The man who smashed at least eight cars with an oxygen tank on Steveston Highway last summer may have to spend up to two years in jail.
Kenneth Roy Preece, 56, appeared by video in Richmond Provincial Court on Friday afternoon for his sentencing hearing involving three separate incidents.
The first occurred during rush hour on July 22, 2022, when Preece went on a “violent, meth-fuelled rampage” and smashed at least eight cars near Ironwood Plaza, Crown prosecutor Spencer Gillespie told the court.
“This was an extremely dangerous road hazard in the middle of the road Mr. Preece created in the middle of rush hour on a busy roadway,” said Gillespie, adding that it was “fortunate” that the incident did not result in collisions when drivers scrambled to avoid Preece.
Preece was sent to Richmond Hospital after the incident, where he made “graphic threats” to five nurses about killing them.
Fast forward to January 9 this year, Preece was seen throwing rocks into a commercial building at Ironwood Plaza while screaming and yelling at around 11 p.m.
Gillespie told the court that Preece was holding a crowbar and was “combative” toward police officers who attended the scene.
“And that standoff ultimately concluded with Mr. Preece turning into a nearby gas meter, saying, ‘I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna do it.’ And then smashing that gas meter with a two-handed overhand strike,” said Gillespie.
Preece’s strike cracked the gas line, causing a natural gas leak. The “large cloud of flammable natural gas” reached as far as 100 metres away and the entire area had to be evacuated, affecting around 3,000 people.
“Very fortunately, nothing ignited that gas cloud,” said Gillespie.
“Although there was certainly a potential for that to happen, given the size of the cloud and the fact that Mr. Preece was swinging a crowbar on a metal pipe… a spark could easily have resulted and have that happened.”
Preece also pleaded guilty to another incident that took place on April 29, 2023, where he smashed the windshield of a parked vehicle in Richmond.
He is currently in custody.
Man’s behaviour escalating and posing significant risk to public: Crown
The prosecution is seeking a “significant period of incarceration” of 18 to 24 months of jail and two months’ probation, which would include a condition to ban Preece from going near Ironwood Plaza.
Gillespie told the court Preece is not young and has an extensive criminal record showing he has “serious issues with anger management combined with a tendency to react very violently with minor provocations.”
For example, Preece threw a side table at a domestic partner over a minor disagreement, assaulted a female tenant asking him to leave her room, called his mother and threatened to shoot her while he was in custody for another incident, and threatened to kill a Richmond House Emergency Shelter employee who asked him not to eat in the area.
“And ultimately he hadn’t been responsive either to fairly custodial sentences or court orders addressing his behaviour and ultimately his behaviour appears to be escalating to the point it poses a significant risk to members of the public,” said Gillespie.
Although Preece’s criminal record, court orders and the fact that he caused “potentially lethal” incidents are considered as aggravating factors for his sentence, Gillespie said his early guilty pleas should be considered as a mitigating factor.
Offences were done by a man in ‘a very poor state’: Defence
Preece’s lawyer, Eric Warren, said Preece would like a shorter sentence of between 12 to 18 months.
He told the court the offences had taken place at a time when Preece was “depressed, frustrated, finding it difficult to make ends meet, to even get a place to live, to get people to help him out.”
He recalled that he met Preece eight years ago, when Preece was a licensed electrician who had a house and a good relationship with his mother, although he did have an alcohol problem. However, over the years Preece’s struggle with substance abuse had made it difficult for him to get employment and pay his mortgage, and his mother also passed away a few years ago.
“As Your Honour heard, he’s graduated from alcohol to crystal methamphetamine and things are not going well for Mr. Preece,” said Warren.
He added that when Preece used meth, he blamed the rest of the world for his problems and lashed out. However, Warren said Preece was not taking vengeance on anyone in particular.
Now that Preece is in custody, Warren said he has become more rational.
“He, today, is sober, settled and accepting of his fate. He knows Your Honour has to send him to jail for these incidents,” said Warren, adding that he suspected Preece had mental health issues.
When Richmond provincial court judge Diana Vandor asked Warren why there was no pre-sentence report about Preece’s mental health, Warren said it was because Preece was in denial and only recently came to accept he “could benefit from some medical intervention.”
“He’s anxious to get out and start again. And he hopes that he’s able to put all this behind,” said Warren.
Preece will be sentenced next week on Wednesday, June 7 at Richmond Provincial Court.