A man involved in a violent home invasion where the homeowner was attacked in front of his child has been sentenced to three years in jail.
"Violence was used against him and a large part of that violence was done in front of his young son," Crown attorney Kaley Tschetter told the Brandon provincial court on Monday.
"That is something that his child is going to have to live with and is going to have to overcome."
Christopher Hapa, 31, pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from multiple incidents, including house break and enter and robbery.
The most serious offence took place last December, Tschetter said, and was captured in full by surveillance cameras set up in the victim’s home.
Police were called to an apartment on Willowdale Crescent by a woman reporting she had been on the phone with her ex-boyfriend who appeared to be in distress, Tschetter said, and that he was yelling "Call the police, call the police."
Officers arrived on scene and could hear the disturbance inside the apartment and someone screaming for help, Tschetter said, so they kicked in the door and found the three accused in the process of robbing the victim.
Surveillance video played for the court showed the harrowing incident unfold, starting with a knock on the door and the victim — who was sitting on the couch watching television with his child — get up to answer it.
Two men and a woman are seen bursting in the door, with one man tackling the victim to the ground while the other man — identified as Hapa — and the woman enter the apartment.
The woman immediately takes the child by the hand and puts him in another room before joining Hapa in searching and rummaging through the apartment.
The other man continues to keep the victim in a choke hold pinned to the ground, who is yelling, "I’m dying. … I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe."
Eventually, Hapa and the other man sit the victim up in an apparent attempt to calm him down, but continue interrogating him and demanding a cellphone and cash.
Moments later, the doorbell rings and the victim starts screaming for help. Police enter the home, guns drawn, and arrest Hapa as well as both his co-accused.
The victim told police later in a statement that Hapa and the woman were searching his apartment and found some cannabis, Tschetter said, which they put in their pockets.
They also demanded to know "where the cellphone he took" was, along with cash.
"(The victim) doesn’t come right out and say that this was a drug rip, but I think when you read between the lines that very much appears to be what this is," Tschetter said.
Tschetter suggested the court impose a sentence of three to four years in custody based on the severity of the incident.
"A person’s home is supposed to be their castle," Tschetter said. "It’s supposed to be their sanctuary and Mr. Hapa violated that."
Defence lawyer Bob Harrison asked the court to consider a lesser sentence, arguing that rehabilitation was still on the table.
Hapa struggles with a number of issues including substance abuse, Harrison said, and was high on crystal methamphetamine at the time of the offence.
"I couldn’t really find a motivation (behind the offence) from him, I don’t think he knows at this point," Harrison said, adding Hapa doesn’t remember a lot of details.
"In his pre-sentence report, he is remorseful. … He acknowledges how the victims would have felt, that they would have been scared or angry, so I think that’s important."
Judge John Combs sentenced Hapa to three years in custody.
"The video was extremely disturbing," Combs said. "It seems evident to me that Mr. Hapa knew or should have known that violence would be involved with this incident. He is certainly an equal party to what occurred and his participation was significant. It was a disturbing incident to watch."
After a credit for time already spent in custody, Hapa has just under two years left to serve.
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