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Man accused of trying to burn down B.C. business to receive addiction treatment: judge

Alejandro Calderon’s next trial appearance is January in Nelson
A Kaslo man is awaiting trial after allegedly trying to burn down this Home Hardware store. Photo: Google Maps

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

A Kaslo-area man has been remanded to the care of an alcohol treatment facility while he awaits trial on several charges.

A Kelowna judge ordered Alejandro Calderon to the VisionQuest Recovery Society treatment centre near Logan Lake, where he will have to adhere to strict rules if he wants to stay out of jail. Logan Lake is over 400 kilometres away from Kaslo, near Kamloops.

Provincial Court Judge David Ruse made the decision during a remote video bail hearing for Calderon on Friday.

Calderon was charged Dec. 5 after a man got into an altercation with staff at the Home Hardware in Kaslo, then returned later in the day and smashed the glass in the front door of the store with an axe. With staff still in the store, the man then stuffed a jerry can of gasoline through the broken glass and set it on fire. He was confronted by a passerby, and several other men arrived soon after and doused the flames.

The store has been closed since the incident.

Calderon was actually out on bail at the time of the incident, from a charge of assault causing bodily harm stemming from a confrontation with a woman earlier this year. He now faces charges of arson in relation to inhabited property in connection with the Home Hardware incident.

“The files before the court are not mere impulsive acts, but appear to be acts Mr. Calderon is perpetrating after some moment of thought,” said Crown counsel Ann Lerch, arguing that Calderon should remain behind bars. “The first is assault causing bodily harm [in February] … where it appears he is upset from being asked to leave … and that escalates ending in violence.”

The second charge, from Dec. 5, caused the Crown even greater concern, she said.

“Mr. Calderon is clearly upset he was declined service at the Home Hardware … and some hours later returned and acted in a gratuitous and potentially violent and dangerous manner … it’s fortuitous no one was injured as a result of his actions on that day.”

Lerch also noted Calderon had nine criminal convictions, and two peace bonds have been served against him.

“The record shows violence, in the form of assaults, threatening conduct and mischief as well as one breach of a probation order,” she told the court. “I will note, however, this record is relatively brief and somewhat dated. But what is relevant is that the offences shown here seem to be reflected in the conduct we see in the file before the court here today.”

Calderon’s lawyer, Don White, said his client had lived in Kaslo since 2017, and after the February 2022 assault incident had felt increasingly isolated, as talk about him swirled around the small community.

He said Calderon’s problems stemmed from alcohol abuse, and he was a far better person when sober.

“All I can tell your honour is Mr. Calderon, once he sobered up, and had a chance to detox, really did come across as genuine in his belief he has been under a fog for around the past year from his alcohol use,” White told the court. “He genuinely wants to get some help.”

White noted that if Calderon was allowed to attend treatment at VisionQuest, he would be far away from the complainants and the store where the incident occurred.

He noted Calderon also plans to sell his property near Kaslo and move permanently away when his treatment at VisionQuest ends, in about six months.

Those conditions satisfied Judge Ruse, who said presumption of innocence is essential, and the onus was to prove there was a substantial likelihood that Calderon would commit another offence or was a danger to the public if allowed to be free.

“Detention [instead of release on bail] is the exception…,” he said. “Mr. White says those risks can be reduced to an acceptable level by this bail plan. I am inclined to agree.”

Ruse noted Calderon has been out of trouble for five years, “an indication he is able to be within a community without committing a crime.”

“The facility that’s being offered is remote, 400 kilometres away from the community that Mr. Calderon is in … the environment that led to these offences. And by that, I mean his perception of isolation.

“It is designed to deal with his addiction problem, which if addressed, should minimize any issues he has. For those reasons, I am prepared to release him to VisionQuest.”

Arrangements were being made for Calderon to be immediately transferred to the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, to be picked up there by a VisionQuest representative.

“But I want to make it absolutely clear this has to be a seamless transition,” Ruse warned. “He is to be taken to the VisionQuest facility by a representative of the VisionQuest Recovery Society and he won’t leave that facility until this matter has been dealt with by trial or otherwise.”

Calderon must complete all programs given to him at the facility, cannot leave the facility without the consent of his probation officer, and must stay sober. He must not have weapons, stay away from accelerants or other fire-starting materials, and have no contact with any Kaslo Home Hardware employee or any of the complainants or witnesses in his two cases.

Calderon’s next appearance on his most recent charges in connection with the Kaslo Home Hardware incident is Jan. 3 in Nelson. He then goes on trial in a Nelson courtroom on Jan. 6 on the February assault charge.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated VisionQuest Recovery Society is located in Savona, B.C. The facility is actually located in Logan Lake.