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Written decision reveals scheme to rob cocaine dealer led to Caledon Street shooting death

Shooter was sprayed with bear repellent, confronted with machete, court heard
01-10-2020-CaledonStreetCrimeSceneJH02
Police tape blocks off an area on Caledon Street in this Jan. 10, 2020 file photo. James Hopkin/SooToday
A Toronto drug dealer shot and killed John David Jamieson, one of two men armed with mace and a machete who attempted to rob him at a Sault Ste. Marie residence in January 2020.

Isaiah Alvarado had been driven to this city to sell cocaine and on Jan. 9 was at a Caledon Street home, where his customers attacked him, a judge heard in November when the 19-year-old pleaded guilty to four charges stemming from the incident.

On Nov. 12, he was convicted of possession of a loaded prohibited firearm, possession of a firearm while prohibited, breach of a recognizance and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

Superior Court Justice Michael Varpio sentenced him to six years behind bars on March 31.

The court was told that a witness in the parking lot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints saw Jamieson about 6 p.m., rolling around on the ground and moaning.

The 44-year-old, who had been shot, was taken to hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on Jan. 10.

A silver knife was located where he had been lying on the ground.

Police found droplets of blood leading from the area to a residence, where they spotted more droplets on the side door and fresh blood on the door handle.

A woman, one of two in the home, answered the door. She was coughing and rubbing her eyes.

While talking to her, the officers noticed fresh blood leading downstairs to the basement and the smell of bear mace.

Police were told two men had run out of the residence.

"One had a machete, a big knife, I saw them. I was right at the door when they were flying out," a woman said, according to details contained in a written decision. "One of them had a bloody face."

No one else was found in the home. Police cleared the residence and sought a search warrant.

The court heard that as a result of what the Crown and defence described as "thorough police work," officers were able to determine that Alvarado sold cocaine to Jamieson on at least three occasions on Jan. 9.

Jamieson and another man came up with a plan to rob him, while a third was going to drive them away from there after the robbery.

Jamieson went to the residence at 5:30 p.m, where he pepper sprayed Alvarado, the court heard.

The second man was armed with a machete and was swinging it at Alvarado.

Jamieson and Alvarado became involved in a physical altercation. 

Alvarado pulled out a pistol and shot Jamieson three times, the court heard.

The two assailants ran out of the home to the third man's vehicle.

Alvarado fled the scene with a woman, and another person drove the pair to the Toronto Area.

The trio were caught on service station cameras along Highways 17 and 69.

These photos were sent to police agencies across the province, and a Toronto Police Service detective recognized Alvarado.

He was arrested March 17, 2020, and the next day he gave a statement to Sault police.

Alvarado told the officer his vision was blurred by the bear spray, and the assailants manoeuvred him into a corner, with his back to them.

In the interview video, played to the court, he demonstrated that he was either crouched or bent over.

Fearing for his life, he took the pistol from his waist and fired shots over his shoulder, he said.

Prosecutor David Kirk told the judge that crime scene officers discovered a bullet hole in the wall.

The bullet's trajectory indicated it was travelling at an upward angle which corroborated Alvarado's version of what occurred, the assistant Crown attorney said.

Alvarado was charged with a number of offences, but none related to Jamieson's killing.

At a sentencing hearing in January, Kirk argued that an eight-to-nine-year prison term was appropriate.

Defence lawyer Mark Palombi called for a five-year sentence.

When Varpio imposed sentence in March, he cited the aggravating factors — Alvarado is a drug dealer involved in a "fairly intricate organized crime operation" and used a firearm while committing offences.

In his written decision, the judge pointed to the mitigating factors, including the accused's age, the fact that he has a young child and is trying to change his life around.

Varpio also noted Alvarado has taken responsibility for his actions and shown remorse by pleading guilty and apologising to Jamieson's family.

The judge decided the possession of a loaded prohibited firearm offence called for a four-year sentence (less credit for 570 days of pre-sentence custody).

"Travelling from Toronto to Sault Ste. Marie as a part of a criminal organization and using a firearm is an incredibly dangerous undertaking and it must be punished accordingly."

He imposed one-year consecutive terms for each of two other offences — possession of a firearm while prohibited and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking — and six months concurrent for the recognizance breach.