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Burnaby man who shot escort in the back should get 5 years: Crown

Varinder Singh Deo – drunk, high on cocaine and armed with a loaded handgun – arranged for a sex worker to come to his garage on May 2, 2021 while his wife and daughters were asleep in the house.
Police shut down a section of Dubois Street near Boundary Road to investigate the shooting of a 25-year-old woman on May 2, 2021.

A Burnaby man who ordered an escort to his garage for his birthday while his wife and daughters were asleep in the house should get a five-year prison sentence for shooting the escort in the back after the arrangement fell apart, according to a Crown prosecutor.

Varinder Singh Deo, 45, was charged in May 2021 with aggravated assault, discharging a firearm with intent and using a firearm while committing an offence.

He was in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Tuesday for sentencing after pleading guilty to the first two charges in May.

Crown prosecutor Daniel Mulligan described Deo's offence as "an act of senseless violence and profound cowardice."

Birthday celebration

In the early morning hours of May 2, 2021, Deo was celebrating his birthday with a friend by drinking and using cocaine in the detached garage behind his house on Boundary Road by Dubois Street, according to admissions of fact presented at the hearing.

Deo then used his cell phone to arrange for an escort to meet him at the garage for $250.

"He asked her to park at a nearby gas station and walk to the house so that her arrival would not disturb Mr. Deo's wife and children who were sleeping inside the home," Mulligan said, reading the admissions of fact.

Shortly after 4 a.m., the escort, BK, who cannot be named because of a publication ban, arrived accompanied by another sex worker, MC.

When BK tried to collect the fee for sexual services, however, Deo complained she "was not attractive" and didn't look like her photo.

(At a preliminary inquiry, the woman had testified the photo was of someone who "looked like her" and that she wouldn't post her own photo in an escort ad because of her family.)

An argument ensued about a cancellation fee, and BK asked Deo if the women "needed to call someone."

Deo then pulled up his shirt, revealing a handgun tucked in his waistband.

At that point, the women made their way back down the driveway to return to their vehicle, but as they were walking away, Deo pulled out the gun and fired two shots, one hitting MC in the back.

The bullet entered the left rear shoulder, created a trail of bone fragments and exited through a chest wound, according to Mulligan.

MC spent three days in hospital and said in a victim impact statement she still has no feeling from her left shoulder to the tips of her fingers.

BK said she will never forget her friend turning blue in the car on the way to the hospital and hearing MC ask her to tell her daughter that she loves her.

'Extremely reckless'

After firing the shots, Deo fled in his BMW and was arrested at his parents' Burnaby home later that morning.

He told police one of the escorts had threatened to call "Dan" who would come and kill him.

Deo said he had been robbed at knife point before after arranging to meet an escort in Surrey in 2019.

"Unfortunately, it appears the lesson he learned from that incident was to multiply, exponentially, the odds of violence by arming himself while hosting a sex-trade worker in the middle of the night," Mulligan said.

Mulligan also noted it was not clear how shooting at the women would have addressed his fear of "Dan" coming to his house.

Mulligan listed a slew of aggravating factors in the case, including the women's vulnerable position as sex workers, the serious injury Deo inflicted on MC, the fact he fired a gun in a residential neighourhood, the fact he possessed a handgun illegally and then threw it out of his car window without considering the danger to the public and the fact he drove to his parents' house while he was still high and drunk.

Mulligan said Deo's behaviour was "extremely reckless" and could easily have been fatal.

"Mr. Deo had a loaded handgun in the waistband of his pants while using alcohol and cocaine and while inviting a sex-trade worker to his home," Mulligan said. "It's just impossible to imagine how that could not go wrong."

As factors in Deo's favour, Mulligan noted he didn't have a previous record for violence, he has had no issues on his "restrictive" bail conditions since his release in May 2021, and he has the support of his family, a number of whom were in court during the sentencing.

Along with a five-year prison sentence, Mulligan called for a firearms ban and a restitution order for $7,732.46 – the price Avis charged BK for blood-stain damage to rental car she drove to Deo's house.

'I'm disgusted with myself'

Deo’s lawyer Mark Swartz agreed with the firearms ban and restitution order but said his client should get a four-year prison sentence.

He said Deo has struggled with cocaine and alcohol abuse since early adulthood and was in a "significant" state of intoxication at the time of the shooting.

As an example of Deo's "not-right-minded thinking," Swartz pointed to the fact Deo's own home security camera captured the entire incident.

"Obviously, in a sober state of mind, he would have fully appreciated that anything that he's doing is being caught on his own cameras. That speaks to his intoxicated state," Swartz said.

Since the shooting, Swartz said Deo has taken steps, including counselling, to address his substance-use issues.

Swartz noted a psychiatric report concluded Deo's chances of rehabilitation are good and he is a low risk to re-offend.   

"We say he's worth more to society working and living in the community than he is as an example of the consequences of this act," Swartz said.

At the end of the hearing, Deo addressed the court, apologizing to his victims, his neighbours and his family.

"I'm disgusted with myself," he said.

After sitting back down in the prisoner's box, he bowed his head and could be seen wiping tears from his face.

B.C. Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes is scheduled to sentence Deo on Thursday, Nov. 30.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor