Red Deer man pleads guilty in tractor chase case

Corb Lund could write a song about this one, but who would believe it? A lifetime resident of Red Deer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a series of thefts that could likely only happen in a place like Canada, where the snow was still knee deep in early April.

Corb Lund could write a song about this one, but who would believe it?

A lifetime resident of Red Deer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a series of thefts that could likely only happen in a place like Canada, where the snow was still knee deep in early April.

In fact, deep snow and layers of winter clothes played significant roles in a low-speed pursuit involving a stolen snowmobile, a stolen quad, some stolen rifles, a stolen tractor and a Mountie hitching a ride on yet another snowmobile.

“These are a rather unusual set of circumstances,” Crown prosecutor Maurice Collard said in describing the arrest of Jesse Cecka, 29, on the afternoon of April 2 in a field east of Red Deer.

It started inside a rural residence near the intersection of Hwys 595 and 816, Collard advised judge Bart Rosborough in Red Deer provincial court.

Cecka took some jewelry from inside the house, and then went into an outbuilding where he found a snowmobile and a locked gun case. He broke into the gun case and found seven firearms, loaded them onto the snowmobile and took off.

Then he got stuck.

He stashed the guns in some hay bales and went to another residence, where he broke into an outbuilding and found a side-by-side quad inside.

He was heading back to retrieve the firearms when the quad got stuck, said Collard.

He went back to the farm and got a tractor with a front-end loader, drove it back to retrieve the firearms and then headed across country, narrowly avoiding a Quonset and breaking through several fence lines before the tractor stalled.

By this time, RCMP had been notified of strange goings on in the fields and two members were dispatched to the scene.

One officer said he was flagged down by a farmer on a snowmobile, who offered him a ride after the fleeing tractor, following its tracks.

Another officer located the tractor where it had stalled and he approached, using his baton to break open the driver’s window. Cecka looked at a him and continued to work on starting the machine. The officer launched a Taser into the cab of the tractor, but it had no effect.

RCMP officers typically use a longer dart on their Tasers because Canadians tend to wear thicker clothes, said Collard. Cecka had a jacket on underneath an oilskin coat. The barbed dart stuck in his clothes, but did not have any effect on the suspect, who was able to get the tractor running again.

Fearing death or personal injury, the officer got off the tractor’s back wheel, unholstered his pistol and pointed it at Cecka, who looked at him again and drove off.

The chase came to a close as Cecka drove up a hill with the tractor’s bucket at his fullest height. Cecka was attempting to back up when the overbalanced tractor rolled. The two officers were able to arrest him without further difficulty.

Represented by defence counsel George Lebessis of Edmonton, Cecka pleaded guilty to five of seven charges against him, including break and enter of a dwelling house and multiple counts of theft.

He also admitted to possession of stolen property in connection with a later incident, when he was arrested in a wooded area of Gasoline Alley, immediately south of Red Deer, while working on the engine of a stolen pickup truck.

Cecka apologized to the court for his crimes on Tuesday, saying he was sorry for the grief he caused to the farmer whose tractor he damaged and for the embarrassment caused to his family.

Cecka acknowledged that he has a drug problem and hopes to be admitted to the Fresh Start program in Calgary.

Collard asked for a global sentence of two and a half years on the April 2 incident, to be served consecutively to a 120-day sentence on the Gasoline Alley arrest.

Lebessis asked for a shorter jail term with a period of probation to follow.

Rosborough adjourned sentencing to Thursday afternoon to review similar cases before pronouncing sentence.

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