Closure for a Burnaby Mountie whose wrist was broken in a hit-and-run by a prohibited driver nearly five years ago has been a long time coming.
On the morning of July 4, 2018, Const. Diane Marsh was at the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Parker Street, when she spotted a man talking on his cell phone while driving through a Husky gas station, according to agreed facts presented at a sentencing hearing in Vancouver provincial court Wednesday.
Marsh, who was on foot, made eye contact with the driver and yelled at him to stop, but he ignored her and proceeded onto Willingdon, hitting her with the passenger side of his SUV and knocking her to the ground.
The driver didn’t stop but took off on Willingdon at “a high rate of speed,” according to the facts.
‘Complete lack of respect for human life’
Marsh’s right wrist was broken in the hit-and-run, and she wasn’t able to perform her regular policing duties for two-and-half years after the incident. She has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marsh broke down as she read out a victim impact statement in court.
“The accused has shown a complete lack of respect for human life and the authority of the police,” she said.
It took three-and-a-half years for charges to be laid against the driver who left her lying on the street that day: Fabian Ernesto Argenal Lopez.
Argenal Lopez, 33, was in court Wednesday to plead guilty to hit-and-run, wilfully resisting or obstructing a police officer and one count of driving while prohibited.
On the day he hit Marsh, Argenal Lopez was already under a driving ban, and there was a warrant out for his arrest because he hadn’t showed up for court to face a prohibited driving charge from March 2018.
B.C. provincial court Judge John Milne called Argenal Lopez’s driving record “appalling.”
In a joint sentencing submission, Crown prosecutor Margaret Mackie and defence lawyer Justin Myers called for a total jail sentence of nine months less one day and a driving ban of two years and nine months.
Calculated into the sentence were immigration implications for Argenal Lopez, who is not a Canadian citizen, even though he moved to Canada from Nicaragua when he was only four years.
A jail sentence even one day longer for the hit-and-run or obstruction charges could have led to his deportation – separating him from his partner, one-year-old daughter and an unborn child, according to Myers.
“He has extended family in Nicaragua that he has never met, so he has no connection to that country,” Myers said.
On the day of the hit-and-run, Myers said his client "panicked" when Marsh yelled at him to pull over and then panicked further after he hit her.
“That’s something he is remorseful for,” Myers said.
Witnesses, dashcam video and security video from the gas station eventually helped identify Argenal Lopez.
He addressed the court Wednesday, apologizing to Marsh and saying he’s taken steps to turn his life around.
“I don’t want to be that same loser that just makes mistakes,” he said.
Milne accepted the joint submission and sentenced Argenal Lopez to nine months less a day and a driving ban of two years and nine months.
Among the aggravating factors in the case, Milne noted Argenal Lopez’s driving record and the fact Marsh was an on-duty police officer “who was plainly marked as an on-duty police officer.”
As mitigating factors, Milne noted Argenal Lopez’s guilty plea, his steps to turn his life around and the “collateral” immigration consequences of a longer sentence.