickup truck erratically on Prentiss Road in the Joffre area.
RCMP eventually found a pair of pickups in the area including a Dodge Ram with Johnstone behind the wheel. When police arrived he took off in the truck. When police tried to block his route, he swerved on to a rural road and tried to escape at high speed. He eventually veered off the road, ran through a barbed wire fence and some trees before coming to a stop just short of a 250-metre embankment above the Red Deer River.
He jumped out of the truck, slid down the slope and splashed through the river but was soon tracked down in some woods by a police dog team.
On May 14, Johnstone was in trouble again.
RCMP spotted him driving a stolen vehicle on 67th Street in Red Deer and followed him. Johnstone, with another man in the passenger seat, headed south on Secondary Hwy 781 near Sylvan Lake and then took a couple of rural roads as he tried to escape.
He soon ended up speeding through a cultivated farm field, where his truck eventually bogged down. He got out and ran while police secured the area and called in the dog team again. This time, Johnstone was found hiding in a tree.
Defence lawyer Molly McVey said Johnstone is a father of three young children and has a history of alcohol and drug abuse.
He was out of work at the time of the offences and had taken to drinking and cocaine.
Johnstone admits to “getting stupid” when he has been drinking, McVey told provincial court Judge Gordon Deck.
Deck sentenced Johnstone to 18 months in jail, with 21 days of credit for time served in custody. Working against him was a lengthy criminal record and the fact the two chases were only three weeks apart.
Johnstone is prohibited from driving for three years after he is released.
Johnstone was also sentenced to 10 days after pleading guilty to stealing a bottle of vodka from a Delburne-area liquor store.
The passenger in the pickup in the second incident, Gary Allan Johnstone, was fined $350 after pleading guilty to giving police a false name when arrested in the farmer’s field.