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Man who damaged property and hurled oxygen tanks at SAH sentenced

Accused lunged at an acting psychiatrist, who had assessed him, and "said he was going to shoot every member of the emergency team including the doctor
20220311 Sault Area Hospital DA
Sault Area Hospital file photo

Austin Larocque's hostility and anger erupted against the people who simply were trying to help him when he made two visits to the Sault Area Hospital emergency department last year.

The 24-year-old was "very violent" and menacing to medical personnel and other staff, Ontario Court Justice John Condon heard Thursday.

Police were called to the hospital on July 2 because he was damaging property and hurling oxygen tanks, prosecutor Adrianna Mucciarelli said.

Security detained him until the cops arrived.

Larocque pleaded guilty to two counts of assault with a weapon (the tanks), a single count of assault, and two counts of mischief for damaging a hand sanitizer station at the hospital and a police cruiser following his arrest.

He was swinging the oxygen tanks at staff, and threw several of them into walls and a medical cart, the assistant Crown attorney said.

Three months later on Oct. 7, city police were again contacted about a man who was causing a commotion in the emergency department.

The accused was yelling and fighting.

Larocque lunged at an acting psychiatrist, who had assessed him, and "said he was going to shoot every member of the emergency team including the doctor," Mucciarelli told the court. 

He began bashing his head against glass in the nursing station, then grabbed a security guard, and banged the man's head on the floor.

 It took six people to detain him.

The guard suffered swelling to his left eye and bumps to the back of his head.

Larocque pleaded guilty to two counts of assault and a single count of threatening in connection with that incident.

He also was convicted of two assault offences that occurred on July 5.

Condon heard the accused, then a tenant at the Verdi centre, refused to leave the shelter, and attacked two security guards.

Police arrested him, and two days later he failed to comply with a release order  condition that required him to report to the John Howard Society bail program.

The Crown and defence lawyer Sarah Tucci jointly recommended a sentence of seven months custody, less the time Larocque has spent in custody, which leaves him in a time served position.

They also proposed 18 months probation and a weapons prohibition.

Mucciarelli called the accused's violent attack on medical staff -- "people simply trying to assist him" -- an aggravating factor.

She cited his lack of a prior criminal record, his youth and guilty pleas as mitigating factors.

Larocque has been engaged in rehabilitative services "and is on track to find housing," the prosecutor said.

Tucci said her client suffers from severe mental health issues, including schizophrenia and psychotic episodes, and wasn't on medication at the time of the offences.

While in custody at the Algoma Treatment and Remand Centre he attended an anger management program.

Upon release from custody, Larocque will stay with a friend, and will be on a homeless housing list, she told the court.

He is encouraged to contact the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and to continue taking his prescribed medications.

Condon agreed to the sentence.

The judge said he was taking into consideration the multiple mental health challenges Larocque had at the time of the incidents and the lack of a criminal record.

"I'm glad to hear you took counselling at ATRC," and are amenable to support services, Condon told him. 

During his 18-month probation, Larocque must stay away from the SAH, and can only go there for valid medical reasons. 

He also can't go to the Verdi shelter, and must not communicate with the people he assaulted and threatened during the three incidents.

Condon ordered him to attend the CMHA counselling centre at least twice a month and to meet with an intake person.

This will "address the root of the problem that got you here," the judge told Larocque.

He must take any recommended assessment, counselling and rehabilitative programs for anger management, and psychiatric and psychological issues.

Condon imposed a two-year weapons prohibition and ordered him to provide a DNA sample for the national database.



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About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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