A 69 year old partially blind man will spend the next 2 years and 9 months in prison after he fought and pulled an unlicensed firearm at a 24-year-old mechanic in a supermarket, mistaking him for someone who had stolen his cell phone.
John Bristol, a resident of Diamond, made his second appearance in the Serious Offences Court on February 28, for sentencing after he pleaded guilty to two charges On February 27 and was remanded into custody.
He pleaded guilty to possession of one black and grey Walther 4.5mm pistol, serial number unknown, without a license issued under the Firearms Act. He also pleaded guilty to assaulting Arnold Baptiste of Riley with intent to commit an offence.
The charges relate to an incident on February 26, at the Diamond Grocery Supermarket at Diamond.
On the day of his arraignment, the prisoner pointed to his eyes and told the court, “this eye blind and I could hardly see out ah this [the other eye].” He told the court that he thought the complainant was the person who had stolen his cell phone so he used his firearm to scare him. However, during a scuffle with the complaint Bristol realised that he was in an altercation with the wrong person.
Although Bristol realized this, he said he was fighting with Baptiste because he did not want the complainant to take the gun therefore he was “holding on for life.”
The elderly man was sentenced to 2.9 years for possession of an unlicensed firearm, and six months for assaulting Arnold Baptiste. Both sentences will run concurrently; a confiscation order for the firearm was also made.
During his submission, prosecutor station sergeant, Renrick Cato told the court that the altercation between the men “could have been worse.”
“Suppose this man [complainant] had a bad heart, suppose this man [complainant] had a licensed firearm…?” he queried, adding that after viewing the CCTV footage the effect that the firearm had on the complainant was clearly seen.
Cato also said that when the defendant appeared in court, he was assisted by the police and he was moving as though he could not walk alone. However, Cato said after viewing the footage from the day of the assault, “it is not a true reflection of what the defendant would like us to believe.”
He said Bristol was putting up resistance against a well built and much younger person than him.
The prosecutor highlighted the prevalence of firearm related offences and that on a weekly basis the court is faced with gun related matters.
“The sentence of the court must be a true reflection of the serious nature of the offence. I have no doubt in my mind that the most appropriate sentence the court should apply should be custodial,” the prosecutor said.
Cato commented that the defendant should have considered his medical condition before committing an offence which could land him in prison. And he pointed out that if someone wants to be the holder of a firearm there is a proper way to go about it.
“You always find persons who do not have a licensed firearm wanting the whole world to know that they have a firearm, they will brandish it publicly so that everybody can see…”, Cato added.
He said in the CCTV footage people were seen conducting business in the supermarket and they could have been affected as well during the assault.
Chief Magistrate, Rechanne Browne found both the consequences and seriousness of the offences to fall in the highest categories. As a result, in keeping with the sentencing guidelines, she started with a custodial sentence of 4.2 years.
She then examined the aggravating factors of the offences and highlighted the possession of the illegal firearm and the purpose being to scare and gain revenge since the defendant thought the complainant was the person who had stolen his phone.
She also came to the conclusion that the defendant had the gun for a period of time.
Browne also pointed out that initially Bristol blamed the complaint for possession of the firearm, then he admitted to possession after viewing the CCTV footage.
The chief magistrate said the fact that the defendant was in a public place where people were conducting business when he pulled the firearm from his waist and pointed it at Baptiste was also an aggravating factor “The terror and the fright that followed with the complainant’s reaction, the adrenalin … he just reacted out of fright and panic, it was terrible,” Browne said.
She told Bristol, “the fight and resistance you put up, wow you are a very strong 69 year old, very fit.”
The mitigating factor of the offence was that the firearm was recovered, and the chief magistrate praised PC 692 Alexis Richards who was present at the supermarket during the assault and managed to take the gun and called for assistance.
The aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors and four months were added to the sentence.
Nothing was found to be aggravating of the offender; mitigating for him was his age- he has no previous convictions, and his poor vision which is as a result of Glaucoma.
This resulted in a deduction of four months from his sentence.
He also pleaded guilty and that took off 1.3 years.
Bristol was sentenced to 2.9 years for illegal possession of the firearm and six months for assaulting Arnold Baptiste.