Nanaimo courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)

Nanaimo courthouse. (News Bulletin file photo)

Fentanyl dealer sentenced after crashing, ditching shotgun, hiding in forest on north Island

Justin John Chester of Courtenay will serve another 20 months

A fentanyl dealer who was involved in a car crash, threw away a shotgun at the scene, fled from police and hid in the forest on the north Island was sentenced to serve another 20 months in jail.

Justin John Chester of Courtenay was sentenced in Nanaimo on July 11 and the decision was published Thursday, July 22.

Chester, 32, pleaded guilty to charges of drug trafficking and unlawful possession of a firearm in relation to a series of events Nov. 25, 2019 that led to his arrest.

Chester was travelling in an SUV on the Island Highway near Port McNeill when the vehicle rear-ended a commercial vehicle. RCMP happened upon the crash scene and as the officer approached, Chester was observed throwing something into the bushes. Questioned about it, Chester told the officer it was car parts.

As Chester was being transported to hospital, RCMP discovered the thrown item had in fact been a 12-gauge shotgun, and police also spotted two purses with “a substantial sum of money” in the back seat of the SUV and seized the vehicle.

When police attempted to arrest Chester at the hospital, “his response was to resist and run,” the sentencing decision noted. The suspect lost officers in the forest and it took three hours, a police dog, and a “physical altercation” for police to arrest Chester, during which time a nearby school went into lockdown.

A later search of the SUV yielded 34.5 grams of fentanyl worth an estimated $4,000 to $10,000, baggies and other evidence of drug dealing, and $10,000 cash.

RELATED: Port McNeill RCMP catch suspect on the run

The sentencing judge, Justice James Williams, noted Chester’s “lengthy, serious and persistent” criminal record that included at least two previous drug-trafficking convictions and “many” jail sentences.

Chester told the court that he is “bound and determined to make real changes in his life and to break his pattern of criminal offending,” and specifically asked to serve his sentence at Guthrie House therapeutic community at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.

He agreed with the Crown’s request of a four-year sentence, which reduces to 20 months factoring in time already served.

The judge said he is inclined to accept Chester’s expressed intentions to make serious life changes.

“If that is so and if he is able to embark upon a rehabilitated course of life, that will provide society its greatest protection. If he fails to do so, I have little doubt that he will be apprehended and that a substantial prison sentence will seem to be the only possible outcome,” the judge said.

READ ALSO: Dangerous drug confirmed in the Comox Valley

READ ALSO: Man who escaped custody in Courtenay apprehended in Qualicum

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